Tips for a week on Lewis & Harris trip in May

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  • Tips for a week on Lewis & Harris trip in May
  • ElShalimo
    Member

    We’re planning to go to Lewis and Harris in May in our campervan. It’ll be a mix of walking, easy cycling on hybrids, enjoying the beaches and sightseeing.
    We’ve not been before so any recommendations for nice campsites or wild camping spots, bike routes, walks etc whilst there would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

    Houns
    Member

    Don’t bother, it’s rubbish

    ivorlott
    Member

    There’s a campsite around 1 mile to the left of that picture above (Horgabost), right on the beach front, one not to miss…

    Houns
    Member

    Yup, awful views from that campsite

    (The campsite is really nice, basic and clean facilities, if getting in to Tarbert drive there straight from the ferry to nab a good spot)

    dovebiker
    Member

    We were up there in early May 2 years ago – plenty of great spaces for wild camping, particularly on Harris but it was pretty busy particularly at Callanish – stones are accessible all the time and I’d go early or late. We drove up to Stornoway and then across to Callanish, and up to Butt of Lewis – there’s hard standing at Port Stoth that would make a great camping spot. Had appalling service at the cafe a Port Nis – to be avoided. The Golden Road around Harris is glorious too. Easy cycling depends on what way the wind is blowing!

    ElShalimo
    Member

    I’m having second thoughts now, it looks awful

    😉

    Premier Icon nedrapier
    Subscriber

    We have the same plan! Might see you there!

    redmex
    Member

    Skoon gallery cafe on the East side of Harris is well worth a visit or two

    Premier Icon dienamic
    Subscriber

    We didn’t reckon much to the bits of Lewis we saw (callanais stones and stornoway, in the rain), but Harris is AMAZING! We’ve been twice in the last 3 years in our camper, stayed at Horgabost both times for a few nights, lovely site, great views, basic but clean facilities, and dirt cheap. But, the absolute best camping spot is Huisinis Gateway. The drive along a 10+ mile singletrack road is breathtaking, and eventually leads to Huisinis beach. The local community have built a small visitors centre for campervans and motorhomes. You park pretty much on the beach, there are toilets/showers, fresh water, chem toilet emptying point and bins, indoor and outdoor picnic benches, and info boards on the local wildlife. If the weather’s not great you can get in out of the wind and rain, but the building’s all glass fronted. The shower block gets locked up at night (to stop people sleeping in there) but a toilet is left open. No official charge, they just ask for a donation in the box to help pay for the upkeep which we were more than happy to do. Honestly, it’s a little piece of heaven in the Hebrides.
    Other stuff to look at, a walk up to the eagle observatory on the huisinis road, the honesty crofters shop (great pies) in Northton, the walk to Niest point is pleasant. We ate one evening at the North Harbor Bistro on Scalpay, one of the best meals I’ve ever had, but you’ll need to book

    Yeah, Lewis is shite

    sweepy
    Member

    My tips would be-

    We’ve all got pictures of the gorgeous blue skyed sandy beaches, don’t make the mistake of thinking they are as warm as they look, nine times out of ten it’s blowing a gale.

    Don’t park in the Stornoway campsite on a Saturday night thinking you’ll get a nice quiet nights sleep.

    It is bloody lovely tho.

    Houns
    Member

    +1 for the honesty crofters baked goods. The cafe further along from there is nice too

    nostoc
    Member

    If you park up at Hushinish take the walk over to Crabhadail

    ElShalimo
    Member

    @sweepy – I’ve been to Scotland dozens of times in all weathers from 30C to -15C winter walking. I know that the weather can be very “difficult” at times. If we get 3 nice days in the week I’ll be happy enough!

    We’ve never been to the Outer Hebrides so looking forward to it. I won’t even be dipping my toe in the water. I’m not that daft

    scotroutes
    Member

    Mangersta bothy. It’s a short walk and it’s built on top of a cliff.

    The Uig area of Lewis in general.

    Dinner at The Decca in Lionel in Ness for something very different(booking essential). Good beach and lovely kids play park almost next door.

    Callanish stones / Carloway broch / Gearrannan Blackhouse village (cafe there too).

    The Iolaire memorial near Stornoway.

    The Clisham on a good day.

    You’ll be aware that there’s few places open on a Sunday but that also means the roads can be quieter (outside travel times for church services)

    Make sure you stay stocked up with food as shops can be hard to find.

    Don’t park like a dick. Lots of Islanders hate campervan/motorhomes due to too many arseholes parking where they shouldn’t and leaving crap (literally) all over the place.

    dovebiker
    Member

    To add, there’s only one campsite in Stornoway and it gets fully booked – we were lucky to be offered a spot in the field down the road which was a bit quieter – but the locals in their Corsas thinks it’s a racetrack.

    Nothing is open on Sundays – even in Tarbert we couldn’t get lunch – fortunately they have food on the ferry.

    scotroutes
    Member

    The Machair Kitchen and Temple Cafe in Harris are both open on Sundays.

    Quite a few places in Lewis – don’t make me start listing them all  🙂

    Premier Icon convert
    Subscriber

    We spent a couple of weeks working our way up the Outer Hebs from Barra a couple of years ago. Going back this summer.

    So much loveliness but it’s one of those places you need to go with an open mind and no real agenda – just let the weather and what appeals to you generate the timetable.

    Lewis was probably my least favourite part of the trip. Probably need to go back and give it another shot – it might have been because it was the last part of the trip and we were suffering from amazing experience overload by that point. Stornoway however – came as a real shock to the system and not in a good way. After a couple of weeks of only seeing a handful of people at one time and those we did either being on holiday or living a rural lifestyle the jolt of normality and greyness really hit hard. IMO going through it is just a necessary low point to be done fast. Landing back on the mainland and confronted with the relentless traffic of the NC500 was also a culture shock. I do worry the outer hebs might become too popular to enjoy properly soon too.

    Premier Icon GavinB
    Subscriber

    We’ve been a few times now (in our motorhome), and love it. It does get busy though. We drove into the Horgabost campsite, and drove out within 10 minutes as it was just too large and busy for our liking, plus although the sandy beach is huge, it’s pretty much a desert for observing any wildlife.

    Huisnish is a remarkable place, where we’ve stayed both times, and would return to. Body boarding, surfing, walks, fishing and just watching the wildlife (quite common to see white-tailed eagles, otters, seals etc)

    A similar area on Lewis would be around Great Bernera. There is a lovely beach which is campervan/motorhome-friendly at Bostadh. Amazing snorkelling just out from the beach, with loads of things to look for. There’s also plenty of good rick climbing on the sea cliffs within a 5 minute walk of the car park.

    Harris beaches are all good but Luskentyre (Losgaintìr) is a must see. Some Lewis beaches also worth checking out, especially around Uig area and getting in the water is fun (if properly suited!) – surf and SUP lessons with Surf Lewis are great.

    scotroutes
    Member

    Ha ha. Maybe we should stop posting about Uig..

    ElShalimo
    Member

    If anyone wants to share any good spots for responsible wild camping in the van please message me

    🙂

    Another vote here for the harbour café on Scalpay; as well as awesome seafood, it also has curry nights when the visiting chef from Stornoway has been in. Check out the old whaling station on the road to Husinish as well. Sad place.
    A good bike trip might be to drive to Leverborough and take the ferry boat to Berneray, then ride across that wee island and back in time for a later return leg.. The timetable is a bit variable though, depending on the tide states so you have to check which days the return journey with stop-over is do-able.

    Houns
    Member

    Harbour cafe wasn’t doing lunches when I went in September (but do cakes and drinks) also book up quickly in evenings so book ahead

    dashed
    Member

    I found that old whaling station quite a sad place too. I’m not in the least superstitious, but quite spooky and very, very easy to imagine how it used to look.

    Anchorage cafe / restaurant in Leverburgh is a good spot for lunch if you’re down that end of Harris. We had a couple of fishing rods with us and some mackerel feathers and found it very easy to catch a few for tea, although that was late summer / autumn so probably not as easy in spring.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    dashed

    I found that old whaling station quite a sad place too….

    WIfe’s uncle used to work there. Apparently it used to stink.

    Come May, I’ll be doing a few laps of the island. Haven’t been over for a couple of years (I’ll be taking a gravel bike for a few shortcuts).

    Good to hear about the Huisinis camping area. My grandfather used to live on Scarp, but I’ve never been over. He and his brothers used to swim across, but I won’t be trying that. 🙂

    Premier Icon dienamic
    Subscriber

    On a practical note, I think there are now only 2 places to empty your chem toilet in Harris after the one in Leverburgh was removed. They’re at the Huisinis Gateway, and the council tip on the Scalpay road out of Tarbert so do it while you can. Horgabost do have plans for a whole new facilities block, including elsan but it won’t be built by May

    ElShalimo
    Member

    Thanks to everyone.

    We’re still keeping our options open. We might go over to Uist instead, any top tips or camping spot recommendations are also welcome.

    Interesting responses. Didn’t tee up entirely with my experience, then I had a look on the map to refresh my memory of what the islands are actually called. And i do indeed concur. Lewis and Harris are amazing.

    IMHO however the southern islands,Uists?, are grim. Really desolate with nothing there except barbed wire fences festooned with carrier bags. Forlorn is the word. We actually went on a day trip to some stepping stones that were marked on the map. They were just as exciting as you’d imagine.
    I bought the:25000 maps for Uist and it was a comical waste of time, there’s nothing on the map. Dont get me wrong, some empty places are great, but Uist didn’t do it for me.

    Nothing is open on Sundays

    This may be partially true, but not completely. One of my abiding memories of the Hebridies was standing in the checkout queue on a Sunday morning and realising that all three people in front of me had a big bottle of spirits in one hand and a 2l mixer in the other.
    Grim grim grim

    But to reiterate, Harris n Lewis were great.

    Premier Icon iainc
    Subscriber

    aye, Uists and Harris were horrible last week…

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    scotroutes
    Member

    We’ll be in the Uists again next month. 5th year in 6. It’s grim. Don’t go. Iainc is a well-renowned Photoshop ninja.

    scotroutes
    Member

    Oh – and Uig got a mention earlier. It’s grim too. It was particularly shit a couple of weeks ago.


    DSC_0326 by Colin CaddenFlickr2BBcode

    Premier Icon iainc
    Subscriber

    Tbf Iain, your pics there do make the riding look really dull, when in fact there’s some awesome riding on Harris… 🙂

    Premier Icon iainc
    Subscriber

    nobeer – well we were on road/gravel bikes and a few folk were not in the best of health, so we left the gnar for those younger and more awesome 🙂

    ElShalimo
    Member

    I’ll guarantee the weather will be crap as soon as we set off.

    🤦

    epicsteve
    Member

    We were there at the end of April. Harris is overall my favourite of the islands but my favourite beaches were both on Lewis – Traigh Mhor and Ardroil. You can wild camp at the Traigh Mhor, and at Ardroil there is a campsite with limited facilities (everything except an electric hook-up) for £15. The West Harris Trust has some good camping spots around Luskentyre which are £5 a night plus some others with facilities which are a bit more expensive.

    Ardroil Beach

    Luskentyre

    Luskentyre

    ElShalimo
    Member

    Any more Uist suggestions?

    tjagain
    Member

    I really enjoyed exploring the prehistoric stuff. Not just the stone circles but all the other stuff marked on the map. chambered cairns etc. Find them on the map then on the ground

    scotroutes
    Member

    When we’re in Uist next month we’ll be spending a few nights at the site in Balranald. Fantastic place. On the machair, a few metres off the beach, in the middle of an RSPB reserve. There’s a great food van on site serving the campers and the day visitors, with homemade soup and cakes.

    Ruebhal is an easy walk but has great views across Benbecula.

    Great chambered cairn and a stone circle at Langais. Likely to see otters in the loch here.

    Head over to the east cost at Loch Druidibeag for a complete change of scenery. Look out for the ponies.

    Good food at the Westford Inn and at the Berneray Bistro.

    You could make a day trip to Barra-bados.

    The main thing is not to just drive through at speed. You need to take your time and explore slowly.

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