Scottish island launches 'wild winter' tourism campaign to draw visitors as summer fades

Art, culture, stargazing, food and the wild landscapes of Lewis are being used to draw visitors to the island all year round as part of its #wildinwinter campaign. Pictured is Rodel Church by Mark Stokes, an image used to promote the 2019 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival.
Art, culture, stargazing, food and the wild landscapes of Lewis are being used to draw visitors to the island all year round as part of its #wildinwinter campaign. Pictured is Rodel Church by Mark Stokes, an image used to promote the 2019 Hebridean Dark Skies Festival.
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As the skies darken, the wind chills and the island moves indoors for another winter, a campaign has been launched on Lewis to attract people to its shores all year round.

Arts and culture will be at the heart of the bid to keep tourism alive on the island as memories of the turquoise waters and white sands of its world-famous beaches fade and the Atlantic storms start to sweep in.

An Lanntair, the Stornoway-based arts centre, has laucnhed the #wildinwinter campaign to keep interest high in the island.

To launch, premieres of new theatre work by singer, musician and essayist Karine Polwart and playwrights Alan Bissett and Julia Taudevin will be staged.

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Meanwhile, the off- season wonders of Lewis will also be promoted, including the scenery, wildlife, stargazing , local food and of course the drama of the beaches now emptied of the summer visitors.

Rob McKinnon, chief executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said: "Of course, when the summer ends there are fewer people around so you get that sense of space and the big skies once again. That feeling of solitude comes back.

The weather is of course rougher, so things tend to go inside and I think that is really where arts and culture have a really important role here. There is also perhaps maybe more time to get to know the islanders. Perhaps in winter there is more of an opportunity to enjoy the company of islanders, as well as enjoy the space."

He added that four major dates on the Scottish calendar - Halloween, St Andrew's Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night - all feel within four months of winter - with the island offering an authentic backdrop for the occasions.

He added: "What you will also experience over winter on Lewis is the power of nature. You have the power of the sea, the waves, the storms and of course the Northern Lights. The wild weather of the winter is as much as part of life on Lewis as the long, light summer nights."

Mr McKinnon said that travelling to Lewis in winter made financial sense for both island businesses and visitors.

"People have to make a living here all year round and there are deals to be had. Prices are not low in the summer and you will probably pick up a bargain."

The #winterinthewild campaign is launched today (Thursday) with a new trailer promoting the Isle of Lewis and An Lanntair’s winter programme, directed by Lewis film-maker John Macdonald and featuring music by Mairi Campbell.

An Lanntair’s winter programme includes two major events: Faclan book festival, which runs from 30 October to 2 November, and the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival, which returns for its second year from 7-22 February.

Karine Polwart will stage The Only Light Was Stars, an exclusive "work-in-progress” performance of a brand new theatre work at An Lanntair in February 2020, on the opening weekend of the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival.

Inspired by the science of supernovas, constellation myth and the legacy of nuclear technology for future generations, the show is Polwart’s follow-up to her widely acclaimed show, Wind Resistance.

Faclan will open on Wednesday 30 October with an exclusive work in progress performance of Soil and Soul, Alan Bissett’s stage adaptation of Alastair McIntosh’s acclaimed Lewis-set memoir,

Meanwhile, Julia Taudevin will premiere Move-Gluasad, a new multi-lingual work about migration, grief and empathy. The show will premiere on Lewis in partnership with Hebridean production company sruth-mara and in association with An Lanntair.

It will be staged at community centres across the island in January 2020, before transferring to Glasgow.

Elly Fletcher, CEO of An Lanntair, said: “What an incredible programme of world-class events this will be. We are looking forward to welcoming new visitors to truly experience 'Winter in the Wild' here in the Outer Hebrides this year.

"Winter time in the isles can be wild and stunning in equal measure, from the breathtaking dark skies to wildlife spotting, hiking through rainbows, even cold water surfing. I am delighted that, along with all our partners, we have been able to create and launch today such an exciting, inspiring and multi-layered programme of events to entice new people to experience these beautiful islands this winter. "