Europe18: Isle of Lewis - Part 2

July 5, 2018 | 17 Comments

Following on from my adventures around Stornoway, today I want to share my two bigger day trips to the beaches in Uig (Lewis) and down to Harris. This is the map in my sketchbook showing the routes that I took this trip.

I absolutely love the landscapes of this part of the world. When you are driving through it, there are so many times when I wish I could stop and sketch. But it’s very difficult to do so due to the narrow roads (mostly single track with passing places) and no verges. So I didn’t end up sketching as much as I had hoped. If the road is really quiet, I would stop momentarily in a passing place and take a quick photo, but it’s definitely not okay to park in one of these passing places to do a sketch.

There are only a few dedicated parking (lookout) spots and most of these were way too windy to sketch – sometimes just opening the car door was a challenge!

As a result most of my sketches were done from cafe stops! It seems to be that I plan my day trips around what cafes are available and what time they open.

Day Trip to Uig

A day of sun, wind and clouds – heading towards the beaches at Uig which I have only visited once before.

I pulled off the road and very quickly did this sketch. A car came and I had to move and therefore my sap green went a bit crazy. It’s a good record of the difficulties of sketching from the car in Scotland.

The Uig region is famous for it’s beaches – here are two. Sadly it was too windy to sketch outside here.

When I could finally find somewhere to sketch (Bhaltos Pier) the sun had disappeared behind clouds, so I just did a quick ink sketch.

And then I headed to the remote Gallen Head – this is the best photo I could manage of the dramatic coastland.


I had lunch at a wonderful small cafe – The Edge Cafe. There was one woman cooking and a long communal table. It was a bit too cosy to sketch my yummy fish pie, but I did manage my cuppa after the meal.

Two photos on my way out – taken through my windscreen while I was momentarily stopped in a passing place.

I could have done more on this outing but I was low on petrol and couldn’t relax until I filled up!


Day trip to Harris

Harris is the bottom part of the island and has lots of hills and gorgeous beaches (Lewis by comparison is mainly flat). Although I love places like Skye, Mull and the west coast, I have to say that Harris is my favourite part of Scotland. The locals complain about the increasing tourists, but for me it is still quiet.

This is my fourth trip to the island and the first time that I have seen the tops of the hills!

A quick sketch in the car (this was one of those occasions when it was hard to open my car door).

Two photos out of the car as I headed down the east side of Harris – never been here before. I was heading for Geocrab (what a strange name) because…

… I wanted to visit a cafe. I have heard great things about Skoon Art Cafe and I wasn’t disappointed.

My sketch out of the window.

Note: the typical landscape in this part of the world (of undulating rocky land with the occasional white house) looks beautiful but it’s hard to sketch. There are no strong values and the light changes constantly. I’m still feeling my way with scenes like this!

Here is another one of those scenes – but nowhere to park my car.

Wonderful rocky landscapes!

I wanted to go on a shortcut across to Leverburgh, but the road looked rough with few passing places so I decided to stick to the ‘main road’ (the top photo shows what the main road is like) and head to Rodel.

Sketching St Clements on a sunny day. My sketch last time (overcast/wet day) was so different.

Note: if you did my SketchingNow Watercolour course I refer to the earlier version in one of the gallery sections

Heading to Leverburgh with the big hill of Northton behind.

On the Sunday I was on the island, I travelled down to Leverburgh to attend church with my great friends Rev and Mrs Smith. As I was driving past again, I decided to stop and take a photo as it was the first time I had seen the hill at the end of the road.

Note: this photo shows my car for the week – a Mint Green Fiat 500 – what a great car!

Next it was time for lunch so I stopped at the Machair Kitchen at Talla Na Mara – a must stop on the main road along the west coast.

Here is my sketch – very layered for me!

And then I had to stopped at the parking spot at Seilebost – I took this photo to include the road. I have sketched this before and needed to keep moving…

… because I wanted to stop at the “Harris Hills” spot, film a short video and do another version. This is the view I used for the exercise in SketchingNow Watercolour (which, by the way, is returning in September!)

And here is my 2018 version!

So that is a wrap for my time in Lewis. I had such a wonderful time on the island and especially with my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew.

Hard for me not to tear up a little as I type this and look at this photo – saying goodbye at Stornoway.

And I sketched on the plane (of course) but this time the entire crew – flight attendant and guys in the cockpit – signed my sketch.

Guess what, this day marked the half way mark of my epic trip.Thanks for coming only with me.



  • wow, thanks for sharing.

  • Deborah Watt says:

    What a fabulous travelogue and sketchbook. I’ve enjoyed the journey with you.

  • Diane Mutmansky says:

    I so enjoy your write ups but I love your Instagram videos! They give me a lovey feeling of traveling right along with you. Those of us who do not travel as much as you hope you keep it up and letting us in on your adventures.

  • Janice Wilkinson says:

    Oh dear, your sweet little niece was sad to see you go! Thank you for sharing your wonderful travels with us

    • Liz Steel says:

      my pleasure. yes, that photo of my niece is tragic! She said a few days before I left without promting…”I’m going to miss auntie Liz” at least she is with family (cousins) at the moment back in Sydney!

  • pbass wil says:

    I feel like I’ve taken a holiday – the _smell_ of this beautiful region is still on my clothes. :^)
    I just love the way you let your different colours mingle, without being thoroughly mixed. Hue-istic texture. I’m sure the rugged land influenced your style (beyond simple wind constraints) – did it?

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks pbass wil – interesting question, I haven’t thought about that. I think that I would need to be there a little longer and without the family distractions so I can really focus on my work to feel as if there is a change. (eg. this week I’m on my own an really thinking more abuot my work)

  • Jennifer May says:

    Wonderful work in fresh and lively… and now you are coming to Portugal- where I have been working on a sketch book for the past two weeks. I did not know there was to be a Urban Sketchers symposium in Porto and so am delighted to hear you will be there. I had no notion it was on, but would like to know if you will be giving a workshop there and if so can one sign up for it?

    One other question, I noticed your landscape sketchbook in this video had a tendency to buckle. What were the other ones you are using that seemed flatter (and larger too)? If you don’t mind me asking. Thank you.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jennifer
      Symposium is fully booked but there will be a public sketchcrawl – go to the symposium site for details.
      Not sure what you are referring to in regard to sketchbook – this is the moleskine paper which is the thickest I use

  • Alison C says:

    Have you been to Skara Brae? I’d love to see it thru one of your sketches. I was on the Isle of Lewis a couple of weeks before you and did some sketches – the Callanish Standing Stones were fun. I’ve sketched them and am a wee bit scared to put colour to them. I will after some practice runs. I love your work and your ways of sketching, I learn something every time I see and read your blog. Thank you.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi ALison – never been to Orkney but would love to one day. Well done you for sketching at Callanish – was it windy?

  • Sabrina says:

    Hi Liz,
    I am revisiting your Lewis and Harris posts, we’re planning to go there in June. Had to cancel our trip last year because of serious health issues and can’t wait to finally go! Such a stunning landscape!
    Thank you for sharing!

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