When life gives you lemons (or in this case a summer of cancelled international holidays) then you make sweet plans to explore places nearer to home. In this case, a road trip to the beautiful isle of Harris & Lewis.
Taking advantage of the reduced travel restrictions in September, my friend, John and I escaped the confides of lock down for a well needed escape to the Outer Hebrides. Every year I set myself the goal to explore more of Scotland but some how always manage to find myself chasing the sun to slightly warmer climates abroad, however, this year I have a new found appreciation for Scotland and all it’s beauty.
Up bright and early we headed up to Skye to catch the ferry from there. Of course, stopping off at Eilean Donan castle for a quick photo opp and popping into Manuela’s Wee Bakery for some delicious pastries and fairy gin – a bakery, pizza restaurant and fairy tale gin bar all rolled into one fun, quirky pit stop. The drive to Skye from Glasgow is roughly 3 and a half hours and having never been before, we decided to stay the night and plan a quick trip to the fairy pools.
We had an early start to catch the 8am ferry across to Harris with Calmac, where we docked into Tarbert, the crossing is about 1 hour 40 mins, enough time to grab some brekkie and (a few) coffees.
Straight from the Ferry, our first stop had to be, Essence of Harris and of course, the Isle of Harris Distillery to stock up on the essentials. In case you don’t know, Essence of Harris is a candle and home fragrance company (like no other). The scent of the candles and diffusers are heavenly and the perfect way to bring a piece of Harris home with you.
Next, we headed onto the Scaladale Centre, where we stayed for the majority of the trip. The Scaladale Centre is a hostel and outdoor centre, voted 4 stars by Visit Scotland, it has everything you need – including a kitchen plus utensils, living area which is equipped with a TV, pool table and giant board games. You can also book a range of activities to do on your stay there like archery, abseiling and bushcraft sessions.
Up bright and early the next day, we had only one plan on our agenda; visit as many beaches as we possibly could. There are a number of beaches on Harris and Lewis that can only be described as desert island paradise.
First on our list, Hushinish, one of the more remote beaches on the island, it lies at the end of a 12-mile-long single-track and boasts spectacular views out onto the Adlantic. We couldn’t resist throwing our wetsuits on and heading in for a quick dip.
Arguably, making it into my top three, was Reef Beach, a long sweeping white sand beach in, Uig. Looking out onto the islands of Loch Roag – Pabbay, Vacsay and over to Bernera, the area is rich in archaeological remains, with a mesolithic settlement at the north end of the beach and an Atlantic round house in the machair at the south end.
Wanting to take full advantage of the quiet, deserted beaches, we had planned to camp the majority of our trip but hadn’t taken into account the ever reliable, Scottish weather. Although, as soon as we arrived at Luskentyre, we were instantly greeted with an array of warm sunshine and picturesque island, paradise views and knew we had to camp the night. Easily the most breath taking beach on the island, it’s easy to see why this is the most popular beach.
Tents pitched, fire crackling, we popped open a bottle of Sea Change and enjoyed unparalleled sunset views, the perfect place to press pause.
Some of my other favourite beaches worth mentioning are; Seilebost, Horgabost and Scarista.
The latter half of our trip was spent exploring Lewis, in all it’s beauty. Mangersta, was one of the first stops on our list and the perfect spot for a quick (chilly) dip, also a great surf spot. Each beach on the island has a completely different feel to it and leaves you in complete awe.
We then headed on to the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse, which was constructed to aid ships in the 1860’s, it also made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the windiest place in the UK. I can personally vouch for that, the views are truly breathtaking though.
Next on our list, and by far, a top favourite was to the Callanish Alpacas. Located next to the famous, Callanish standing stones, is a family run alpaca visitor centre which is also home to a whole variety of animals, including hebridean sheap, indian runner ducks, goats and loads more. You have to visit, I insist!
Craving the sand between our toes again, we headed off to the next beach on our list, Dalbeg. Located on the western side of Lewis, it’s also next to Dalmor, another spectacular spot. Dalbeg has a hillside trail that overhangs the beach below with breath taking views out across the sea.
Last up, Tolsta, for a quick surf before heading back home via Ullapool.
You can view the video version of our trip here.
Images by: John Pate
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