If you’re looking for the best things to do on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, you’ve come to the right place!
The Isle of Lewis and Harris can only be described as a magical faraway land that looks like something straight out of your favourite fairytale, or Harry Potter film set.
Located in Scotlands Outer Hebrides the Isle of Harris and Lewis is the home of Hebridean folklore and mythology.
It is a place steeped in mystery and magic that is said to be the home of Mermaids, Kelpies and even Loch Monsters.
Not only is the Isle of Lewis and Harris a mystical place but also the home of breathtaking landscapes and nature.
With white sandy beaches, diverse wildlife, as well as a unique culture and lifestyle, it is a world away from what you might find on the Scottish mainland.
If you want to escape crowds of people, immerse yourself in nature and have a cultural experience that is unique only to this part of Scotland then the Isle of Lewis and Harris is the place for you!
Although it might sound like these are two separate places, they are part of one big island that has been divided into two sections.
Harris is in the south and Lewis is in the north.
The island makes up the biggest of those in the Outer Hebrides and is arguably one of the most beautiful.
There are so many amazing things to do on the Isle of Lewis and Harris. It is an awe-inspiring place, with natural beauty that will leave your jaw-dropping time and time again.
In this post, I’ll discuss the best things to do on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, How to get to the Isle of Harris and Lewis and the best times to visit (plus much more)!
So, let’s dive right in!
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Visit the stunning beaches on the Isle of Harris
It’s hard to believe that Scotland of all places would have beaches that resemble something you might find in Australia or the Caribbean.
The beaches of Isle Harris have exactly that with clear turquoise seas and bright white sands, and even dolphins and seals.
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 the Isle of Harris are:
🌊If you have to visit just one beach on your trip then make it Luskentyre Beach.
🏆This is rated as one of the top beaches in Scotland (and the world). Do not skip this from your itinerary.
Visit the villages of the Isle of Harris
For the most part, where you find beautiful beaches is where you will find the quaint villages of the Isle of Harris.
Some of the best villages to visit on the Isle of Harris include:
Isle of Taransay
The Isle of Taransay is a stunning island located just off the coast of Luskentyre Beach.
The Isle of Taransay is steeped in history, and if you visit you’ll get the chance to see the remains of the Iron Age as well as the Viking Era.
Plus, there is a whole host of incredible nature and wildlife to experience too!
You can book a boat trip onto and around the island for £80.
Fun Fact: The Isle of Taransay was where the reality TV show Castaway 2000 was filmed.
Looking for more UK inspiration? Check out my other guides here
Seal spotting at Finsbay
Spotting wildlife is one of the best things to do on the Isle of Harris and Lewis.
Head to Finsbay located on the Isle of Harris 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.
Lews Castle can be found towering over Stornoway offering incredible views of Stornoway Harbour.
The castle dates back to 1680 and is now a luxury hotel and popular wedding venue.
They have an onsite museum dedicated to the castle’s history as well as a restaurant for those who are a little peckish after a day of exploring.
Isle of Harris Gin
Isle of Harris gin is one of the Isle of Harris’ biggest exports (and tourist attractions).
Take a visit to the Isle of Harris gin distillery located in Tarbert.
Here, you can learn all about the gin-making process and also pick yourself up a bottle (or two) as a souvenir.
Visit the stunning beaches of the Isle of Lewis
You won’t just find stunning beaches on the Isle of Harris but on the Isle of Lewis too!
The best beaches to visit on the Isle of Lewis are:
Get some Harris Tweed
Even more of a famous export than the Isle of Harris Gin has to be Harris Tweed.
Harris Tweed belongs to the Campbell family who have been producing this fabric since the early 1900’s.
Head to the Harris Tweed store located in Tarbert, to learn more about this family’s traditions as well as pick up some garments for yourself.
Admire the Mangersta Sea Stacks
The Mangersta sea stacks are a set of incredible pillars of rock that poke out of the North Atlantic Ocean.
They can be likened to the Needs of the Isle of Wights or the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road in Australia.
Not only is this a great place to soak up the magic of Mother Nature’s creations, but it’s also a photographer’s haven and a chance to get some really impressive pictures.
Watch out for the Northern Lights
Yep, that’s right, you don’t have to head to the Nordics to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
If you’re really lucky you can witness this natural phenomenon in this part of Scotland provided that you are visiting in the late Autumn/Winter.
Be sure to keep an eye on this group to be kept up-to-date on any potential sightings.
Visit the Abhainn Dearg Distillery
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a little taste of Scotch Whiskey.
For the Whiskey lovers among us, a trip to the Abhainn Dearg Distillery is in order.
The distillery is located on the Isle of Lewis and has been up and running for over 10 years.
You can go on a tour of the distillery, learn all about the process and try some along the way.
All tours must be pre-booked and tickets are £15.
Explore the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is an impressive 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. Find out more here.
Explore Tarbert Harbour
Tarbert is one of the main ferry ports on the island and is also home to a very picturesque harbour.
If you’re catching the ferry either to or from Tarbert, I would recommend spending some time soaking up your surroundings here.
Visit the Bonnie Prince Charlie Monument
The monument of Bonnie Prince Charlie is worth the visit for history lovers.
This unique monument is located in the town of Arivruach backdropped by a calming Loch.
The monument marks the spot where Prince Charlie arrived during the Battle of Culloden in 1745.
Walk around the Calanais Standing Stones
Placed here over 5,000 years ago (making them older than Stonehenge), the Calanais Standing Stones are an impressive collection 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, they were featured on “Call the Midwife” and also inspired some of the settings of the Disney animation “Brave”.
You can book onto a guided tour of the stones to get a greater insight into their history, from a local and knowledgeable guide.
Go on a boat trip to St Kilda
St Kilda is a majestic uninhabited island, located on the south-west of Lewis and Harris. It is just under 3 hours away from the Isle by boat.
St Kilda is a UNESCO world heritage site that is home to some impressive wildlife. It is also one of the best places in the region to see Atlantic puffins.
You can book a boat trip with Kilda Cruises for an unforgettable and unique experience around the island.
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 as it is unpainted and made from red brick.
Even more interestingly, the cliff on which the lighthouse sits features some of the oldest rocks in Europe.
The lighthouse makes for some impressive photography as it is set against a dramatic clifftop.
Visit the Loomshed Brewery
In this post, we have covered both Gin and Whiskey, and now it’s time for Beer’s turn to shine.
At the brewery, you can taste and pick up some Iasgair Craft Lager and Poacher Scottish Ale.
Book on a sea tour
Book a boat tour to access some of the remotest parts of Lewis and Harris, the are only accessible by boat.
Not only will you get to see the ruins of old villages, but also the chance to see eagles and red deer.
This is one of the most unique things to do on Lewis and Harris.
You can book a tour through Isle of Harris Sea Tours.
Explore St Clements Church
St Clements Church is known as the ‘the grandest medieval building in the Western Isles’.
The church was built in 1520 by Alexander MacLeod of Dunvegan and Harris.
Today it is open to visitors (free of charge) and even used for weddings.
Wander around Stornoway Harbour
Stornoway is the capital of the Isle of Lewis and a quaint town to visit.
Walk along the harbour, visit some of the local boutique stores and grab a bite to eat at some of the amazing restaurants near by.
FAQs about the Isle of Lewis and Harris
How to get to the Isle of Lewis and Harris
There are two ways of getting to the Isle of Lewis and Harris; Ferry or flight.
The ferries are operated by Caldedonian MacBrayne (Calmac) ferries.
Return tickets to and from Isle of Lewis and Harris start as little as £13 (if 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 as tickets tend to sell out quickly.
There are 3 main ferry ports located on the island. On the Isle of Lewis, you can find Stornoway Port. On the Isle of Harris, you can find Leverburgh and Tarbert ports.
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.
You can catch ferries to the Isle of Lewis and Harris from the Isle of Skye, Ullapool and Berneray Island.
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There is only one airport on the island, Stornoway Airport. This is located on the Isle of Lewis.
For the quickest flight, you should fly from Glasgow Airport. There are also flights operating from other major Scottish cities like Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
Please note that flights to Stornoway are not cheap (you could probably fly to somewhere in Europe for half the price). That being said, catching the ferry is the most economical option.
How to get around the Isle of Lewis and Harris
The best way to get around is by car.
You can either rent a car or drive over with your own via ferry from the mainland (which is the cheapest option, and the one I recommend).
However, if you are flying to the Isle of Lewis and Harris you can rent a car from the following car rental stores:
If renting a car isn’t for you, then there are some bus routes which you can use to take yourself around the island.
You can plan your journey and check out bus times using this website.
If you would prefer something easier than navigating the bus timetables and driving along windy country roads?
Then you can use the Islands taxi service, which also offers Island tours.
Where to stay on the Isle of Lewis and Harris
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.
However, 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.
- Sandwick Bay Guesthouse – A no-thrills budget option, with an epic view looking towards the Isle of Skye.
- Royal Hotel Stornoway – A beautifully modern hotel located in Central Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.
- Borve House Hotel – A small hotel located on the Isle of the Isle of Lewis with a stunning sea view.
- Harris Hotel – A cosy and traditional hotel located on the Isle of Harris, perfect for those looking for a bespoke experience.
- Loch Erisort House – A remote guesthouse located in Balallan on the isle of Lewis with endless views of green perfect for those who want to go “off-grid”.
- Uig Lodge – Beautiful boutique-style accommodation, looking out over the remarkable Uig Bay.
- Scarista House Hotel – At Scarista you’ll find 6 opulently decorated rooms, ideal for those looking for a unique experience.
Check out additional hotel options here.
Best places to eat on the Isle of Lewis and Harris
There are lots of delicious food options located on the Isle of Lewis and Harris.
From hearty Scottish cuisine to fresh seafood straight from the North Atlantic Ocean, and unique dining experiences, there are options to suit every palette.
Best places to eat on the Isle of Harris
At the Harris Hotel in Tarbert, you can expect to find hearty Scottish dishes in a cosy and traditional setting.
Temple Collective in Northton Beach is a Coffee Shop based in a small traditional Hebridean building overlooking the sea. It is the most westerly coffee roasters in the UK.
Scarista House located by Scarista Beach offers a simple but stunning menu using produce that is directly available on the island, such as shellfish, beef and lamb.
They are also featured in the Michelin Food Guide.
Flavour located in Tarbert offers a unique dining experience. The head chef will take you on a journey with his 8-course tasting menu.
Each meal will come with an in-depth description of how he has sourced, grown, prepared, cooked and presented each dish.
Best places to eat on the Isle of Lewis
The Boatshed located in the Royal Stornoway Hotel is a great option for those looking for hearty Scottish cuisine including pork belly and steak.
Uig Sands Restaurant
Uig Sands Restaurant, located at Uig Sands Hotel serves up epic food with an even better view, overlooking Uig Bay.
The Breakwater is a great lunch option in the Port of Ness.
Their menu is ever-changing but you can always guarantee they’ll have scrumptious homemade food on the menu such as curry, scampi and chips as well as cakes of the day.
Is the Isle of Lewis and Harris worth visiting?
100% YES! As you would have read throughout this post, there are so many incredible things to do on the Isle of Lewis and Harris.
From epic historical landmarks to stunning beaches and unique cuisines, there is so much to uncover.
This is truly one of the most stunning places in all of Scotland and not to be missed!
When is the best time to visit the Isle of Lewis and Harris?
The best time to visit the Isle of Lewis and Harris is during the Spring and Summer months between March-September.
The most popular time to visit the Isle of Lewis and Harris is during July and August.
It is important to remember that the weather in this part of Scotland can be volatile throughout the whole year, so sunshine is never guaranteed even during the summer months.
If you do plan on visiting out of season between October – March it is important to know that some businesses do shut down or operate at a limited service during this time.
What I will say is that I wouldn’t rule out visiting the Isle of Lewis and Harris during the Autumn/Winter months. I went during October and whilst yes, it was cold, it was absolutely stunning with the autumn colours in full bloom. And I even got to see the Northern Lights.
Are the Isle of Lewis and Harris connected?
Yes, whilst the Isles of Harris and Lewis are given two separate names they are connected by a narrow strip of land, making them a part of the same landmass.
What is the difference between the Isle of Lewis and Harris?
The Isle of Lewis and Harris were given two names to make the distinction between the north and the south. The Isle of Lewis being in the north and the Isle of Harris being in the south.
Over time these names became more important as they helped to define the differences between clans, who owned the land, and cultural practices.
The two islands also have very different terrains. The Isle of Harris has a more rocky and harsh terrain in comparison to the pristine moorlands of the Isle of Lewis.
Do people live on the Isle of Lewis and Harris?
Yes. Approximately 20,000 people live on the Isle of Lewis and Harris.
The majority of the population can be found in Stornoway with 39% of the population living here.
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I hope you have a wonderful time uncovering all the best things to do on the Isle of Lewis and Harris.
If you have any more questions about anything discussed in this blog post, please feel free to reach out!