Sense of Place ~ Painting in Lewis & Harris 2024

Sense of Place ~ drawing & painting holiday in Lewis & Harris, Outer Hebrides

Dates: 25 August – 3 September 2024 (10 days) fully booked – waitlist only
Location: Lewis and Harris & nearby islands, Outer Hebrides
Tutor: Nicky Sanderson
Cost: from £3440 per person
Suitable for any skills level

Join us on this unique art vacation on the isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, led by artist Nicky Sanderson. We bring alive the human and natural history of this unique location to inform our art.

Be inspired by the most ancient landscapes in Europe, the magical stones of Calanais, the colours of the machair, peat and rocks, the dark hills and bright beaches of Harris. The more we look at the sea, the sky and the hills, harbours and villages, the more layers of colour we discover.

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Beach at Port of Ness

This experience combines travelling with your pencils and paints to discover the roots of a civilisation and the raw beauty of its isolation on the edge of the British Isles, with indoor studio work to develop paintings and sketches further. From two different base locations – Stornoway in Lewis and Tarbert in Harris – we visit different sites, often working in plein air, with indoor alternatives to suit any weather. You will feel a connection to nature as you explore this landscape formed 3,400 million years ago, still sculpted today by wind and rain and human hand.

Drawing with mixed media in your sketchbook, using graphite, charcoal and ink, along with quick washes of colour from your paints provides a record of your experience and the basis of further work. We work with water-based paint – inks and watercolour (or acrylics if you wish) – and add elements of collage if this pleases us. The course is suitable for all skills levels. You can see photos and feedback from past trips here (2023 pics will be added very soon).

Meet tutor Nicky Sanderson in her studio:

Stornoway is our starting location. International travellers are best to include flights to and from Stornoway when booking travel. Alternatively, Caledonian MacBrayne runs a regular ferry service from Ullapool to Stornoway. We will be happy to advise on travel options. You can use our Getting There page as a starting point to plan your journey.

Calanish Standing Stones

The Scottish weather is very changeable, so we have to be a bit flexible in our itinerary and go with the flow. Sketchbooks, paints and cameras (or iPads) at the ready, we expect to explore:

Day One – Arrival

You arrive in Stornoway in your own time. We meet at our hotel – the Royal Hotel close to the seafront – in the evening for a welcome reception, introduction to the experience and 3-course dinner with wine.

Guidance from our tutor Nicky Sanderson

Day Two – Calanais, Gearannan & West side of Lewis

We’ll dive right in and visit one of the big highlights of every trip to the Isle of Lewis – the mysterious and iconic Calanais Standing Stones on the west side of the island. The site was erected in the late Neolithic era and it is believed they were a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age.

Exploring the west side of Lewis further, we visit Gearrannan, the blackhouse village, where until not long ago humans and farm animals shared warmth in traditional blackhouses on the edge of the sea and cliffs. Before returning to our accommodation at the Royal Hotel in Stornoway we usually stop at Carloway Broch, one of the best preserved brochs in the Outer Hebrides.

Beach in watercolour by Nicky Sanderson
Watercolour painting by Nicky Sanderson

Day Three – Lews Castle Museum & North of Lewis

Our studio base in Stornoway is at the newly refurbished Lews Castle. Our tutor Nicky introduces different art materials and you have the chance to visit the fantastic museum to get a feel for life on the island and the its rich history.

After lunch we will head right up to Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the Isle of Lewis and the Outer Hebrides. The headland, which lies in the North Atlantic, is frequently battered by heavy swells and storms and is marked by dramatic rocks and the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. Nearby is the picturesque Port of Ness where we will pop down to the beach before heading back to Stornoway. Accommodation is at the Royal Hotel in Stornoway.

Day Four – Golden Road & East side of Harris

Today we head to Harris and take the Golden Road down the east known as the Bays, a wonderfully fragmented and beautiful coastline with a sad human history. Sharp contrasts also provide vitality for your work: bright coloured buoys and boats, a rusting vehicle sinking into the peat bog, the outline against the sky of ancient standing stones. Our lunch venue at Bays Community Centre is also our studio space for the afternoon. Accommodation is at the Hotel Hebrides in Tarbert.

Butt of Lewis, Outer HEbrides
Butt of Lewis – the most northerly point of Lewis

Day Five – Hushinish & Studio afternoon in Tarbert

Weather allowing, we head to Hushinish on the west side of North Harris for our morning painting session. This remote place at the end of a 12 mile long single track B road has a stunning beach and views to the Atlantic. The afternoon is free, but we have a studio space booked for you should you wish to use it. You  may also want to book at tour at the nearby Harris Distillery or visit the Harris Tweed shop. Accommodation is at the Hotel Hebrides in Tarbert.

Day Six – Luskentyre & West side of Harris

Experience the machair, the area’s unique wild flowers and grasses, and fabulous white beaches of West Harris at the famous Luskentyre, Seilebost and Scarista. Nature here is both raw and delicate.

Our indoor space is the stunning Talla Na Mara centre. Overlooking the golden sands of Niseaboist beach and the Sound of Taransay, it boasts one of the most photographed locations in the Outer Hebrides if not Scotland. Accommodation is at the Hotel Hebrides in Tarbert.

Painting on Luskentyre Beach

Day Seven – Walk & South of Harris

Today takes us to the South of Harris, where we take a walk near Leverburgh and do some plein air painting on the way. We also visit Rodel and its 15th century St Clement’s Church. Please note that a moderate level of fitness is required for the walk (around 40-45 minutes each way). Accommodation is at the Hotel Hebrides.

Day Eight – Uig area & South west of Lewis

Today we explore the Uig region on the west side of Lewis, where the landscape is hillier, and more dramatic than elsewhere on Lewis, with its combination of myriad islets, wild cliff scenery and patches of pristine golden sand.

Uig beach is famous for being the site where the Lewis Chessmen, 12th century Viking chess pieces, were found. Six of them are on display at Lews Castle Museum in Stornoway. Accommodation is back in Stornoway at the Royal Hotel.

Day Nine – Free day & review session

A free morning to explore Stornoway some more and do some shopping if you wish. Our studio at the castle will be available all day should you wish to do more in-depth painting. After lunch we meet there for a review session where you can share your work and how the art experience has been for you. In the evening we enjoy the farewell dinner together at the Boatshed Restaurant at our hotel.

Day Ten – Departure

Time to say goodbye after breakfast. You leave inspired and chances are you’ll have fallen in love with the islands :).

Evenings other than the welcome and farewell nights are free, but we usually have a table booked somewhere should you wish to dine together as a group.

This was my second trip with Wild at Art and I, again, had an incredible time! The tour was well paced — no super early mornings or rushing from place to place — with time for painting/sketching at each site visited plus in-studio time to refine pieces and get some creative inspiration from our tutor and fellow travelers. I hadn’t painted in a very long time and this was just the gentle nudge I needed to get going again. The accommodations and food were excellent, and I’m already hoping to join another trip next year! {Beth, Oregon, Sense of Place, Outer Hebrides, August 2022}

Check out some pictures from previous trips here.

Cost, inclusions and further notes

Cost: £3440 per person when sharing a twin or double room, and additional £350 for a single room. A non-refundable deposit of £500 will secure your place.

This includes:

– 8 days of workshop tuition in different locations
– 9 nights hotel accommodation (Royal Hotel in Stornoway, Hotel Hebrides  in Tarbert)
– 9 full Scottish breakfasts
– Welcome drink and 3-course welcome dinner with wine on arrival night
– 3-course farewell dinner with wine on the last night
– Minibus transport when travelling as a group while on the island (from and to Stornoway)
– A4 landscape sketchbook
– Some additional art materials
– Canvas bag for carrying art materials
– Studio hire fees
– Entry fee to blackhouse village
– And a member of the Wild at Art team will be with the group throughout to ensure guests are well looked after.

*Have you travelled with us before? Enquire about the special friends rate.

The itinerary is based on careful selection of suppliers and is accurate at the time of publication. But should it be necessary, Wild at Art reserves the right to make changes.

We aim to offer the best balance between touring the islands and working in an indoor studio. Lewis & Harris is a large island so be prepared for some minibus travel between different locations!

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Flights and travel to/from the island are not included. Personal travel insurance is required.

This vacation starts in Stornoway – we will be happy to advise on how to get there. For flights to and from Stornoway please visit the Loganair website

Since participants tend to prefer their own materials we will send a detailed list of what to bring and what we’ll provide together with pre-holiday information. We will provide some additional materials you may want to try, such as ink, charcoal and PVA glue. These are included in the price.

Optional service: pre-order your materials!
If you don’t want to carry your own art materials on your flight to Scotland you can purchase them online from a UK supplier in advance and have them sent to our address. Your materials will then be waiting for you on arrival in Stornoway. Find out more