Back in May this year, I explored the Isle of Lewis and Harris on the Haggis Adventures Hebridean Hopper Tour. While the Isle of Skye remains my favorite place in the world, the Isle of Lewis and Harris isn’t far behind. It’s the biggest island in the British Isles outside the two main islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and it has a lot to offer!
Getting to the Isle of Lewis and Harris
Located at the top of the Outer Hebrides Islands in Scotland, the Isle of Lewis and Harris isn’t the easiest island to get to. You can rent a car, but the ferry costs are quite exorbitant, unless you travel from Uig to Talbert. You can try hitchhiking or taking a bus to Ullapool, but you still need to find transport around the island. By far the best way to get there is with Haggis Adventures. Both their Hebridean Hopper and their Compass Buster tours visit the island, and they’ll also take you to all the best places too.
Abhainn Dearg Distillery
Do you like distilleries? As remote as it is, Lewis and Harris has it’s own distillery. The Abhainn Dearg Distillery is a little, family-run business. They’re happy to give you a tour and a dram of Scotch. Their whiskey has a very unique taste, which makes them all the more interesting to visit. The tour is included with Haggis Adventures if you pre-book your accommodations with them.
Surely you’ve heard of Stonehenge. That overrated and expensive attraction allows you to see the stones at a distance. On the Isle of Lewis, you can see the Callanish Stones, walk among the ancient monoliths and even picnic among them if you fancy. But best of all, they are free. Now how does that compare to Stonehenge? Your Haggis tour guide will give you a history lesson about the stones too, although this is a bit limited as no one really knows the true history of the stones.
Brochs and Blackhouses
Dwellings on the Isle of Lewis and Harris date back thousands of years. At Dun Carloway, you’ll see one of Scotland’s best preserved brochs. What’s a broch? Well, there are a couple theories. It was either a prehistoric house, or a fortification. You can visit yourself and decide. The tour will then take you up a nearby hill for a wonderful, panoramic view.
Next, you’ll get to see more recent lodgings from the Scottish clans that inhabited the island just a couple hundred years ago. These thatched roof dwellings are a museum, but you can also sleep in them as a bunk house if you’re visiting the island separately from the tour. If you are on the tour, the price of the museum is covered if you pre-booked your accommodations.
Landscape of Harris
The rugged, rocky hills of the Isle of Harris could only be considered as out-of-this-world. It’s no wonder that Stanley Kubrick used it for his setting of Jupiter in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. There isn’t much more than open space and sheep, but that’s the point. It’s about as tranquil a place as you can find, as long as the weather is nice…
Last but certainly not least is a world-class beach in the last place you’d ever expect to find it. The beaches in this area are so spectacular that another one nearby on the Isle of Berneray was used to advertise Kai Bae Beach in Thailand! It’s true that the Outer Hebrides don’t usually get a lot of sunshine, but if you do happen to arrive on a day like mine, you’ll find one of the most stunning views imaginable. The water is so clear here, with such a stunning reflection of the sky, that you’ll simply be spellbound. You might even go for a swim, before you realize you’re in northern Scotland and the water is freezing. What’s more, you might be as crazy as me and actually enjoy swimming in freezing water!
The Hebridean Hopper Tour is available from May through the end of September. I can’t recommend the tour strongly enough, and a great value for your money. The Isle of Lewis and Harris is only one small portion of the tour. Read about my whole experience here, or just jump on the tour and experience it for yourself. There’s still time left, and seats available!
Easirent is the cheapest car company to rent from within the UK (but perhaps not the best).
If you’re traveling with more than one person, I’d recommend using Airbnb. Some locations can be fantastic. I’ve even had free, delicious Scottish breakfasts provided!
Couchsurfing is my favorite way to stay in a city.