Where to stay and what so see and do on the main island of the Hebrides
They list all the best hotels on Lewis and Harris, and also apartments, bed and breakfast accommodation, guest houses and many vacation rentals in all areas of the island. If location is the most important factor in your choice, use their interactive map to find the perfect rental.See all Outer Hebrides accommodation
Lewis and Harris have many, many historical and ancient sites well worth visiting on your trip. Make sure you can find them all by having the Ordnance Survey app on your phone or tablet which gives access to all the detailed maps you need, and will show your position as you move.MAPS and more
This captivating island is like nowhere else in Scotland
The Western Isles, Or Outer Hebrides, are unique part of Scotland, and the only one strongly preserving the Gaelic culture and language. Lewis and Harris, the north and south parts of the same island, form a remarkably different holiday destination, having some of the oldest rocks in the world, abundant wildlife, and a spectacular archaeological heritage including many standing stones, stone circles and brochs. This is one of the few places in Scotland where you may have a beach all to yourself on a fine day. Harris, the southern part of the island, is much more mountainous than Lewis, and has the Western Isles’ highest point, Mt Clisham (799 metres / 2621 feet). Harris still produces the famous Harris tweed.
The main towns are Stornoway on Lewis, with a population of about 6,000, and Tarbert on Harris, with a population of about 550.
Lewis is accessible by ferry to Stornoway from Ullapool and to Tarbert on Harris by ferry from Uig on Skye. See https://calmac.co.uk for all ferries and sailing times.
Callanish / Calanais Standing Stones and Chambered Cairn, Loch Roag
This famous and well-preserved site at Calanais on the west coast of Lewis consists of a stone circle, within which is a large standing stone 4.6 metres/19 feet high and a chambered cairn, likely added to the circle, and an north-south avenue of stones 83 metres/ 270 feet long leading out from the circle. A set of shorter east-west stone rows completes the site, which has no parallels in Scotland. Looking south from a position just beyond the avenue there is a view of Mt Clisham, where the moon sets in summer at its most southerly position on the horizon, every 19 years. The east-west lines indicate the solar equinox sunsets, and there are other possible astronomical lines. The site dates from the Neolithic, and was in use from 2900 to 2600BC. There are many other sites of similar date around Callanish, which can also be visited. A visitor centre nearby (entrance charge) explains more about the site, which is a must-see for all visitors.
Dun Carloway broch
This Iron-age defensive tower and habitation is to be found on the west side of Lewis at Carloway, and the site has a car park. It makes an imposing sight above the road, located on a prominent knoll. It survives to a height of 6.7 metres/22 feet, and shows the broch’s characteristic double drystone wall construction, with internal galleries. Going inside you can see the huge lintel stone over the entrance, and a guard cell, another common feature of brochs.
Arnol Blackhouse (entrance charge)
Arnol is on the north-west coast of Lewis, accessible from Stornoway from the A857/A858. Here is an example of a traditional Hebridean blackhouse, run by Historic Environment Scotland. The house was occupied up to the 1960s, and has been preserved in its original form. There is no chimney, so the peat smoke from the fie which is kept lit gathers down to the level of the top of the entrance, so stay low when visiting!
Museum nan Eilean
This is to be found at Lews castle in Stornoway. It is a free museum which presents the history of the whole of the Outer Hebrides, using static and multimedia displays, and also has some of the walrus ivory Lewis chessmen from Viking times on display. Around Lews castle there are wooded grounds with walking paths.
An Lanntair Arts Centre Kenneth St, Stornoway
The centre for the arts and creativity in the Hebrides in Gaelic and English hosts art exhibits in its gallery, has a theatre and a cinema and a café/bar, and often hosts live music. Its dedicated building was opened in 2015. See what’s happening and showing currently in 'The Lantern' at https://lanntair.com/
Tràigh Mhòr – Tolsta beach Lewis
This wonderful white sandy beach is to be found at the end of the road (the B895) heading north from Stornoway (14 miles/23 kilometres). This is a good place to spot gannets and other bird life.
Butt of Lewis
On the very northern tip of Lewis is this spectacular place, with a Stevenson-built lighthouse above the cliffs and a (usually) raging sea below. Wonderful bird life and a chance to see seals and to find some hidden beaches.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village Carloway (entrance charge)
Here you can visit nine original but rebuilt blackhouses and a museum, plus a café, set high above the sea. The houses were occupied up to the 1970s, and then became a conservations area. Start from here to do coastal walks to Dalmore beach (popular with surfers) and Dalbeg beach, and to the deserted village of Laimishader.
Tarbert Distillery Main st, Tarbert
The attractively set village of Tarbert is many visitor’s first stop in the Western isles, and it has its own recently opened distillery (charge for tours) which produces whisky and also gin. You can check the current events and attractions on Harris at the Tarbert tourist office on pier road.
Walking and climbing on Harris
As in the rest of Scotland, you have the right to roam responsibly anywhere on unenclosed ground, and Harris is perfect for off the beaten track exploration. See walkhighlands.com/outer-hebrides/harris.shtml for some of the best walks, from easy 1-hour strolls to more challenging 8-hour climbs, including the best Mt Clisham route.
North Harris Eagle Observatory Gleannn Mhiabhaig (donation)
Meavaig/Miabhaig is to be found north-west of Tarbert, via the A859/B887. From the car park there is an easy walk to an onservatory, where if you are luck you me see some of the golden eagles which nest on Harris. Take your binoculars and be prepared to give some time.
Luskentyre / Losgaintir beach Harris
This beach is famous for its white sands and clear blue water. Follow the A858 south from Tarbert for 7 miles / 12 km to the Losgaintir turn-off on the right and follow the road to the end. From the northern half of the beach, called Tràigh Rosamol, you have great views of the island of Taransay and the mountains of north Harris.
St Clement’s Church Rodel Harris (Free entry)
Built in the years from 1520 onwards, this church has many interesting tombs inside, including that of the chief of Clan Macleod, who built the church. It is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. A quiet and tranquil place, and possibly the best medieval building of any kind in the Western Isles. It is only open during the day, and not on Sundays.
The Hebridean Way
There are both cycling and walking versions of this long distance trail, which of course has its longest section on Lewis/Harris. The Harris walking leg is 38 miles/61km, and the Lewis leg is 30 miles/48km. You can of course do shorter or day walks at any point, with the Harris sections being the most spectacular, though classed as ‘difficult’. Route details -