Isle of Harris: paradise in the Outer Hebrides

by eileenco

Silver sand beaches, azure seas and no crowds (except at church on Sundays) - that's what you'll find on the Isle of Harris, a world apart from anywhere you've ever been

Wind up the hill from the ferry terminal at Tarbert and you may wonder at the sacrifices you have made in choosing Harris for your well-earned escape – then you turn a corner to overlook the most pristine seascape you have ever seen. The seas roll in without diversion, across the expanse of the Atlantic from Labrador, past the south of Greenland, and mix with the Gulf Stream to keep the temperatures within your comfort zone. There are good surfing breaks here but do not be depending on lifeguards or passers by to watch out for you – there aren’t any.

If you are lucky and your visit coincides with glorious weather, Harris is spectacular, but it is actually somewhere really special when the gales blow in. Just cosset yourself in some of the good quality self-catering accommodation available and watch the weather go by. This is the ultimate romantic getaway.

Around the islands

Although called the Isle of Harris, Harris is joined to Lewis in the north, providing plenty of scope for exploration. The standing stones at Callanish are less than an hour away and are second only to Stonehenge in importance. While you are travelling back in time, be sure to make the detour to Great Bernera, where a replica Iron Age dwelling is tucked in to the sand dunes by the beach.

The traditional crofting way of life is still evident throughout the islands, including fishing for shellfish and making Harris tweed. Some tweed sheds are open for you to watch your bolt of cloth being woven in front of you. All the colours of the landscape are incorporated into the tweed and you can go home with a unique piece of the islands, which is guaranteed to lift your spirits back to the Outer Hebrides.

There are good places to eat, including The Anchorage in Leverburgh, where you will get the freshest of seafood, and the historic Rodel Hotel for excellent local cuisine. The royal family were even known to drop into Rodel from their summer cruise around the islands on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

If you treat yourself to good accommodation, you will not care about the weather. Blue Reef Cottages are somewhere special and if you are on a budget, the White Cottage at Rodel is simple but very beguiling, especially when the moon rises up behind the medieval Rodel Church and lights up the landscape all around. Rodel Hotel was tastefully renovated a few years ago and has good accommodation both in the hotel and in two self catering apartments overlooking the ancient Rodel harbour

There are silver sand beaches, azure seas and fresh, fresh air in abundance on the Isle of Harris. Mix with friendly natives and no crowds, except at church on Sundays. It's connected to the Isle of Skye by frequent ferry crossings (only £65 return for car and two people) - but a world apart from anywhere you have ever been.