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Ever visitied The Isle of Lewis and Harris?

LochgmarcpLochgmarcp VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
I recently was lucky enough to visit the Isle of Lewis and Harris. I had wanted to go for a long time and jumped at the chance when i was invited to stay at the beautiful Lews Castle in Stornoway. The drive to Ullapool from where I live on the west coast was stunning, good roads that take you into the heart of the Highlands, giving dramatic views around every corner. On arrival in Ullapool, the sight of the ferry after the drive through rugged and mountainous scenery gave me good hope for what would turn out to be an amazing trip... Have you ever been? Are you planning a trip?

View from the ferry in Ullapool

My accommodation for the two nights was the beautiful Lews Castle, situated overlooking Stornoway and its harbour. This incredible building, run by Natural Retreats, has been refurbished to a very high standard, and my room with its sea views was nothing short of palatial with all the things I needed to make for a very comfortable stay. The surrounding Castle grounds were beautiful, you can walk down to the shoreline and get a view to the harbour or walk a little further and gain fantastic views out to the Minches. There is also a golf course within walking distance of Lews Castle and an adjoining museum which is really interesting, has some amazing artifacts and gives you a brilliant insight into the varied history of Lewis and Harris.. perfect for a rainy day alternative, as is a walk around Stornoway itself! Lews Castle is a perfect base for exploring this stunning island and being only a short walk from the town centre, there are lots of nice shops and cafes to see and the live music played in some of the pubs at night is brilliant, a great way to spend an evening and chat with the locals.

Lews Castle, Stornoway

On the first evening I decided to head north from Stornoway, to reach the most northerly point at the Butt of Lewis. The drive there was beautiful, passing small holdings and crofts on a fairly flat moorland.
The lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis is definitely worth the drive, it sits on the cliffs and is quite unusual for a Scottish lighthouse as its built in red brick and hasn't been painted white. Just sitting on the cliff edge here and watching the waves crashing on the stacks is a good way to pass the time...
However, I had to continue on and headed down the west coast, stopping off to look at an old Blackhouse dwelling in Arnol, was really cool to see how the houses used to be constructed. There are loads of interesting historical sights to stop off and visit on this route, as well as numerous pristine beaches if you're looking for a camping or BBQ spot for the evening.

Butt of Lewis Lighthouse

Passing some of the local lambs..

Next on my stop offs on the first evening was Dun Carloway Broch, an ancient Iron Age dwelling that saw over 1000 years of continuous occupation. Crazy to think of living in a structure like this, but judging on the way its stood up to the test of time, it must have been not too bad! I also had a quick stop off to see Garenin Blackhouse Village, where you can actually stay if you want to in old style blackhouses! The 9 restored traditional thatched cottages look really good on the edge of the bay and were the last blackhouses to be inhabited in the Western Isles

Dun Carloway Broch, Carloway

Garenin Blackhouse Village

Probably the highlight of the first day on Lewis was arriving at Callanish Standing Stones just in time for sunset. This site, thought to date to Neolithic era, is a truly mystical and powerful place. Although there were a few people here, everyone was so quiet and just taking in the sight of the last light of the day hitting the stones.. Experiencing this place at sunset is highly recommended!

Callanish Standing Stones

Day two saw me explore Harris, setting off from Lews Castle I headed south for Tarbert, the capital of Harris. Here you can have a look around the distillery if the weather doesn't suit much else, or a look in some of the nice shops and Harris Tweed outlets in the surrounding area. From here I took the Gold Road south on the eastern coast of Harris, which gave stunning views across to the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Skye! The narrow, twisting road took me past small villages and coves with lots of seals lounging around on the rocks. Plenty of nice places to stop off on this route as well, St Clements Church in Rodel is worth a look. This 15th century church was built for the chiefs of the Macleods clan of Harris and is beautifully situated within the landscape.

St. Clements Church, Rodel

Lazing around on the rocks

From here I continued on towards the jewel in Harris crown, Luskentyre beach. On the way I passed the salt marshes at Northton before rounding the corner and glistening white sand beaches came into view. The coastline here is stunning, the turquoise water contrasts beautifully with the dark, brooding skies and pure white sand. A day spent at the beach here is a day well spent! Have you ever been?

Luskentyre Beach, Harris

So these are some of the highlights from my trip.. there are so many beautiful things to see on Lewis and Harris, it would be impossible to share them all so you might just have to go see them for yourself! Lews Castle was the perfect base for exploring and gave a truly relaxing place to unwind after a day in the great outdoors. There is a lot of wildlife to see on the island too, you can go on eagle tours or hop on a fast boat for the chance to see whales and dolphins or the island from a different angle. There are also plenty of mountains and hills to go for a hike and trails for cycling too!

Have you been before? Have you got any recommendations for things to do or places to see.. or are you planning a trip to the Isle of Lewis and Harris and have something you really want to see? Let me know.. @lochgmarcp


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