Before going anywhere on holiday I try to prepare myself as much as possible, not only to inform myself about what to look out for, but also to pre-'marinate' myself in the culture. I had only a sketchy idea about the Outer Hebrides, so I did a lot of research on the internet, and read several books.
I started with Madeleine Bunting's Love of Country which placed me in the general area as it journeys through both Inner and Outer Hebrides, and covers some history. Much better were the three novels by Peter May jointly known as The Lewis Trilogy which had been recommended by a friend.
They and his book Hebrides with photographer David Wilson, and May's stand alone novel Coffin Road were an engaging way of immersing us in the atmosphere - and an accurate description of the weather we encountered.
I read the appropriate chapters in The Hebrides: An Aerial View of a Cultural Landscape which covered a lot about the flora and fauna as well as the geography and history.
A lovely little book on Callanish by Gerald Ponting is Callanish and Other Megalithic Sites in the Outer Hebrides. It looks delightful, and perhaps a little dinky; but it is serious, with the author actually having lived and worked for several years at the site.
But the most informative, enjoyable, and impressive book of all was Adam Nicolson's journal account of the Shiant Islands: Sea Room.
A quote on the back cover calls it both panoramic and personal, which really sums it up. It is erudite and friendly, written as absorbingly as a whodunnit, but with so much more meat. Although not about the parts of the Outer Hebrides that we were about to visit, the content of the book encompasses so much more than a restrictive location.
And the views from the west coast of the Outer Hebrides take in the Shiants and Skye as in the photo above by David Wilson, as are all the photos in this post.
The guide book we used, and found to be exactly what we needed on the spot was Charles Tait's Outer Hebrides Guide Book, 3rd edition.