Note: As of 2019, Leumadair is closed because the owners retired.
What could be better than spending three days at the mystical Callanish Stone Circle on Scotland’s picturesque Isle of Lewis? Staying three nights at the nearby Leumadair Guest House, a charming farm B&B where I could see the famous Callanish stones from my bedroom window.
I couldn’t have chosen a better spot for my visit: the price is reasonable; rooms are homey and nicely furnished; breakfast is outstanding. And this B&B is eco-friendly to boot.
I chose not to rent a car, which made Leumadair all the more perfect: it was just a short walk to the main stone site, and not much farther to a couple of the smaller prehistoric circles in the area.
Modern Comforts in an Ancient Landscape
After spending days out in the brisk Scottish air (no rain while I was there), coming back to Leumadair was a slice of heaven. One of the advantages of staying in a farmhouse B&B is that you sleep so peacefully: nights are quiet and dark—so if you have a clear sky you can stargaze or moongaze without light pollution.
Also, owners Donald and Nita Macleod took very good care of me—something you appreciate when you’re traveling singly. There was always plenty of conversation with Donald or the other guests.
And Donald knows so much about this region and is an excellent source of historical and cultural knowledge. He helped facilitate my private tours of the standing stones with local archaeo-astronomer Margaret Curtis, who has studied the stone’s alignment for decades.
My comfy room at Leumadair was spotless, and it had a convenient, very modern ensuite bathroom—and two bunk beds that I didn’t use, but which would have been handy for a family. (The regular single/double rooms were already booked.)
Waking up after a good night’s sleep means something good’s going to happen: an incredibly delicious breakfast awaits. Leumadair’s features fresh eggs (from the chickens that wander about the property—they’re very free-range!) cooked the way you like them, and bacon and sausage from Donald and Nita’s own hogs. The sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes add pleasant flavor, and if you’re up for an adventure, try the Stornoway black pudding. In general, I’m not a huge fan of black pudding (aka blood sausage), but this was blended with herbs and onions and was quite tasty.
I couldn’t say no to the toast either—not with an array of Nita’s homemade jams and marmalade calling to me. I topped it off with Fair Trade teas or coffee. Breakfast was a feast that fueled me for hours of wandering the moors to see stone circles.
Walking through History
Another huge asset for staying at Leumadair—besides its comforts and friendly hosts—was that I could visit the stones during the early morning or late afternoon—after the tour bus mobs have gone home. These times also happen to be when the sunlight is prettiest on the stone circle.
From Leumadair Guest House, the walk to the main Callanish Stones Circle takes 15 to 20 minutes on scenic roads. One morning as I was ambling up the hill to the stones, I encountered local crofters shearing their blackface sheep, using hand shears. I stayed for a bit to watch this snippet of Lewis culture. The farmers bantered and made jokes, although the sheep looked none too keen on being trussed and shorn.
Leumadair’s Sustainable Efforts:
- Composts kitchen waste (and feeds leftover to the pigs, chickens, and dogs)
- Uses energy-saving CFL lighting
- Grows and raises some of its own food
- Additional food is locally sourced
- Serves Fair Trade tea and coffee
- Bedroom furniture is crafted from reclaimed wood
- Is equipped with low-flow toilets and showerheads
- Uses eco-friendly cleaning products
And just as important as these efforts, the Macleods are good stewards of the land. They raise “heirloom” farm breeds: Highland cattle and Gloucester Old Spot Pigs. Donald grew up on this island, and he loves its landscape, history, and prehistory. He cares deeply about bringing visitors here to support the economy of the island, while also doing so sustainably.
Even if you’re not staying at Leumadair B&B, you might be interested to know that it runs a Sunday coffee shop/restaurant, called Pol’s Place (named after Donald’s Harris hawk). It’s open only on Sundays, when the Callanish Visitor Centre and many other island businesses are closed.
Logistics for Reaching Leumadair B&B: Whether you fly to the Isle of Lewis or ride the ferry (with or without car), you arrive in the island’s primary town: Stornoway. I flew from Glasgow International Airport, which takes less than an hour to reach this remote island. After a quick taxi ride from the little Stornoway airport to the Stornoway bus station, I hopped on the public bus. Thirty minutes later, this bus dropped me off at the Leumadair Guest House driveway. Couldn’t be simpler! (They also make a stop at the Callanish Visitor Centre. )
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor