• LEWIS AND HARRIS TRAVEL GUIDE

    The golden white sands of Seilebost Beach on Harris, stretching out towards Luskentyre with the sands of both beaches close to joining as low tide approaches
  • LEWIS AND HARRIS

    TRAVEL GUIDE

    A person walks across golden glowing sand towards the water's edge at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol) on Harris, with the shadows long as sunset approaches

BEST THINGS TO DO ON LEWIS AND HARRIS

THE OUTER HEBRIDES

In this guide we outline the best things to see and do on Lewis and Harris, including beaches, walks, scenic routes, and cultural sites. We also give recommendations for food and accommodation to suit all budgets, and provide a detailed map and practical travel tips to help your trip run smoothly.

Known as two islands but actually one landmass, Lewis and Harris are the most northern of Scotland’s Western Isles. Lewis is the most populous island of the Outer Hebrides by far, with ten times more people than Harris – understandable when you see the geography of the two.

Harris is rocky and mountainous for the most part, with a distinctly Highland feel, while Lewis is lower-lying, featuring rolling expanses scattered with lochs and smaller hills. Both however are blessed with truly spectacular coastal areas. Harris has some of the best beaches in Scotland, while Lewis, no beach slouch itself, has endless miles of dramatic coastline to admire.

While the highlights of Lewis and Harris can be seen in 2 – 3 days, we would recommend about a week to take advantage of all the stunning walks, scenic cycling/driving routes, fascinating cultural experiences, and delicious food on offer. Many people plan a trip here as part of an island hopping adventure including Barra and Uist, but if you prefer to spend time getting to know a place more deeply, there is plenty to keep you busy on Lewis and Harris alone.

Note that place names and spelling can vary between maps and street signs, with both English and Gaelic spellings being used. Sometimes places are commonly known as one thing, but on a map are named something different. In this guide we try to use the most commonly used names, along with any alternative name (as per Google Maps or Ordnance Survey maps) in parentheses.

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LEWIS AND HARRIS MAP

Use the map below to help lead you to all the places mentioned in this Lewis and Harris guide. You can also download the info to Maps.me (iOS/Android) or Organic Maps (iOS/Android) for use offline. Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view. Tap the star symbol to save this map to your Google maps. See the drop down boxes below for more info on saving online and offline versions of this map.


To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps.

On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version.

Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this version of the map offline, but we’ve provided a download for a similar version for offline use.


To use an offline map with all the same pins and routes marked, first download Maps.Me (iOS/Android) or our preferred mapping app Organic Maps (iOS/Android), then download our Lewis and Harris Travel Guide bookmarks and select open with Maps.Me/Organic Maps. 

You can easily navigate by tapping the bookmark for your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tap your end point bookmark and select ‘route to’. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by the app, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’.

You can use both Maps.me and Organic Maps offline or online, but the attached photos for each bookmark only display automatically in the Organic Maps app. In either app the photos will only appear when you’re online.


BEST BEACHES ON LEWIS AND HARRIS

Lewis and Harris boast some of the most dramatic and scenic beaches in the Outer Hebrides. Southwest Harris is home to a succession of beautiful white sand beaches, with the coastal road winding alongside them. If you arrive off the ferry at Leverburgh, this route makes for a pretty spectacular welcome to Harris. And if your journey starts in Tarbert or Stornoway, these beaches are great to see on a southern loop that combines the Golden Road to the east. Further north, you have to venture off the main road to reach the beauties along the west and northeast coast of Lewis.

First we outline our pick of the best beaches on Lewis and Harris, all top sights in their own right, then in the next section we cover a few more that are worth visiting if you’re in the area or have plenty of time to explore the islands.

SCARISTA BEACH (SGARASTA MHOR BEACH)

SCARISTA BEACH

(SGARASTA MHOR BEACH)

A lengthy stretch of beach backed by dunes, Scarista curves south from the Isle of Harris Golf Club, before merging seamlessly with an expanse of sand and salt flats at Traigh an Taoibh Thuath. From the township of Northton to Scarista, it seems to go on forever as you drive or cycle northward around the coast. You get a great view of the beach from the road, but if you want to enjoy it close up, park by the cemetery or church in Scarista, then walk through the gate next to the red post box and across to the dunes.

NISABOST BEACH (TRAIGH IAR)

NISABOST BEACH

(TRAIGH IAR)

A lovely little west-facing beach tucked in below a small hill to the north and backed by dunes, Nisabost is easily accessed from the nearby parking area on the main road. You can walk across the beach and up the small hill to Macleod’s Stone, a prehistoric standing stone keeping watch over the Isle of Taransay.

West facing Nisabost Beach (Traigh Iar), tucked in between a small hill and the coastal road on southwest Harris

West facing Nisabost Beach (Traigh Iar), tucked in between a small hill and the coastal road



West facing Nisabost Beach (Traigh Iar), tucked in between a small hill and the coastal road on southwest Harris

West facing Nisabost Beach (Traigh Iar)



HORGABOST BEACH (TRAIGH NIOSABOIST)

HORGABOST BEACH

(TRAIGH NIOSABOIST)

Situated on the opposite side of the small hill on which Macleod’s Stone stands, Horgabost faces north towards Luskentyre and the Harris hills beyond. It is backed by the small and basic Horgabost Campsite, a fantastic spot to pitch your tent or park your campervan. There is parking and toilets available just behind the dunes.

SEILEBOST BEACH (TRAIGH SHEILEBOIST)

SEILEBOST BEACH

(TRAIGH SHEILEBOIST)

Another expanse of white sand beach backed by dunes, with turquoise water lapping at its shore, Seilebost is perhaps the most visually impressive beach on Harris. This is no more true than at low tide, when the sands of Seilebost to the south and Luskentyre to the north just about merge to become one of the Outer Hebrides’ most jaw-dropping scenes. Park by the old Seilebost School (now a small campervan hook-up site) and follow the trails across the dunes to reach the beach.

The golden white sands of Seilebost Beach on Harris, stretching out towards Luskentyre with the sands of both beaches close to joining as low tide approaches

Seilebost Beach stretching out towards Luskentyre, the sands close to joining with low tide approaching



The golden white sands of Seilebost Beach on Harris, stretching out towards Luskentyre with the sands of both beaches close to joining as low tide approaches

Seilebost Beach stretching towards Luskentyre,
the sands close to joining as low tide approaches



LUSKENTYRE BEACH (TRAIGH LOSGAINTIR/TRAIGH ROSAMOL)

LUSKENTYRE BEACH

(TRAIGH LOSGAINTIR/TRAIGH ROSAMOL)

One of the best known beaches on Harris and Lewis, Luskentyre is a sight to behold. The vast expanse of Luskentyre sands can be seen from the main road, but the northernmost part of the beach, Traigh Rosamol, lies at the end of a side road leading through Luskentyre township. From the carpark and public toilets, pass through the gate and follow the short trail up and over the dunes to the beach. Beinn Dhubh rises to the east, Taransay and the mountains of North Harris lie across the water, and a spectacular sweep of white sand stretches to the southwest, curving towards Luskentyre Sands and Seilebost, both concealed from this vantage point.

Traigh Rosamol, the northernmost part of the beach at Luskentyre, with turquoise water gent;y lapping golden sand and the North Harris hills seen across the water

Traigh Rosamol, the northernmost part of the beach at Luskentyre, with the North Harris hills seen across the water



Traigh Rosamol, the northernmost part of the beach at Luskentyre, with turquoise water gent;y lapping golden sand and the North Harris hills seen across the water

Traigh Rosamol, the northernmost part of the
beach at Luskentyre, with the North Harris
hills seen across the water



The beach is great for a picnic or a stroll, and the often calm waters are perfect for a dip, with paddleboarding also increasingly popular here. The extensive dune system has walking trails running through it, and the extra height advantage means you get a cracking view over the beach. A number of small clearings in the dunes offer excellent wild camping opportunities too.

HUISINIS BEACH (HUSHINISH BEACH)

HUISINIS BEACH

(HUSHINISH BEACH)

So far, the best beaches on Harris and Lewis outlined in this guide have been on or close to the main road. But from here on, our top beach recommendations require a little more effort to get to, with none more so than Huisinis. Thirteen miles off the main road, down a winding single track that can prove challenging for less confident drivers, a visit to Huisinis (pronounced Hoo-shi-nish) is as much about the journey as the destination itself. Enjoy the scenic drive (more on that later) and allow enough time to make a day of it, with added walks to the Eagle Observatory, as well as Traigh Mheilein and Crabhadail.

Huisinis beach itself is a magnificently bright white sweep of sand, a feast for your eyes as you round a bend on the final approach. The Huisinis Gateway is a welcome addition, providing shelter from the elements while allowing you to enjoy beach views through floor to ceiling windows. You’ll also find indoor picnic tables, toilets and coin-operated showers, and information boards providing you with a fascinating insight into the local community past and present. There is a car park next to it, plus a designated campervan park up area (not suitable for tents).

The bright white gold curve of Huisinis Beach on Harris, with the Huisinis Gateway building and car park on the green, grassy hill behind

The bright expanse of Huisinis Beach, with the Huisinis Gateway building and car park on the hill behind



The bright white gold curve of Huisinis Beach on Harris, with the Huisinis Gateway building and car park on the green, grassy hill behind

The bright expanse of Huisinis Beach, with the
Huisinis Gateway and car park on the hill behind



REEF BEACH (TRAIGH NA BEIRIGH)

REEF BEACH

(TRAIGH NA BEIRIGH)

This beauty is our favourite of a number of scenic beaches on the Valtos/Kneep loop road, on the west coast of Lewis. A gentle curve of white sand backed by small dunes and tucked between rocky outcrops at either end, mile-long Reef Beach feels hidden away in its own world. That’s not to say it’s a secret though. There are usually plenty of caravans and campers parked on the grass immediately behind the beach, at what must be one of the best positioned campsites in all of Scotland. A car park and public toilets can also be found here.

The wide sandy expanse of Reef Beach on Lewis, with low rocky hills behind and turquoise water meeting the shore

Reef Beach stretches for a mile, the perfect place for long walks on the coast



The wide sandy expanse of Reef Beach on Lewis, with low rocky hills behind and turquoise water meeting the shore

Reef Beach stretches for a mile, making it
the perfect
place for long walks on the coast



MANGERSTA BEACH (TRAIGH MHANGARSTAIDH)

MANGERSTA BEACH

(TRAIGH MHANGARSTAIDH)

Mangersta Beach is small but dramatic, thanks to the cliffs rising either side and low-lying dunes extending far behind. On a calm day, it’s great for a walk along the nearby clifftops, where you can admire the turquoise water lapping at the base of the many sea stacks and jagged rocks punctuating this coastline. And on a wild day, it’s a fantastic spot to watch the waves crashing in on the cliffs, with the grassy hillside overlooking the beach providing the perfect vantage point. This hillside doubles up as a great wild camp spot (weather permitting!), and there are a few suitable flat patches for camping in the dunes below too.

A person standing on the grassy hillside behind Mangersta Beach on the west coast of Lewis, with frothy waves crashing in on a wild day

Looking down on Mangersta Beach from the grassy hillside above



A person standing on the grassy hillside behind Mangersta Beach on the west coast of Lewis, with frothy waves crashing in on a wild day

Looking down on Mangersta Beach on a wild
and windy day, from the grassy hillside above



To get to the beach, park in the small clearing by the side of the road, cross the road, and follow the path down the hillside for about 500 metres. For a view looking back towards the beach, cross the stream on your left before the trail turns right towards the beach, and walk along the cliff tops for 600 metres or so.

If you’re visiting Mangersta Beach, be sure to check out the Mangersta Stacks and bothy too. You can read more about them in our best scenic routes section below.

GARRY BEACH (TRAIGH GHEARADHA)

GARRY BEACH

(TRAIGH GHEARADHA)

The only east coast pick of our top Lewis and Harris beaches, Garry Beach lies below the Bridge to Nowhere, literally at the end of the road. The scenery around here is markedly different to every other beach mentioned in this guide, somewhat more ‘Highland’ than ‘Island’. Hillsides thick with bracken extend to the north and west, with the peat-rich River Garry snaking its way towards the sandy shore. The brown freshwater mixing with the turquoise sea is a fascinating sight.

The peat-rich River Garry meeting the sea at Garry Beach on the east coast of Lewis

The peat-rich River Garry meeting the sea at Garry Beach on the east coast of Lewis



The peat-rich River Garry meeting the sea at Garry Beach on the east coast of Lewis

The peat-rich River Garry meeting the sea
at Garry Beach on the east coast of Lewis



At the southern end of the beach, huge stacks of Lewisian Gneiss rise from the golden sand, jutting out of the water at high tide. At low tide they are completely exposed, and natural rock arches are revealed in the chunky stacks by the cliffs. Discovering this at 11pm in the twilight of a June night was absolutely magical, and visiting Garry Beach at low tide yourself to wander among the stacks and through the sea arches is a must! For a different perspective, walk up to the top of the cliffs, from where you get a great view looking down on the beach.

A stack of Lewisian Gneiss rock jutting out of the sand at low tide on Garry Beach on the east coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

Make sure you time your visit to Garry Beach with low tide if you want to wander among the numerous stacks and rock arches



A stack of Lewisian Gneiss rock jutting out of the sand at low tide on Garry Beach on the east coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

Make sure you time your visit to Garry Beach
with low tide if you want to wander among
the numerous stacks and rock arches



There is a lovely lochan behind the beach, home to a large gaggle of geese. The grassy area here and the flat grassy banks of the nearby river are perfect for wild camping. There is a small car park just a short walk from the beach, although public toilets are only available at the car park by Traigh Mhor (Tolsta), on the southern side of the rocky promontory separating the two beaches. Although Garry Beach is our favourite of the two, it is certainly worth checking out the 2.7 km stretch of sand at Traigh Mhor while in the area.

BOSTA BEACH (TRAIGH BOSTADH)

BOSTA BEACH

(TRAIGH BOSTADH)

Another small but scenic beach tucked between hills, Bosta lies at the end of the road on Great Bernera island, linked by bridge to Lewis. Bosta, meaning farm in Old Norse, is also the site of an Iron Age village, the remnants of which were revealed during a severe storm in 1992. Following excavation the delicate structures once again succumbed to nature, and today they lie hidden under sand while a replica Iron Age house sits on more stable ground behind the beach. You can see inside and learn about the history from the local guide between May and September (Mon – Fri 12pm – 4pm and Sat 12pm – 4pm in June, July, and August).

As for the beach itself, it’s a beautiful curve of white sand with a finger of black rocks jutting out into the bay, looking particularly fine at low tide. Low tide is also when the Time and Tide Bell is revealed, one of a number of such art installations dotted around the UK.

There is a car park and public toilets just a short walk from the beach.

SEE MORE FROM SCOTLAND

A person walks across golden glowing sand towards the water's edge at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol) on Harris, with the shadows long as sunset approaches
A person in a long mustard coloured coat and black hat looking out towards the sea from a viewpoint above Loch Skipport on South Uist, with the Isle of Skye seen faintly on the horizon
A yacht in the bay at Vatersay with pastel sunset skies and the silhouette of the Isle of Rum in the background
One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A person stands on the wide expanse of Tresness Beach on Sanday
An impressive view of the Old Man of Hoy from the south, showing the towering stack detatched from the rugged red cliffs of the island's west coast
Standing stones set in a large circle, known as the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney's most iconic sites and Scotland's largest stone circle
A person walks along the unspoiled beach of the Tresness Peninsula on Sanday
Two surfers walk across the sand in the afternoon sun at Ceannabeinne Beach, not far from Durness on the North Coast 500 route.
An abandoned boat wreck on the Isle of Mull.
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Culross: Scotland's Best Preserved 17th century town
A person walks across golden glowing sand towards the water's edge at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol) on Harris, with the shadows long as sunset approaches
A person in a long mustard coloured coat and black hat looking out towards the sea from a viewpoint above Loch Skipport on South Uist, with the Isle of Skye seen faintly on the horizon
A yacht in the bay at Vatersay with pastel sunset skies and the silhouette of the Isle of Rum in the background
One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A person stands on the wide expanse of Tresness Beach on Sanday
An impressive view of the Old Man of Hoy from the south, showing the towering stack detatched from the rugged red cliffs of the island's west coast
Standing stones set in a large circle, known as the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney's most iconic sites and Scotland's largest stone circle
A person walks along the unspoiled beach of the Tresness Peninsula on Sanday
Two surfers walk across the sand in the afternoon sun at Ceannabeinne Beach, not far from Durness on the North Coast 500 route.
An abandoned boat wreck on the Isle of Mull.
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Culross: Scotland's Best Preserved 17th century town

OTHER RECOMMENDED BEACHES TO VISIT

(IF YOU’RE IN THE AREA)

In addition to our best beach recommendations above, the following beaches are also worth visiting if you happen to be in the area, or if you’re lucky and have lots of time to spend on Lewis and Harris.

ARDROIL BEACH/UIG SANDS (TRAIGH UIGE)

ARDROIL BEACH/UIG SANDS

(TRAIGH UIGE)

A huge expanse of sand flats, Uig Sands looks like a giant paint spill, the white grains spreading into every crack and crevice along the coastline of Carnish, Ardroil, Timsgarry, and Cowlista townships. If you’re heading to Mangersta, it’s worth stopping by for a walk on the beach, and for tent or van campers, the Ardroil Campsite is an excellent option in the area. Visit at low tide for the most impressive views. Uig is pronounced oo-ig.

DALBEG BEACH (DAILBEAG)

DALBEG BEACH

(DAILBEAG)

A small and attractive beach with Loch Dhailbeag behind and cliffs rising either side. It’s worth the short detour off the main road if you’re passing by on the way to Ness or the Butt of Lewis. There is a small car park next to the beach.

Two people standing on Dalbeg Beach with cliffs rising either side, as the waves crash in on a windy day on Lewis

Dalbeg Beach lies just off the main road to Ness and is definitely worth a look if you’re passing by



Two people standing on Dalbeg Beach with cliffs rising either side, as the waves crash in on a windy day on Lewis

Dalbeg Beach lies just off the main road to Ness
and is definitely worth a look if you’re passing by



SHAWBOST BEACH

SHAWBOST BEACH

A quick detour off the Ness road will lead you to another nice spot. You can park right next to the sand and take a stroll across Shawbost beach, which separates Loch a’ Bhaile from the sea. Continue on to Mollans Rainbow Honesty Shed in the township on the northern side if you fancy a tasty treat.

EOROPIE BEACH (TRAIGH SHANNDAIGH)

EOROPIE BEACH

(TRAIGH SHANNDAIGH)

A wide and beautiful stretch of golden sand backed by impressive dunes, don’t miss Eoropie Beach if you’ve made the effort to travel this far north. The car park is just a short walk away, next to the Eoropie Dunes Park (probably the best play park in the Outer Hebrides and guaranteed to keep kids well entertained!). The low cliffs either side of the beach are also great for a walk. You can make a loop around the coast to the Butt of Lewis, Port Stoth, and back via a minor road in a couple of hours – check the route description and map on Walk Highlands.

The broad golden expanse of Eoropie Beach on the northwest coast of Lewis on a stormy day

Eoropie Beach, near Butt of Lewis, has impressive dunes and coastal scenery



The broad golden expanse of Eoropie Beach on the northwest coast of Lewis on a stormy day

Eoropie Beach, near Butt of Lewis,
has impressive dunes and coastal scenery



PORT STOTH

PORT STOTH

A lovely little cove best appreciated when the tide is low, Port Stoth is tucked between high cliffs on the coast close to the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. Take time to stop and admire the view from above, or park up top and follow the track down the hillside to the sand for a completely different perspective.

NESS BEACH

A lovely stretch of sand extending south of Port of Ness Harbour, cliffs topped with a few houses rising behind. The beach is most impressive at low tide, and it’s worth stopping for a stroll if you’ve made it to the northern tip of Lewis. The Breakwater overlooks the harbour and beach, and is a good spot for lunch or dinner.

BEST WALKS ON LEWIS AND HARRIS

There are endless opportunities for walking on Lewis and Harris, but we’d like to highlight a few hikes we think are particularly worthwhile. From easy strolls to more challenging day hikes, these are some of the best walks to include in your Lewis and Harris itinerary.

HUISINIS LOOP (TRAIGH MHEILEIN AND CRABHADAIL)

HUISINIS LOOP

(TRAIGH MHEILEIN AND CRABHADAIL)

The road to Huisinis Beach is wonderfully scenic, but what makes the journey here even more special is adding on a hike to explore beyond the end of the tarmac. You can do an 8 km loop around some beautiful beaches, hills, and lochs to the north of Huisinis, following old trails and crossing pathless terrain. Allow around 3 – 4 hours for the full loop walk, or about 2 hours to visit Traigh Mheilein on an out-and-back route.

You’ll have great views across the water to Scarp on the outward section of the trail as you climb then descend to Traigh Mheilein, a pristine golden sand beach backed by small dunes and marram grass. As you head inland, climbing the small hill of Meilein, wonderful views appear of the Harris hills and the secluded beach of Crabhadail. The return part of the walk skirts around the southern shores of Loch na Cleabhaig then crosses a saddle to rejoin the hillside path from before, where you’ll retrace your steps to Huisinis.

You can find a full route description on Walk Highlands, and we’ve included the suggested walking route on our map.

Looking across turquoise water to old cottages on the green hillside of the island of Scarp from Traigh Mheilein on Harris

Looking across to Scarp from Traigh Mheilein



Looking across turquoise water to old cottages on the green hillside of the island of Scarp from Traigh Mheilein on Harris

Looking across to Scarp from Traigh Mheilein



NORTH HARRIS EAGLE OBSERVATORY

NORTH HARRIS EAGLE OBSERVATORY

A perfect pit-stop on the drive out to/back from Huisinis, the Eagle Observatory is one of the best places to spot golden eagles in the Outer Hebrides. It’s a straightforward walk up Glen Meavaig on a gravel path of less than 3 km to reach the hide, a timber clad turf-roofed structure which blends in nicely with the landscape. Surrounded by rugged mountains, the setting is beautiful. The area is home to a pair of resident golden eagles, with occasional visits from red deer, white tailed sea eagles, and a pair of merlin. Inside you’ll find information about the birds of prey and you can sit quietly hidden while looking out for them. Allow around 1 hour for the return walk, plus extra time at the hide.

The path snaking up Glen Meavig towards the North Harris Eagle Observatory from the small car park on the single track road to Huisinis

The path snaking up Glen Meavaig towards the Eagle Observatory



The path snaking up Glen Meavig towards the North Harris Eagle Observatory from the small car park on the single track road to Huisinis

The path snaking up Glen Meavaig
towards the Eagle Observatory



If you fancy a longer walk in the glen, you can continue north on the track up to Loch Scourst and Loch Voshimid (an extra 4 km one way from the hide), then head east on a hill trail to Bowglass on the main road (10.5 km one way from Loch Voshimid). Read more about the route on the North Harris Trust website.

CLISHAM (AN CLISEAM)

CLISHAM

(AN CLISEAM)

Summiting the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides is bound to reward you with both a sense of achievement and spectacular views (if the weather plays ball!). The most direct route to the top is from a car park on the main road, a steep climb on sometimes boggy and pathless terrain to the summit at 799 m. Allow around 4 hours for the 5 km return hike, and be sure to have appropriate footwear and clothing for all weather eventualities. You can find a detailed trail description on Walk Highlands, and we’ve added the route to our map.

The summit of Clisham (799 m) on a moody morning, the highest peak on Harris and in the entire Outer Hebrides

The summit of Clisham (799 m) on a moody morning



The summit of Clisham (799 m) on a moody morning, the highest peak on Harris and in the entire Outer Hebrides

The summit of Clisham (799 m) on a moody morning



RHENIGIDALE LOOP (POSTMAN’S PATH & THE HEBRIDEAN WAY)

RHENIGIDALE LOOP

(POSTMAN’S PATH & THE HEBRIDEAN WAY)

In recent years the North Harris Trust has worked to improve a number of historic footpaths, two of which have trailheads at Urgha, a couple of kilometres east of Tarbert. The first is The Postman’s Path (an accurate description until a road was built in 1989), which is a 6 km trail linking Urgha and Rhenigidale that offers plenty of wonderful hill and sea views. The second links Maraig and Urgha, a 6.5 km section of the much longer Hebridean Way, crossing a small pass at Braigh an Ruisg and following the western shore of Lochannan Lacasdail.

These can be walked as individual trails, however with limited transport options to get you back to the start, combining them into a longer circuit is a good option (joined together by a scenic 6 km walk along the minor road between Rhenigidale and Maraig). If this doesn’t appeal, you can time your walk with the local Tarbert to Rhenigidale bus service, hopping on between Rhenigidale and Maraig. Or you can use the bus to get to/from the trailhead if you only want to walk one of the trails. Note that there are no public buses on Sundays.

The Postman’s Path, winding its way around the rocky headland from Rhenigidale on the Isle of Harris

The Postman’s Path, winding its way around the rocky headland from Rhenigidale



The Postman’s Path, winding its way around the rocky headland from Rhenigidale on the Isle of Harris

The Postman’s Path, winding its way
around the rocky headland from Rhenigidale



There is a hostel in Rhenigidale and overnight parking is permitted at the designated parking and picnic areas by the trailheads at Urgha, Maraig, and Rhenigidale (see the North Harris Trust Campervan Map for photos and more info). You can read more about the trails on the North Harris Trust website, and get a full trail description on Walk Highlands. We’ve marked the routes on our map too.

NORTHTON TEMPLE, MACHAIR & BEACHES

The most southern of our top picks of the best walks on Lewis and Harris, this is a straightforward but rewarding walk best appreciated in good weather. Starting in Northton, the route crosses the most impressive expanse of fertile machair on Lewis and Harris, heading towards the imposing peak of Ceapabhal (368 m). Sticking to largely flat terrain, it leads past three beautiful beaches then curves round to the ruins of a 15th century chapel at Rubh’ an Teampaill. The return walk takes around 1.5 hours, covering 5 km. You can also vary the route slightly by returning via the clifftop between Traigh na Cleavag (Cleabhaig) and Northton Beach (Traigh na h-Uidhe), instead of over the machair.

Northton Beach on a very windy day on Harris, with the machair behind and Ceapabhal (368 m) rising in the distance

Northton Beach, with the machair behind and Ceapabhal (368 m) rising in the distance



Northton Beach on a very windy day on Harris, with the machair behind and Ceapabhal (368 m) rising in the distance

Northton Beach, with the machair behind
and Ceapabhal (368 m) rising in the distance



Parking is possible at the end of the road in Northton. The nearby Temple Cafe is a great spot for food or coffee before/after your walk, or you can pick up some goodies to take with you from Croft 36 honesty shop. A full route description is available on Walk Highlands, and the route is marked on our map.

VISIT MORE ISLANDS IN THE OUTER HEBRIDES

BEST CULTURAL SITES ON LEWIS AND HARRIS

While the island scenery is of course a big draw, Lewis and Harris also have plenty of fascinating cultural attractions to explore. From visiting historic sites dating back thousands of years to learning about the production of iconic local crafts (both old and new!), here are our recommendations for the top cultural experiences on Lewis and Harris.

CALLANISH STANDING STONES (CALANAIS)

CALLANISH STANDING STONES

(CALANAIS)

Standing tall for 5000 years, the megaliths at Callanish form the most magnificent stone circle in all of Scotland (in our humble opinion). The scale of the site is particularly impressive. Single rows of stones extend to the east, west, and south from a central circle, with an 83 metre ‘avenue’ (formed by two lines of stones) extending to the north and gradually widening further from the centre. Nobody knows for sure how the stones ended up here, or what purpose they served, but it’s thought that it could have been an astronomical observatory. The location of the stones on a small ridge overlooking Loch Roag ensures they can be seen from all around, with the setting particularly scenic when looking westward over the loch.

A person standing in front of the 5000 year old Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

The stone circle at Callanish is perhaps the most impressive of its kind in Scotland



A person standing in front of the 5000 year old Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

The stone circle at Callanish is perhaps the
most impressive of its kind in Scotland


The 5000 year old Callanish Standing Stones under grey skies on the Isle of Lewis

The Callanish stones have stood for 5000 years



The stones are free to visit at any time. We’d suggest parking at the northern car park (not the one by the visitor centre) for the most dramatic entrance to the site. This way you’ll approach the central circle via the avenue with the loch forming the backdrop, rather than coming into the southern side of the complex with the township of Callanish in the background.

GEARRANNAN BLACKHOUSE VILLAGE

Blackhouses were common dwellings across the Hebrides until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with some being inhabited up until the post-war era. The blackhouse village at Gearrannan is the finest collection of such houses in the islands and has an equally impressive coastal setting.

The last few residents of Gearrannan moved to modern houses nearby in 1973, with the village declared an outstanding conservation area in 1976 in recognition of its significant cultural heritage. Notable for their double-skinned drystone walls and thatched roofs, today the blackhouses have been restored and transformed. Current uses include self-catering accommodation and a hostel, and a house museum which has info boards about the local community, a cafe, and small shop. It’s an interesting place to wander and get a sense for what traditional village life might have been like.

There is a car park at the entrance to the village. The shop, cafe, and museum houses have set opening hours (usually Mon – Sat 9.30 am – 5.30 pm March till October). Outside of these times it’s still possible to visit and wander around the outside of the buildings.

The restored traditional blackhouses on the coast at Gearrannan on the Isle of Lewis

The village at Gearrannan has the finest collection of blackhouses in the islands and an impressive coastal setting



The restored traditional blackhouses on the coast at Gearrannan on the Isle of Lewis

The village at Gearrannan has the finest
collection of blackhouses in the islands
and an impressive coastal setting



ARNOL BLACKHOUSE AND WHITEHOUSE

For an authentic insight into the interior of traditional Hebridean homes from the last century, a visit to Arnol Blackhouse and Whitehouse is recommended. Lived in until 1965, the blackhouse at No 42 Arnol has been preserved almost exactly as the family left it. You can see what the living and sleeping area would have been like, separated from the byre at the opposite end of the long house by a basic partition. The ever-lit open peat fire adds to the experience. Nearby, you can enter the more modern whitehouse at No 39, built in the 1920s and lived in until 1976. Its windows, chimney, pitched roof, gable ends, and separate byre are a world apart from the window-less, chimney-less, thick-skinned and thatch-roofed blackhouse next door.

Check seasonal opening hours and admission prices on the Historic Environment Scotland website.

CLO MOR HARRIS TWEED EXHIBITION

An Clo Mor, ‘The Big Cloth’, better known as Harris Tweed to non-Gaelic speakers around the world and certainly the island’s most famous export. Certification protected, Harris Tweed can only be dyed, spun, and handwoven in the Outer Hebrides. You can learn all about the process and see some examples of designer Harris Tweed fashion, at the Clo Mor Harris Tweed Exhibition in Drinishader, on the Golden Road.

It is free to enter and the exhibition is usually open Monday – Saturday from 9am – 5:30pm.

Fancy visiting a weaver at home to learn more about how Harris Tweed is made? Try this guided experience!

Detail of a red Harris Tweed coat at the Clo Mor Harris Tweed Exhibition on Harris

Detail of a Harris Tweed coat



Detail of a stool nicely covered in an orange and green Harris Tweed design at the Clo Mor Harris Tweed Exhibition on Harris

Inside the exhibition, a kilted chair made with Harris Tweed



Detail of a stool nicely covered in an orange and green Harris Tweed design at the Clo Mor Harris Tweed Exhibition on Harris

Inside the exhibition, a kilted chair
made with Harris Tweed



MUSEUM NAN EILEAN AT LEWS CASTLE

MUSEUM NAN EILEAN

LEWS CASTLE

For an insight into life in the Outer Hebrides across the ages, head to the Museum and Tasglann nan Eilean (Island Museum and Archives) at Lews Castle in Stornoway. The interactive exhibition is housed in a purpose-built extension, and you can also access the ground floor of the castle to see the restored Gothic Revival architecture. There is a cafe and shop here too, and you can even book an apartment to stay upstairs in the castle! The stars of the collection are six of the original Lewis Chessmen, on long-term loan from the British Museum in London. Made from walrus ivory and likely Viking in origin, 78 of these intricately carved 12th century chess pieces were uncovered in the dunes at Uig Sands in 1831.

The walk from the town centre to the castle grounds is nice, crossing a bridge and following woodland paths to the entrance. It’s also possible to drive there, with an onsite car park behind the castle. The annual HebCelt Festival takes place in the castle grounds each July. The museum is free to enter and open year-round, but closed on Sundays and Mondays. Check seasonal opening hours on the Visit Scotland website, or on the museum’s Facebook page.

BUTT OF LEWIS LIGHTHOUSE

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse stands watch above dramatic cliffs at the most northern tip of the Outer Hebrides. Engineered by David Stevenson in 1862, its red brick tower is unusual as far as Stevenson lighthouse’s go. The majority in Scotland are painted white with yellow trim, much like the former keepers’ cottages which surround the lighthouse.

Between the 1930s and 1970s, the station acted as the radio link for the lighthouse keepers on the isolated Flannan Isles, about 30 km off the west coast of Lewis. The lighthouse was one of the last to be automated in Scotland, in 1998.

Although public access to the lighthouse itself is not possible, the headland is well worth visiting to witness the plunging cliffs and vast seascape at the ‘windiest spot in the UK’. Don’t miss the lovely little cove at Port Stoth on the way to the lighthouse, and we’d recommend a walk along the clifftops to Eoropie Beach if you have time and the weather is good.

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse on a sunny day on the north coast of the Isle of Lewis

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse



The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse on a sunny day on the north coast of the Isle of Lewis

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse



NESS HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM (COMUNN EACHDRAIDH NIS)

NESS HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM

(COMUNN EACHDRAIDH NIS)

While in north Lewis it’s worth stopping by the Ness Historical Society to learn more about traditional aspects of island life, including crofting, fishing, and weaving. There are also two gallery spaces which host rotating exhibitions, as well as a shop and cafe. Entrance is free.

HARRIS DISTILLERY

Opening in the heart of Tarbert in 2015, the Isle of Harris Distillery is making a name for itself worldwide with its award winning gin, and its single malt whisky production is well under way. Much like the North Uist Distillery to the south, the Harris Distillery is a welcome source of long term employment for the local community, with around 40 permanent staff members. You can take a tour of the working distillery on weekdays between March and October (£15, more info here), or pop in to pick up a bottle of gin or some other goodies from the shop. There’s also an onsite cafe with freshly ground coffee, loose leaf teas, and baked treats.

AN LANNTAIR

A beacon for the arts and creativity, Stornoway’s An Lanntair is a multi-arts venue and cultural hub. It’s home to a theatre, cinema, gallery, dance studio, concert hall, and more. From exhibitions to live music, you can check what’s on during your visit to Stornoway on the An Lanntair website. It’s also a great place to pick up gifts in the shop or hang out in the cafe bar.

BEST SCENIC ROUTES ON LEWIS AND HARRIS

Driving or cycling just about anywhere on Lewis and Harris could be classed as a scenic journey, but there are a few select routes we feel to be particularly special.

THE GOLDEN ROAD // THE BAYS, HARRIS

THE GOLDEN ROAD //

THE BAYS, HARRIS

Winding its way around every little inlet, loch, and rocky hillside on the southeastern coast of Harris, the Golden Road is wonderfully scenic. So called due to the great expense of building it in 1897, you’d be forgiven for assuming its moniker is derived from the glorious views enjoyed along the way. Linking numerous small settlements in The Bays area of Harris, the 21 mile single track road wiggles its way around the coast between ‘Lorna’s Larder’ food truck (just south of Tarbert) and Rodel (a little east of Leverburgh).

The village of Finsbay (Fionnsbhagh) on a misty day, located in the grassy and rocky landscape in southeast Harris

Finsbay (Fionnsbhagh) on a misty and moody day



The village of Finsbay (Fionnsbhagh) on a misty day, located in the grassy and rocky landscape in southeast Harris

Finsbay (Fionnsbhagh) on a misty, moody day



Hundreds of lochans punctuate the rocky, lumpy hillsides. The cnoc and lochan landscape is reminiscent of Assynt on the Scottish mainland, no doubt due to the 3 billion year old Lewisian gneiss found in both locations.

A picturesque rowing boat next to a lochan on the Golden Road in The Bays area of Harris

A picturesque boat on the shores of a roadside lochan



A sheep standing in the grass below road signs in the village of Finsbay on southeast Harris

A sheep at the junction in Finsbay



A picturesque rowing boat next to a lochan on the Golden Road in The Bays area of Harris

A boat on the shores of a roadside lochan


A sheep standing in the grass below road signs in the village of Finsbay on southeast Harris

A sheep at the junction in Finsbay



Various galleries and points of interest are dotted along the way, meaning a journey on the Golden Road could end up taking longer than a mere 21 miles would suggest. Places to pop into include the Clo Mor Harris Tweed Exhibition at Drinishader, the beautiful Mission House Studio at Finsbay, Holmasaig Gallery at Quidinish, Finsbay Gallery at Finsbay, Skoon Art Cafe at Geocrab, and the historic St Clement’s Church at Rodel. If you fancy spending longer in the area, No5 Drinishader is an excellent value hostel, and Lickisto Blackhouse Camping has some unique accommodation options including yurts and a blackhouse bothy.

THE BEACH ROAD // WEST HARRIS

THE BEACH ROAD //

WEST HARRIS

A showstopper of a drive or cycle, the road leading up the southwest coast of Harris offers expansive beach and mountain views at every turn. There are numerous parking areas along the way, allowing you to get out and enjoy the views or head off on windswept walks along the various beaches. We’ve covered these in more detail in our best beaches section above, with the main beach highlights being Scarista, Nisabost, Horgabost, and Seilebost.

You can easily combine the Golden Road and the beach road (not its official name by the way) into a driving or cycling loop around south Harris. This makes for a very memorable journey and we highly recommend it!

The road curving round through Seilebost on southwest Harris, with the tide low and the sands almost entirely exposed

The road curving round through Seilebost, with the tide low and the sands almost entirely exposed



The road curving round through Seilebost on southwest Harris, with the tide low and the sands almost entirely exposed

The road curving round through Seilebost, with
the tide low and sands almost entirely exposed



THE ROAD TO HUISINIS // NORTHWEST HARRIS

THE ROAD TO HUISINIS //

NORTHWEST HARRIS

Previously mentioned in our best beaches section, the road to Huisinis is a fantastic journey and a highlight in itself. Starting a little north of Tarbert, before the A859 climbs through the North Harris hills, this 13 mile single track road passes various points of interest and has impressive coastal and mountain scenery throughout.

First you’ll pass the remains of the Bunavoneader Whaling Station, established in 1904 by a Norwegian company. At the height of its operation over 150 local men and women were employed by the station. The economic benefits extended to St Kilda as well, where rent was paid for using Village Bay to store whales before floating them back to Harris to be processed. The industry started to dwindle in the 1920s, and the station lay abandoned until a brief and unprofitable resurrection in the early 1950s. Today, it is the most intact of any shore whaling station in the British Isles, possibly in the northern hemisphere, and as such is a scheduled monument. The red brick chimney of one of the boiler houses is the most prominent feature, clearly visible from the road.

The remaining boiler chimney of the Bunavoneader Whaling Station on the shores of West Loch Tarbert on Harris

The remaining boiler chimney of the Bunavoneader Whaling Station



The remaining boiler chimney of the Bunavoneader Whaling Station on the shores of West Loch Tarbert on Harris

The remaining boiler chimney of the
Bunavoneader Whaling Station



A little further on you’ll pass the fantastically situated Bunabhainneadar Tennis Court. Along with the football pitch on Eriskay, this is one of the most dramatic sporting locations in the Outer Hebrides! The court is open to the public, so if tennis is your game don’t miss the opportunity to play here – call Mike and Peggy Briggs on 01859502376 to book.

Next up on the road to Huisinis is a wonderful picnic area with views across West Loch Tarbert to south Harris and westward to Taransay, near the mouth of the sea loch. We spotted eagles soaring high in the sky here, so remember to look up when you stop to take in the views.

The view across West Loch Tarbert from a picnic area on the road to Huisinis on Harris

Looking across West Loch Tarbert from the picnic area with a view



The view across West Loch Tarbert from a picnic area on the road to Huisinis on Harris

Looking out across West Loch Tarbert



After working its way up and over the next hill, the road curves around Loch Mhiabhaig. At the head of the loch is the trailhead for the North Harris Eagle Observatory, a hide situated 30 minutes’ walk up the glen. It’s a great spot to stretch your legs and be surrounded by mountain scenery.

The scenic route continues up, down, and across the rocky hillsides, with mountains to the north and the sea to the south. You’ll pass various lochs and houses dotted here and there, before suddenly reaching a succession of small falls flowing from Abhainn Mhor into Loch Leosavay. In summer, bright pink rhododendrons bloom by the side of the falls, a spectacular burst of colour in this otherwise green, brown, grey, and blue landscape. Rounding the bend at the mouth of the river, your eye is drawn to the surprising sight of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle. This 19th century country house can be hired for exclusive use for up to 18 guests, a nice option if you have a few thousand pounds to spare. Otherwise, enjoy the views from the outside and carry on through the arched gateway for the final stretch to Huisinis.

The scenic route to Huisinis on Harris which takes you up, down and over rocky hillsides on a single track road with passing places

The scenic route to Huisinis takes you up, down and over rocky hillsides on a single track road with passing places



The scenic route to Huisinis on Harris which takes you up, down and over rocky hillsides on a single track road with passing places

The scenic route to Huisinis takes you up, down
and over rocky hillsides on a single track road
with regular passing places



Along with the beautiful Huisinis Beach, great walking opportunities lie at the end of the road and we’d recommend taking the trail to Traigh Mheilein (outlined in our Huisinis Loop walk section above). If you’re in a campervan you can spend the night at the designated park ups next to the Huisinis Gateway building, or by the roadside area provided on the final approach to the beach.

REEF LOOP ROAD // SOUTHWEST LEWIS

REEF LOOP ROAD //

SOUTHWEST LEWIS

A fantastic circuit around beautiful coastal scenery with some of the nicest beaches in Lewis, the Reef loop road is a short but highly rewarding drive or cycle. Turning off the main road to Uig, you’ll cross west Loch Roag and pass by one of a number of iconic Brutalist Lewis bus stops, this one sporting a saltire.

Heading in a clockwise direction you’ll pass by Loch Sgailler and soon emerge at Cliff Beach. Take the left fork to get to a parking area behind the beach, where overnight campervan stays are possible for a £10 donation (no facilities). With high cliffs rising either side of the wide golden sand beach, it’s a wonderful sight and is particularly impressive at low tide. On a windy day, the sight of white waves crashing on the beach is dramatic and exhilarating. Cliff Studio is nearby, where you can check out the work of local resident Margaret Uttley.

Looking down on waves crashing on Cliff Beach on a sunny but windy day on Lewis, from a viewpoint on the hillside above

Looking down on Cliff Beach from the viewpoint above



Looking down on waves crashing on Cliff Beach on a sunny but windy day on Lewis, from a viewpoint on the hillside above

Looking down on Cliff Beach from above



Backtrack to the main road and continue up the hillside, sticking to the road on the left to reach another viewpoint and picnic area overlooking the beach. The road then curves to the right, leading down into the small settlement of Valtos (Bhaltos). A track leads down to a small jetty surrounded by old wooden boats, a lovely viewpoint over sheltered sandy bays that extend from here to Kneep (Cnip).

A boat bobs in the water close to the sandy shore on the beach at Valtos/Kneep on the west coast of Lewis

The bay and beach shared by Valtos and Kneep



A boat bobs in the water close to the sandy shore on the beach at Valtos/Kneep on the west coast of Lewis

The bay and beach shared by Valtos and Kneep



Carry on along the main road and over another small hill, from where an incredible view of Reef beach is revealed. This mile-long stretch of white sand is a real beauty, as mentioned in our best beaches on Lewis and Harris section above. You can park by the campsite (public toilets also available) to head off on foot and explore further. If you’d like to spend longer in the area, the campsite is a great option (call Fin on +44 (0)1851672332 to book), or for a more luxurious stay the Beach Bothies at Kneep are fantastic.

Leaving Reef Beach behind, the road heads briefly inland between small hills before rejoining the shores of Loch Roag and passing a few houses at Reef and Uigen. There’s a picturesque old boat at Uigen slipway, worth stopping to admire if you’re into such things. Soon your 7 mile loop will be complete and you’ll be back on the road to Uig again.

MANGERSTA COASTLINE // SOUTHWEST LEWIS

MANGERSTA COASTLINE //

SOUTHWEST LEWIS

The coastline around Mangersta is particularly dramatic, with wonderful sea stacks, a beautiful beach, and a hidden bothy perched on the edge of a cliff. The last of our top scenic routes on Lewis and Harris, this one involves three short walks to reach the highlights along the way.

From the main road leading to Uig Sands, continue on to the township of Mangersta and park at the spot marked on our map. From here it’s a 10 minute walk across the hillside to the beautifully rugged coast and even more spectacular Mangersta bothy. Hand-built in the 90s by local residents John and Lorna Norgrove, the shelter is made from stone, wood, and a couple of window panes. Tucked into the edge of the cliff, it blends seamlessly with its surroundings – you might not even notice it unless you knew it was there.

Mangersta bothy blending almost seamlessly with the cliffs on the rocky west coast of Lewis

Tucked into the edge of a cliff, the bothy blends almost seamlessly with its surroundings



Mangersta bothy blending almost seamlessly with the cliffs on the rocky west coast of Lewis

Tucked into the edge of a cliff, the bothy blends
almost seamlessly with its rocky surroundings



Like many bothies in Scotland, the basic shelter is open for anyone to pop in and have a rest, and it’s worth visiting to both admire the craftsmanship and enjoy the views of waves crashing into the rocks below. If you’d like to spend the night, there is room for one person to sleep on a wooden bench platform and one on the stone floor, however it’s essential that you make a booking in advance. You can do so via the Linda Norgrove Foundation, a charity that supports Afghan women and children, set up by John and Lorna in memory of their daughter. It’s free to visit the bothy, but donations to the foundation are welcome.

A person watching the waves crash on the rocks below through the window from inside Mangersta bothy on Lewis

Fantastic views of the waves and rocks below



The cozy fireplace inside Mangersta bothy on Lewis

A cosy little fireplace



A person watching the waves crash on the rocks below through the window from inside Mangersta bothy on Lewis

Fantastic views of the waves and rocks below


The cozy fireplace inside Mangersta bothy on Lewis

A cosy little fireplace



Leaving the houses at Mangersta behind, return to the Uig road junction and turn right towards the coast. Shortly after passing a loch on the right hand side you’ll come to a parking area on the left. Park up and walk down the track on the opposite side of the road to reach Mangersta Beach, one of our favourites on Lewis. You can read more about it in the beaches section above.

After exploring the beach and cliff tops here, continue along the road for approximately 1.2 miles, watching out for the handwritten sign for the Mangersta Stacks. Find a spot to park safely off the road (do not block any passing places) and set off on foot for the short walk across pathless (and sometimes boggy/muddy) terrain. When you reach the coast, a collection of impressive sea stacks come into view, jutting out of the water just beyond the cliffedge. Be very careful around here as there is no barrier.

The impressive Mangersta stacks thrusting from the water as the waves crash on the west coast of Lewis

It’s only a short walk from the road to see the impressive Mangersta Stacks



The impressive Mangersta stacks thrusting from the water as the waves crash on the west coast of Lewis

It’s only a short walk from the road to
see the impressive Mangersta Stacks



If you have time and the inclination, it’s possible to drive south for another 4 miles or so to a slipway at the very end of the road. You’ll pass through a couple of small settlements, with sea views to the west. From here, return the same way back to Uig and continue your journey.

BEST DAY TRIPS FROM LEWIS AND HARRIS

If you fancy exploring beyond the shores of Lewis and Harris, a boat trip to St Kilda is a great option. And if you want something a little closer, a trip around the Uig coastline is certainly worth considering.

ST KILDA DAY TRIP FROM HARRIS

ST KILDA DAY TRIP FROM HARRIS

The dual UNESCO World Heritage Site of St Kilda sits alone in the North Atlantic, 50 miles off the coast of Lewis and Harris, and a trip here is a very special experience.

The last St Kildans were evacuated from the island in 1930, life on this isolated archipelago having become impossible to sustain. Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, it’s possible to visit between April and September. A trip to St Kilda allows you to admire the dramatic beauty of the tallest sea cliffs and stacks in the British Isles, and witness the sight of tens of thousands of seabirds, including gannets, puffins, guillemots, fulmars, razorbills, and more. Remnants of the main settlement at Village Bay include houses, sheep pens, and hundreds of stone storage huts known as cleitean. It’s a fascinating place to explore, and the views from the clifftops (where local men used to daringly lower themselves down to hunt seabirds) are truly memorable.

An amazing view of Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee, rising from the water, seen from Hirta, the largest of the St Kilda islands

The view of Boreray, Stac Lee, and Stac an Armin from the cliffs on Hirta, the main island of St Kilda



An amazing view of Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee, rising from the water, seen from Hirta, the largest of the St Kilda islands

A view of Boreray, Stac Lee, and Stac an Armin
from the cliffs on Hirta, the main island of St Kilda



Two companies – Sea Harris and Kilda Cruises – operate day trips from Harris to St Kilda, both departing from Leverburgh on the south coast. The journey takes around 2.5 hours in each direction. You’ll spend up to 5 hours on the main island of Hirta, plus another hour circling Boreray and the sea stacks by boat.

You can read more about the history and significance of St Kilda and get practical tips for a visit to the islands in our dedicated St Kilda Travel Guide, and see more from St Kilda in our film below.

LEWIS COASTLINE BOAT TRIPS

Seatrek offers a number of 2 – 3 hour boat trips along the west coast of Lewis, with the chance to explore the sea stacks, bays, and lochs around Uig. You’ll have the opportunity to spot otters, sea eagles, and a variety of marine life. They also offer specific fishing trips. All of their boat trips depart from Miavaig, close to the Reef Loop Road on the way to Uig Sands.

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LEWIS AND HARRIS TRAVEL TIPS & PRACTICALITIES

In this part we gather together some useful tips for travelling around Lewis and Harris. Additionally, the location of everywhere mentioned in this section has been included in the ‘Lewis and Harris Practicalities’ markers on our accompanying map above.

We go into more detail below, but in general it’s good to know that services such as shops, banks, and petrol stations are spread out and only available in larger community hubs. Also, be aware that most places close or have reduced opening hours on Sundays.

Stornoway is the largest settlement in the Outer Hebrides by far, with the greatest variety of services and most developed tourist infrastructure.

GROCERY SHOPS

The largest supermarkets are in Stornoway, which has a Tesco and two Co-ops. There are also smaller grocery shops in settlements such as Back, Point, Tolsta, Borve, Cross, Ravenspoint, and Tarbert. There is a shop attached to most petrol filling stations too. There are also excellent community shops in both Uig and Leverburgh. Note that almost every grocery shop in Lewis and Harris is closed on a Sunday, so make sure you stock up in advance. If you find yourself stuck, two Lewis grocery shops open on Sundays are Engebret Shop and Filling Station and Blackhouse Bakery, both in Stornoway and open between 10am and 4pm.

PUBLIC TOILETS AND SHOWERS

There are public toilets available at a number of beaches on Lewis and Harris, including Luskentyre, Horgabost, Huisinis, Ardroil, Reef, Bosta, Dalmore, and Tolsta. There are both public toilets and coin-operated showers at Leverburgh Ferry Terminal (open 24/7). Coin-operated showers are also available at Ardroil Campsite, Huisinis Gateway, and Reef Campsite.

A person walks across golden glowing sand towards the water's edge at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol) on Harris, with the shadows long as sunset approaches

Public toilets are available at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol)



A person walks across golden glowing sand towards the water's edge at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol) on Harris, with the shadows long as sunset approaches

Public toilets are available next to the car
park at Luskentyre Beach (Traigh Rosamol)



FUEL STATIONS

On Lewis, you can get fuel in Stornoway, Back, Lower Barvas, Swainbost, Bernera, Uig, at Lochs Services on the A859, and at Ravenspoint in South Lochs. On Harris, the only filling stations are at Ardhasaig (just north of Tarbert) and at the community shop in Leverburgh. Pay-at-the-pump fuel is available 24/7 at Campbells in Stornoway, Bernera, Uig Community Shop, Ravenspoint, and Harris Community Shop in Leverburgh

ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING

A number of electric vehicle charging points are located throughout Lewis and Harris. These are marked on our map.

ATMs

Many places will accept card payments, but it’s always best to have some cash too. There are ATMs which are accessible 24/7 at Tesco, TSB, and RBS in Stornoway. Other ATMs are available at the Uig Community Shop, by the Essence of Harris shop in Tarbert, and at the filling stations at Lochs Services and at the Welcome In at Lower Barvas.

PHONE SIGNAL AND WIFI

Phone signal and data connection can be a bit mixed across Lewis and Harris. You’re unlikely to have a signal in more remote areas, and we struggled to get a connection around the Uig area on Lewis. Free public WiFi is available at each of the CalMac Ferry Terminals. Many cafes and other establishments also offer WiFi.

DRIVING ON SINGLE TRACK ROADS

You will come across single track roads often while driving around Lewis and Harris. These have regular passing places, allowing you to pass oncoming traffic or let cars behind you safely overtake. Be sure to read up on how to drive on single track roads in advance, and watch this short animation video for a great visual overview.


BEST PLACES TO EAT ON LEWIS AND HARRIS

From home baked goodies at roadside honesty shops to fine dining cuisine, here’s our round-up of the best places to eat on Lewis and Harris. Note that some places close or operate on reduced opening hours during the tourist low season (roughly October – March).

STORNOWAY

HS-1 Cafe Bar |  The less formal of two good dining options at the Royal Hotel on the harbourfront in Stornoway. Open 7 days. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The Boatshed | Good quality Scottish food, with an emphasis on local seafood. Open 7 days. Lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. Call +44 1851 702109, +44 1851706600

Artizan | Gallery and coffee shop serving breakfast and lunch, plus cocktails. Closed Sundays

The Good Food Boutique | A deli serving sandwiches, salad boxes, and coffee. Closed Sundays

Harbour Kitchen | Celebrated restaurant serving top quality Scottish cuisine and local seafood. Wed – Sat, dinner only. Reservations essential – call +441851 706586

The Blue Lobster | Shop and cafe serving coffee, cakes, sandwiches, etc. Closed Sundays

ELSEWHERE ON LEWIS

Crust | Delicious Neapolitan style pizza served out of a shipping container at Achmore, on the road to Callanish. Open Tues – Sat, 12pm – 7:30pm, with reduced opening hours over winter. Possible to pre-order online or by calling +447762128108. Car parking spaces onsite 

Uig Sands | Elegant 3-course dinner menu served in a stylish restaurant with spectacular views overlooking Uig Sands. Wed – Sat. Reservations essential –  call +441851672334 or book online

Mollans Rainbow Shed | Brightly painted honesty shed with lots of home baked treats, bread, pastries, ice cream and frozen meals. Near Shawbost beach. Open Mon – Sat, 10am – 6pm (7.30pm Fri/Sat) during peak season

Wobbly Dog of Lewis | Dog-friendly cafe and shop in Lionel, close to Ness and the Butt of Lewis. Hot drinks, cakes, soup, bacon rolls, snacks, etc. Open Tues – Sat, 10am – 4pm during summer

The Breakwater | Pizzas, burgers, toasties, and classic ‘pub food’ served in this restaurant overlooking Port of Ness harbour. Open Tues – Wed, 12pm – 6pm, and Thurs – Sat, 12pm – 9pm. Reservations recommended – call 01851811001

Ballalan Bistro | Quality bistro-style food served in unassuming surroundings at the Kinloch Community Hub on the North-South road between Stornoway and Tarbert. Open Tues – Sat, 12 – 3pm and 5:30pm – 9pm

SCALPAY

North Harbour Bistro | Quality seafood-centred menu beautifully presented in unpretentious surroundings at Scalpay Harbour. Closed Wednesday and Sundays

HARRIS

Loomshed Deli and Coffee Shop | Top quality coffee, cakes, sandwiches, snacks, etc. for takeaway in Tarbert. Mon – Sat, 9am – 4pm (2pm on Sat)

Flavour | Unique 8 course tasting menu and interactive dining experience in Tarbert. Sittings Wed – Sat at 7pm. Reservations essential – book online

The Pierhouse Cafe and Restaurant | Open 7 days, lunch and evening meals set inside the Hotel Hebrides in Tarbert. Dinner reservations essential for the restaurant – call +441859 502364

Lorna’s Larder | Food truck serving excellent fresh local seafood at the turn-off for the Golden Road, just south of Tarbert. Opening hours updated on Facebook, usually Wed – Sat, 12pm – 4pm

Katag’s Kitchen | Yummy homemade sausage rolls, baked goodies, soup, etc. at this honesty shed on the road between Rodel and Leverburgh. Picnic benches outside. Regular updates on Facebook, usually open Tues – Sat, 9am – 5pm (hot food from 11am). Our favourite honesty shed on Lewis and Harris

Temple House of Potions | Micro coffee roasters, also serving platters, nibbles, and their home-made Wild Eve botanical drinks. Opening times vary throughout the seasons, check current opening times on their website or Facebook page

The Butty Bus | Takeaway food from a bus at Leverburgh pier. Benches outside. Morning rolls, haddock wraps, soup, paninis, etc. Open Tues – Sat, 7:30am – 3pm (also 5pm – 7:30pm Fri/Sat)

Croft 36 | Honesty shed in Northton with homemade goodies including pastries, pies, quiches, baked treats, etc. Updates on their Facebook page. Usually open Mon – Fri, 11am – 7:30pm (4pm Wed)

Temple Harris | Cafe housed in a beautiful stone building overlooking Scarista Beach in Northton, with outdoor seating too. Run by the same people that have Temple House of Potions, expect artisanal tea, coffee, baked goods, preserves, sandwiches, salads, cheese and meat platters, etc. Opening hours vary throughout the year, check their website

Scarista House | High quality set menu, restaurant open to non-residents for breakfast and dinner. Reservations essential – call (+44) (0)1859 550238


PLAN A TRIP ON THE NORTH COAST 500

LEWIS AND HARRIS ACCOMMODATION AND CAMPSITES

There is a variety of accommodation options on Lewis and Harris to suit all budgets. We’ve outlined numerous hostels, B&Bs, hotels, self-catering holiday homes, glamping pods, and unique stays.

There are also a number of campsites and designated overnight parking spots, and wild camping is permitted in line with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. If you are travelling to Lewis and Harris in a campervan, be sure to check this very handy pdf produced by Visit Outer Hebrides – it lists chemical toilet disposal points, recycling points, and other places of relevance for campervanners. They have also created a map with similar info marked, which you can save to your own Google Maps account by tapping the star.

LEWIS AND HARRIS HOSTELS AND BUNKHOUSES

LEWIS

Heb Hostel | Dorms and private rooms in central Stornoway

Otter Bunkhouse | Bunkhouse on the shores of west Loch Roag in Uig area, sleeps 8. Kayak rental available