(#gifted camper van from Coast2Country Campers)
Since the opening up of travel became possible from late spring, I had one particular area of Scotland that was top of my list to explore: the Outer Hebrides. Having previously travelled to the islands three years ago for a quick work commission, I was really keen to head back to enjoy them at a slower pace. My girlfriend Amy had never been to the Western Isles, and knowing that accommodation may be tricky to source at the end of summer, we thought trying to hire a campervan was a better option. Knowing we only had 5 full days, we focused our time on Harris and Lewis, the largest of the islands. The camper meant we could travel and stay where we wanted once we arrived and could plan our meals without having to think of finding restaurants on the road.
Coast 2 Country Campers are a fairly new company based in Cumbernauld, with a variety of campers and motorhomes to rent for holidays. Our camper for the journey north west was a 4 berth VW Transporter which included a bike rack, a solar panel, sat nav, hobs and sink. Having almost all the comforts we would need with us on the road would make for better flexibility - an all in one restaurant and hotel for the trip.
Our aim for the first ferry was Uig, in the north of Skye. All the way to Uig the rain poured down, not making for the best start to the journey: our luck was in though, as after the first day, we had 20 degrees of sunshine for 4 of the 5 days on Harris and Lewis. Having filled up on supplies and gone for a walk to the Fairy Glen, we boarded the Calmac Ferry and took off for the Outer Hebrides. Upon arriving at Tarbert, the sun was shining and it felt like we were abroad. Our first plan of action, wise to the fact that the forecast was positive for the next day or two, was to head south to Harris. Famously known for incredible, sandy beaches and beautiful views, Harris can be a very popular destination, but thankfully for us it was rather quiet.
Driving south in the late August sunshine, we parked up at Luskentyre beach for our first wild swim of the trip - cold but bliss! Being able to swim in Scottish waters at 5pm in sunlight, we understood just how lucky we were to be here when the weather was kind and the views were majestic. After a late dinner, we enjoyed the sunset at Borve - what an end to the first day on the island.
A cycle was our first activity the next morning and we cycled from Borve to Northton and Leverburgh, an easy enough 10 mile bike ride in the morning sunshine. Northton is a lovely small community, with a beach at the end of the road, a cafe and croft shop, where we picked up a langoustine and leek quiche for lunch - so good!
After the exercise, we drove south to Rodel to navigate the east coast road of Harris, sometimes called the Bays. A twist and meander past isolated cottages and galleries, it was a complete contrast to the west coast of the island, with views back to Skye and the mainland. Stopping off above Manish, we spotted two golden eagles circling high above, a lovely surprise on the road.
To cool off, we made our way to another of the beaches in Harris, Seilebost. A huge beach scape and scene opens up to you when you arrive on the sand - it’s truly an amazing sight. Again, the weather gods were on our side and we were able to swim in the Atlantic before finding a suitable camper parking spot to stay at overnight.
Having seen most of Harris in ideal weather, we planned to visit the other part of the island, Lewis, which is a totally different topography and feel to the southern region. The north is much flatter and more fertile with peat still regularly cut in the summer. It includes the largest town in the Western Isles, Stornoway, and religion is still a key part of the locals way of life, with most shops closed on a Sunday. Our main aim for this next few days on the island was to see as much as possible - we focused on the western side of Lewis.
An hour and a half drive from Harris and we ended up in Uig, a small settlement overlooking the Atlantic. The beach here is incredible, a vast stretch of sand with hardly anyone around when we visited. Sunset plans after relaxing and swimming on the beach were to drive towards Mangersta, known for it’s sea stacks and bothy perched over the edge of the coast. The ease of driving and not having to worry about being in certain spots due to accommodation or food bookings made it so easy and hassle free in the camper - it's a great way to see the sights.
The areas of interest were close by on our last full day on the island: the Callanish Standing Stones and Gearrannan black houses, both historical sites in their own right. The stones are over 5,000 year old, earlier than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. The black houses have been restored to their former glory, previously lived in by crofting families until 1974, and now contain a cafe and museum. Both are worth a visit!
After another cycle, we made our way closer to Stornoway and made for the Eye peninsula, an 11km jut on the outskirts of the capital. We found a viewpoint of the sea and made ourselves comfortable for our night evening on the island - as soon as we were settled we spotted an otter on the coast, swimming fast towards the shore. A quick glimpse of this magnificent creature and then it was away, not to be seen again. We were lucky to be in the right spot at the right time - a great way to end our last night in the campervan.
A big thank you to Coast 2 Country Campers for use of their camper for the trip.