If you thought that visiting a magical faraway land was something only for the storybooks, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong! Because the Isle of Harris and Lewis located in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland can be described as just that. The island is home to breathtaking landscapes, white sandy beaches, diverse wildlife, as well as a unique culture and lifestyle that is different to anything you might find on the mainland.
If you want to escape crowds of people, truly immerse yourself in nature (and you don’t mind the odd storm) then the Isle of Harris and Lewis is the place for you to come.
Although it might sound like the Isle of Harris and Lewis are two separate places, they infact one big island that has been separated into two sections; Harris (in the south and Lewis (in the north). The island makes up the biggest of those in the Outer Hebrides and could be said to be one of the most beautiful.
The isle of Harris and Lewis is an awe-inspiring place, with natural beauty that will leave your jaw-dropping time and time again. So, if want to know all about this majestic place and the best things to do here, then read on below.
How to get to the Isle of Harris and Lewis
There are two ways of getting to the Isle of Harris and Lewis; Ferry or flight.
The ferries are operated by Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) ferries and return tickets start at as little as £13 if you are travelling without a vehicle. The price can jump up significantly, to around £75 and over if you are travelling with a vehicle, so this is something to bear in mind. Ensure that you book the ferries in advance and journeys tend to sell out quite quickly.
There are 3 main ferry ports located on the Isle of Harris and Lewis. Stornoway Port, which can be found in Lewis and Leverburgh and Tarbert which can be found in Harris. What port you come into will be dependent on where on the mainland, or other islands you are travelling from so be sure to check out the Calmac website to find out the best route for your trip.
There is only one airport on the island, Stornoway Airport, which is located in Lewis. For the quickest/direct flights you should fly from Glasgow Airport. Please note that flights to Stornoway are not cheap. You could probably fly to somewhere hot in Europe for half the price, so catching the ferry is the most economical option.
How to get around the Isle of Harris and Lewis
The best way to get around the Isle of Harris and Lewis is by car. I would strongly recommend coming over on the ferry either with your own car, or one you have rented from the mainland. However, if that isn’t an option for you then there are a couple of car rental shops that can be found in Stornoway:
If renting a car isn’t for you, then there are some bus routes which you can use to take you around the island. The Harris bus routes can be found here and the Lewis bus routes can be found here.
Prefer something a little easier than navigating the bus timetables? Then you can use the Islands taxi service, which also offers Island tours.
NOTE: If you are coming in the off-season (Late October/November to April) you might find that some of the hotels, restaurants and places to visit mentioned below are either shut or operating at a reduced service.
Where to stay on the isle of Harris and Lewis
You will find that there are few hotels on the island and that most of the accommodation is privately hosted apartments and cottages. I have suggested a few of the popular places to stay below, but If you are after something a little more personal, I would highly recommend heading over to Airbnb to find some unique accommodation on the island.
Best places to eat on the Isle of Harris and Lewis
- Harris Hotel, Tarbert
- The Boatshed, Stornoway
- HS-1 Cafe, Stornoway
- Temple Cafe, Northton Beach
- Sams Seafood Shack, Rodel
- The Anchorage Restaurant, Leverburgh
- Flavour, Tarbert
Best things to do on the Isle of Harris and Lewis
Visit the stunning beaches of Harris
It’s hard to believe that Scotland of all places would have beaches that resemble something you might find in the Whitsundays or the Carribean, but the Isle of Harris and Lewis has exactly that; Clear Turquoise seas and bright white sands. Of course, you would have to catch these on a clear sunny day to view them in their full glory (which can be somewhat of a tall ask from Scottish weather) but they are beautiful nonetheless, rain or shine.
The best beaches to visit on Harris are:
- Luskentyre Beach
- Seilebost beach
Isle of Harris Gin
Take a visit to the Isle of Harris gin distillery located in Tarbert. Learn how the gin is made and pick up a bottle for yourself.
Seal spotting at Finsbay
Head to Finsbay to look out for the common seal. There can be up to 20 seals at any one time in this area, either relaxing onshore or popping their heads up and down in the water.
Please note there are no designated parking spaces here but feel free to park in a safe spot close to the road.
Visit the stunning beaches of the Isle of Lewis
Again, much like the beaches, you will find on Harris, Lewis has many incredible beaches to offer.
The best beaches to visit on Lewis are:
- Traigh Mhor
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle is an incredible 19th Century estate set against a backdrop of rugged hills, looking out over calm waters. You can even find the Abhainn Mhor waterfall located close to the grounds.
And, if you fancy treating yourself you can also stay here for the small price of £380 per night ;).
Mangersta Sea Stacks
The Mangersta sea stacks are a set of incredible rock formations that poke out of the rough sea of the Hebrides. You could say they are the Isle of Harris and Lewis’ answer to Australia’s 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.
Gearranannan Blackhouse Village
Gearranannan Blackhouse Village is a coastal crofting village located on the west coast of Lewis that was built in the 1800s. The original inhabitants of the village left in the 1970s and from the late ’80s the local community restored the cottages using traditional methods. Today the cottages are available for self-catering accommodation.
From the village, you can take the waymarked walk to the stunning Dalmore and Dalbeg beaches.
Calanais Standing Stones
Placed here over 5,000 years ago (making them older than Stonehenge), the Calanais Standing Stones are an impressive set of cross-shaped stones. For over 2000 years they were an important place for rituals. Although no one officially knows why the stones are there, people believe that it is an astronomical observatory.
If they look somewhat familiar to you, there were featured on “call the midwife” and also inspired some of the settings of Disney animation “Brave”.
Butt of Lewis Lighthouse
The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse was engineered by David Stevenson in 1862 to assist shipping in the 1860s. The lighthouse is unusual in nature as it is unpainted and is made from red brick. The lighthouse makes for some impressive photography as it is set against a dramatic clifftop. Even more interestingly, the cliff on which the lighthouse sits features some of the oldest rocks in Europe.
Stornoway is the capital of the Isle of Harris and Lewis and a quaint little town to visit. Walk along the harbour, visit some of the local shops and grab a bit to eat at The Royal Hotel.
There is so much to do and see on the Isle of Harris and Lewis. What takes your fancy?
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