By Eilidh Whiteford
When artists Derek Scanlan and Elsie Mitchell moved to the Isle of Lewis in 1998, little did they know that 15 years later they would establish one of the first 'glamping' sites in the Outer Hebrides.
Opened in August 2013, the Mangersta Croft Wigwams and Shepherd's Huts, on the couple's croft in the Uig village of Mangersta, offer scenic, self-catering accommodation for visitors.
“A great thing about the Wigwams and Shepherd's Huts is the flexibility – they suit lots of different guests from families with young children to couples on a romantic get-away, or the solo traveller,” said Elsie.
“We've glamped in both the Wigwams and the Shepherd's Huts to make sure that they are a good experience, warm and comfortable to stay in at any time of the year.”
Coastal walks are a popular activity with visitors exploring the rugged cliff-tops, as well as taking a stroll inland to walk the Uig hills, particularly Lewis' highest hill Mealaisbhal. Uig boasts a number of spectacular beaches – including Uig Sands at Ardroil, where the Lewis Chessmen were discovered – and just down the road from Derek and Elsie's lies Mangersta beach, a fantastic spot to watch the bold Atlantic waves.. And there are gannets, sea eagles, golden eagles, merlin, red throated divers, golden plovers, lapwings and snipe all regularly seen.
Visitors have the chance to help Elsie and Derek as they work their smallholding: “Spring time lambing and shearing time is a great time to visit,” said Derek.
“Little kids all love seeing the tractors at work in the croft fields and getting to feed any orphan lambs or feeling the soft fleece of a cuddly young lamb. We also have a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle with their newborn calves causing great excitement for any guests staying at the time.”
And after a busy day exploring Uig, or working the croft, there is no better place for guests to relax and recall their adventures than around the Wigwams and Shepherd's Huts Fire-Pit.
“It's a large circular dry-stone wall enclosure with built in oak seating and plenty of space to BBQ food, toast marshmallows or bake potatoes; there's even a granite work-top to serve food from.”
“Going from sunset to twilight blue to dark ink filled with stars, planets, shooting stars and the Milky Way and snuggling around a camp-fire is the perfect way to look at the night sky.”
The Outer Hebridean views are an aspect that first attracted Derek and Elise to the area all those years ago – and continue to inspire the artistic couple, whose work can be enjoyed in the nearby Mangurstadh Gallery.
Creating expressive oil and pastel works Derek, who gained his Fine Art Honours degree from Falmouth School of Art, is influenced by his experiences as crofter and fisherman, as well as his surrounding land and seascapes.
Gaining her Fine Art Honours degree from Glasgow School of Art, Elsie most recently completed a series of video installations, as well as working with paper maps, handmade from plants growing in the local area.
“A number of our visitors choose to do a Sea Trek boat trip – you can go for an afternoon of wildlife watching around the Uig coast, or a day trip to St Kilda,” said Elise. “We'd highly recommend this.
“We went on one ourselves in 2016 and came back with masses of inspiration. Derek has produced a new series of paintings and I've been working on handmade paper maps of St Kilda and landscape photographs, all of which will be on display at our Gallery throughout 2017/18,” she added.
To find out more about Mangersta Wigwams and Shepherd's Huts; the Mangurstadh Gallery, and Derek and Elsie, please visit www.mangurstadhgallery.com