There is something captivating about the Western Isles of Lewis and Harris. You still hear Gaelic been spoken and you will sniff the distinctive smell of the peat burning in winter. The islands offer visitors the chance to share in its exceptional history, rare wildlife and stunning landscapes, welcome to the Outer Hebrides.
We set sail on Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Ullapool on the North West coast of Scotland. We boarded with the car for the 2 ½ hour crossing over The Minch to the once Viking settlement of Stornoway. There are also direct flights to Stornoway Airport from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.
Sailing into the quaint harbour town of Stornoway it is worth getting on deck to take some photos. The picturesque town with its fishing fleet and Lews Castle makes for some great shots. The largest town on the island, Stornoway supports a population of around 8,000.
Stornoway is a great place to get into the island way of life. A relaxed pace, the locals are friendly and if you avoid the very busy holiday period it is even more laidback. Visit the Lews Castle and the stunning grounds; you can even take in a round of golf.
The Cabarfeidh Hotel in Stornoway is located just outside the town centre in a quiet residential area. The hotel offers a fabulous base with free parking and Wi-Fi. The hotels Solas Restaurant is a real gem. The food and service was fantastic. I don’t know if it’s the Machair that the livestock nibble which give the Lewis lamb and the Angus beef their delicious flavour but they are certainly worth ordering. The local seafood is outstanding try the Hebridean langoustines, Leurbost mussels or the local catch of the day, certainly won’t disappoint.
The infamous Stornoway Black Pudding is delicious for breakfast, lunch or dinner in my opinion. The Scottish culinary scene is one of those unexpected delights. Everywhere we went in Scotland we found great restaurants serving up excellent cuisine, so often promoting and using locally sourced ingredients, love it.
The Park Guest House is located in the town centre offering comfortable accommodation at reasonable prices. It is a great location if you prefer to be in the town. The Broad Bay House is around 16 miles north of Stornoway and well worth the ride. This 5-star Guest House is in a stunning location, alongside a sandy beach, with mind-boggling views over the Minch. On a clear day you can see the Scottish highlands across the ocean.
On the west coast of the island is where you will discover Uig Lodge. With Stunning views over the Atlantic, fabulous sandy beaches and a smoker on site, Uig Lodge is a great place to sit back and relax. The fresh air blows in off the Atlantic Ocean stirring the appetite for the finest Scottish Salmon.
The Callanish Stones on the Island of Lewis are just incredible. So well preserved, these resolute standing giants have withstood the elements since between 2900 and 2600 BC. When you walk on this hallowed ground you cannot help wonder what memories and history these great stones hold.
To understand and appreciate how challenging life must have been on the island in times past visit the Blackhouse at Arnol. The well preserved home offers an insight to life that is not so long ago. Steinacliet is nearby and is thought to be either the remnants of a Neolithic stone circle and chambered cairn or a prehistoric farmstead, with house and yard. What is remarkable is that this far flung island is home to much history and mystery.
The island’s Hebridean Brewing Company produces some magical beers and cask ales. Try the Berserker export pale ale, known locally as the ‘Wee Heavy’ and named after a Viking warrior, it’s got a good kick.
Venturing south we explore the Isle of Harris which is just as rewarding as Lewis. The mountainous south offers spectacular walking trials, stunning beaches and lots of wildlife. Look out for the Golden eagles nesting on the island. Renowned for its Harris Tweed we were excited.
Travelling down the west coast of Harris you will come across the beautiful Amhuinnsuidhe Castle set in a spectacular remote location. Tradition mixed with spectacular scenery, stunning beaches, breath-taking hiking routes and warm hospitality make this a great place to stop over. Meals and pre-dinner drinks are taken with fellow guests in the formal dining room which is just one of the many delights that the castle has to offer.
Another great place to stay is the Hotel Hebrides. The Hotel Hebrides offers the choice of 21 guest rooms in the boutique hotel or choose a luxury villa in the stylish Kirklea Island Suites. A well-stocked bar offering a fine selection of whiskeys is a great place to unwind. The Pierhouse Restaurant dishes up local Scottish delicacies including scallops from the East Loch Tarbert which are simply delicious.
The hotel is well located for the famous Luskentyre beach. You just won’t believe you are on a Scottish Island, the beach is reminiscent of a tropical island, just the palm trees are missing. Luskentyre beach was voted the 8th most beautiful beach in the world by the Lost Planet. It is amazing.
The Isle of Harris has spectacular beaches, puffin colonies, and awesome seafood to make it a worthwhile destination. But add the chance to see basking sharks, minke and killer whales to that list as well as the chance of spotting Golden Eagles and the cheeky otters.
From Tarbert you can catch the ferry to Uig on the Isle of Skye but we had bought a ‘Hopscotch’ ticket so we headed down to Leverburgh and caught the ferry to North Uist.
Follow our adventures as we make our way through the Hebridean islands, this is an awesome road trip.