Lots of people have told me how amazing the isle of Harris is, so a visit was inevitable. We managed to book a last minute trip at the end of July, just as lockdown started to ease off and we entered into the next phase.
The journey from Edinburgh is a commitment. We drove for 6 hours to Skye and got the ferry from Uig to Tarbert. Despite the little bit of banter in the video below, the kids were amazing on this trip. I thought it was going to be much worse, we only had time to stop once and they were little stars (aged 7 and 5 at the time).
There were no shops or restaurants open in Uig (except from a place to buy craft beer which I checked out) and I always like to arrive in plenty time, so we had an uneventful two hour wait for the ferry. I wish we had done a bit more research and gone to one of the amazing seafood shacks on route. I would also have loved to have taken a dip in the fairy pools, Bonnie shares my passion for wild swimming. It would have been a great dip and a nice photo opportunity.
The ferry was a couple of hours and, as to be expected, we had to wear our masks for the duration of this trip (unless we went outside which was a welcomed break from them). There were no shops or facilities open but I believe they are going to try and open them up shortly if they have not already.
On arrival into Harris, we saw lots of seals which was cool. The famous distilery, where you can buy Harris gin, is at the port in Tarbert just as you come in. Sadly, it was still closed due to covid. There is a place in Tarbert to grab fish and chips and a couple of hotels to eat in if you are hungry and wish to stop. It would have been handy for us to know this as we hadn’t eaten in hours due to there being no food available in Uig or on the ferry.
There are two main roads out of Tarbert, one with a steep hill to the left, which is the direction we were taking, on route to the most famous beaches, including Luskentyre and Scarista. The drive is absolutely stunning and we were in awe of the white sand and green sea, which stretched for miles and miles.
Our cottage was in Northton, we stayed in a luxury beach view eco cottage (Gannet Cottage find here). The views were outstanding and it is very family friendly. There is a small sauna, a steam shower and a whirlpool bath. There were swings for the kids (with the best view ever) and it is only a 5 minute walk to Northton beach. There is also a small pond and raspberry bushes. The kids enjoyed foraging for our evening treats (I do like a raspberry in a wee glass of champagne or with some nice ice cream).
We all slept so well the entire week, Northton is a super peaceful spot with great island vibes. The long stretch of sands outfront makes for an amazing walk, especially at sunset. We drove a few minutes round to a parking spot to access these. The walk will take a good hour or more with young kids but it is worth it and we had the whole beach to ourselves. This was a highlight of the week and one I will remember for a long time.
Another highlight was nipping to the beach in our pj’s last minute, just because. The sunset looked lovely and I wanted us to see it from the beach.
The small village of Leverburgh is a short 5 minute drive from Northon, which has a shop to get essentials. There is also a lovely looking restaurant called The Anchorage there, it has great reviews and I hear the seafood is outstanding. Gutted that it was closed for another week post lockdown so we missed it. Scarista House, which was also a short drive from our cottage, has great restaurant reviews. But it was also still closed. My foodie soul was a little sad but the fresh seafood we had delievered to our door helped to make up for it. We were not expecting the languistones to be alive! Talk about fresh food, Hubs is very brave (see video).
Northon has a lovely little shack (food shacks are a lovely quirk of the island) called Croft 36. It was still shut for half of our holiday, but we got to enjoy some of the lovely homemade delights such as fresh, warm bread, donuts, seafood. There is an honesty box to pay for what you take, a common theme on this stunning island. We also enjoyed some lovely scallops, fresh off the boat.
Another highlight of the trip was our day at Huisnis – along a single track road with passing places and blind summits so this is not for the faint hearted (we loved it), but the stunning beach is SO worth it. You also drive through a lovely castle, next to waterfalls. I love going off the beaten track, so this was a perfect day. Watch out for all the highland cows. I adore the part of the vlog with Bonnie capturing this. The question is, does her love of vlogging come from watching me or is it part of her? She is a natural behind the camera and already way better than me.
Back to our day at Huisnis – the weather was calm, the green sea was stunning to swim in and the sand was white. The amazing looking snack bar by the beach was closed due to covid.
(Bonnie after a long swim with Mummy Jojo at Huisnis Beach)
Luskentyre (image below) is the most talked about beach and it is magic with it’s long stretch of white sand and gorgeous water with views over to mountains. The views on the drive out to the beach looked exactly like the Maldives. It was pretty windy and cold the days we visited it which was a shame as I really wanted to have a nice long swim. Our best swim of the week was at Huisnis, Hubs and the kids agree.
On the windy and cold days, the many jellyfish gave the kids lots of entertainment.
We saw some people camping on the roads out to Luskentyre, which looked fun. I was delighted with our cosy accomodation on the windy days (which we didn’t expect in July but hey we live in Scotland).
Scarista beach is also beautiful as are all of the little coves between Scarista and Luskentyre. The views got me everytime and I never got sick of that drive (we did it each day). The landscape it totally stunning. Harris would make a great walking or cycling holiday. Note, there is a van that sells homemade burgers a few coves past Scaritsa on the way to Luskentyre, super tasty!
There are lots of spots to stop for a bit of fishing if it floats your boat. I was happy to sit in our cosy car and watch with a flask of hot chocolate. It didn’t take long for the rest to follow.
We made it up to the Callanish standing stones on the isle of Lewis (stopping on route to Taste n Sea, a food shack that does some lovely fresh dishes. I had the lobster scampie which was really good. Tip – don’t let your kids order soup if you are eating in the car (and wearing white leggings) :)) the soup that didn’t get spilled all over the car was lovely though.
We spent a week in Harris and I loved the slow vibes of island life. I would love to go back when more stuff is open. The beaches are beautiful whatever the weather but if it’s a heatwave then I am sure it’s a game changer and you really do believe that you have taken that long flight to the Maldives. That is the risk you have to take in Scotland but one thing is for sure, you will be blown away by the beauty of the island.
I would never tire of the view from our window.
We took the ferry back from Stornoway to Ullapool, which took about 30 minutes longer. We had a big lunch before we got on the ferry which was a bit of a fail as we weren’t hungry enough to go to The Seafood Shack by the time we got to Ullapool. I wish we had gone anyway as it looks right up our street. We had accomodation booked in a little bed and breakfast called Glasdair (all we could find last minute) by the River Ness in Inverness. It was super cute (see video) and the service was great. They had the breakfast table set up in our room (covid inspired) and they made us a packed lunch box to take away with us the next day. The house was near a great park for the kids and a very short drive to the centre of Inverness. We went out for a meal that night which was tasty but the actual restaurant wasn’t much to shout about and there were NO masks in sight, it felt like covid was never a thing which concerned us a little.
The next day we drove home via Loch Ness. This is a lovely drive and spot to stop for a refreshing dip.
I really enjoyed the slow pace of this holiday. Just like 2020 to date, it was stripped back, giving me the chance to think about what really matters. High on that list is making lots of great memories, exploring with my lovely family. Now that’s a mojo injection.