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Link to Area Info Page containing local information and links, contacts & tourist advice

Lords of the Isles Tour by Celtic Journeys
Cottages all over Scotland in beautiful locations
Traditional Holiday Cottages
all over Scotland in stunning locations
Tarbert in Harris
Tarbert in Harris
Pier at Huisinis
Pier at Huisinis

Lewis & Harris Main Page

Also known as the Outer Hebrides, the Western Isles form a 130 miles arc running from north to south off the north-western coast of Scotland. Taken from north to south they include Lewis, North and South Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra.

The northern part comprises Lewis and Harris and includes the largest land masses and the majority of the population. Although usually referred to as if they are, Lewis and Harris are not separate islands. Instead they are the northern two-thirds (Lewis) and southern third (Harris) of the same island. Some say the distinction between the two dates back to a split in the MacLeod clan which dominated the Western Isles for centuries. Others simply point to the range of high mountains that impeded land access between Lewis and Harris, turning them into virtually separate islands. For accommodation in Lewis & Harris see the links in the menu on the right. See the map below for an outline of Lewis & Harris and links to connecting areas.

The first thing that any visitor to the Western Isles needs to know is that, on Lewis and Harris in particular, Sunday observance remains very strong. Recent years have seen the commencement of Sunday ferry and air services, but most shops, petrol stations, cafes, pubs, and visitor attractions remain closed.

Sunday observance is part of the culture of Lewis and Harris, and part of what makes them unique. However, given the difficulty of accessing services on a Sunday, our advice would be to ensure you know exactly how your food, drink, transport and accommodation is going to be provided in advance: or plan your visit to the Western Isles in a way that avoids a stay on Lewis or Harris on a Saturday or Sunday night.

Lewis is home to around two-thirds of the population of the Western Isles. Its capital is Stornoway, the only significant town and home to the main port and airport. Stornoway is also the terminus for the ferry from Ullapool. Much of the rest of the settlement on Lewis is strung out along the north west coast stretching over thirty miles from attractive Port Nis in the north east to Carlabhagh or Carloway and Calanais or Callanish in the south west.

Lewis & Harris, Showing Main Settlements & Connecting Areas
Lewis & Harris, Showing Main Settlements & Connecting Areas

This north west coast includes a number of Lewis's most frequented tourist attractions, including the Butt of Lewis itself, the excellent Blackhouse Museum at Arnol, the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, the 30ft high Dun Carloway Broch, and the standing stones at Calanais. Further south west the landscape becomes rockier and includes the island of Great Bernera, linked by bridge to Lewis, plus the beautiful beaches around Uig and Valtos.

As you move south through Lewis the skyline ahead of you becomes increasingly mountainous as you near Harris, now accessed by a road that breaches the rocky barrier below Clisham, the highest peak in the Western Isles at 799m or 2,622ft.

Harris is characterised by high mountains, deeply indented sea lochs, coastal islands, and beautiful white beaches punctuating the predominant grey rock and green heather. Anyone who loves the far north west of Scotland will be drawn to Harris: the character is different and distinct, but many of the elements are familiar.

The village capital of Harris is Tarbert, which is also the ferry terminus for Uig on Skye. A minor road east from here leads over the Scalpay Bridge to the busy fishing island of Scalpay. Other gems in this beautiful area include the attractive settlement of Reinigeadal at the mouth of Loch Seaforth; the 15 miles of challenging single track road leading past Bunabhainneadar to the superb scenery at Huisinis and the island of Scarp beyond it; and the beautiful beaches at Luskentyre.

At the southern end of Harris is the village of Leverburgh, which has boomed since the introduction in 1996 of a direct vehicle ferry across the Sound of Harris to Berneray and North Uist. Nearby is the medieval St Clement's Church in Rodel. From Rodel the Golden Road leads back up the east coast of Harris to Tarbert.

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