We just returned a couple of weeks ago from a fantastic trip to Lewis & Harris – our long-overdue first visit to the Outer Hebrides.
I’d meant to do this post pretty much straight away, but apparently planning a wedding takes precedent over absolutely everything else in your life, taking up far more of your time than you realise, and suddenly two weeks have passed and I’ve only just edited a handful of photos.
I’ll be writing about our trip in full very soon – err, after the wedding at this point – but I first wanted to share a few photos of some of the incredible beaches on offer in Lewis & Harris.
You see, Harris gets all the attention.
If you’ve seen a photo of an expansive, fairytale beach with Caribbean-esque water in Scotland – it’s probably on Harris.
And don’t get me wrong, Luskentyre and Seilebost are incredible. Seilebost, pictured above, offers one of the best views in the whole of Scotland, which is a pretty big feat. But… having now spent more time on Lewis (and even more time on Google Maps scouting out all the best beaches!), I would say Lewis definitely gives Harris a run for its money.
Even on all the blog posts I’ve read about Lewis & Harris, nobody mentions the beaches on Lewis. Lewis is about the history; Harris is about the landscapes. It’s almost a nice little alliteration except swapped around.
Let’s start with Harris, anyway.
Beaches On The Isle Of Harris
Luskentyre beach is, without a doubt, the crown jewel of the Outer Hebrides.
Although Seilebost is phenomenal from above, the tides are ever changing so we didn’t go down onto the actual beach itself (in fact, when we drove past later, it looked completely different as the tide had come in).
Luskentyre is always amazing though – and for that reason, we were bracing ourselves for it being busy. However, even in August, in a year where “staycations” are the trend and every single campervan in the UK seemed to be on our ferry over, it didn’t feel all that crowded. It was pretty hard to get photos without anyone in at all, but it wasn’t impossible.
I could have spent all day there, and it wasn’t even a particularly nice day. Imagine if the sun had been out – the colour of the water would have been even more unbelievable!
However, there was actually a beach on Harris that I think I preferred to Luskentyre.
I present to you, one that we almost didn’t even stop at:
Sgarasta (Scarista) Beach
Scarista beach is also hugging a massive bay of sand a bit like Seilebost, though not quite as impressive from ground level – but this beach is sensational!
It’s not quite as accessible as Luskentyre – there are only a few spots to park, and the path to the beach involves traversing through a field of cows. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s worth it though!
I can’t believe I’d never heard of this beach!
We ate lunch at the Talla Na Mara café overlooking Nisabost Beach, so it made sense to stop there. There’s also some history here – the MacLeod stone, a standing stone at the top of the hill behind. I was planning to do the walk, but we’d been discovering so many great places that I decided to dedicate more time to beaches (I wonder why?) and leave out the walk.
Nisabost is nice, but it’s not quite as scenic as some of the beaches we’d already seen that day.
There are tons more beaches all along the west coast of Harris – we saw lots of coves from the road with deserted patches of sand inviting us to stop and dip in. Maybe next time.
The one we really didn’t have time for was Hushinish, which was recommended to me by a few people. Unfortunately it’s a good half hour drive from the main road, which meant an hour-long detour without including the stop itself, and with only a day on Harris it just wasn’t feasible.
And so to Lewis.
Beaches On The Isle Of Lewis
It’s really hard to get the scale of Uig Bay from photos.
Like Seilebost, it’s vast, sweeping, and honestly goes on for miles (literally). The above photo is maybe a tenth of it. I attempted to get some more of it the next day when I realised how little of it you could see in the photos I’d taken.
It keeps going round the corner to the left for another couple of miles, which is where the next photos are from.
Because it’s so vast, it’s very easy to find your own space.
However, without sounding like a beach snob, it was far from my favourite beach on Lewis. There’s almost too much of it.
Instead, I found that Lewis offered much more bite-size beaches.
The second we rounded the corner towards Reef beach, we decided we want to come back just to camp here for a few days.
There was a large group of kids just finishing up a water activity, whether it was a school trip or a Scouts trip, but other than that, it was supremely quiet, despite there being a campsite right next to it.
It’s totally underrated compared to other beaches on Lewis & Harris, and actually the only reason we went is because our B&B host insisted we should drive the loop to see it!
Nearby, Cliff beach offers some fantastic views from above, but I was a little pre-occupied with the local residents…
This photo of the sheep is probably my favourite photo from the entire trip!
I had to laugh when I saw that next to all the other wondrous names, there would be one simply called Garry. Alright, Garry?
Well, turns out Garry beach is phenomenal! We managed to squeeze in a drive up to here and the nearby Garry bridge (aka. the Bridge To Nowhere) on our last day of the trip before catching our ferry. Thankfully we had time to explore the actual beach though, because it is awesome!
I wasn’t sure if the tide would be in or out, but we discovered next to the stacks there’s a great cave you can walk all the way through and out the other side – into the sea, if you’re not careful! So cool.
Traigh Mhor (Tolsta) Beach
As we drove to Garry Beach, it was impossible to ignore the sweeping Traigh Mhor Beach in Tolsta.
Definitely another great beach on Lewis. What a place to take a dog or look out for whales!
While not technically on the Isle of Lewis, Bosta Beach is at the top end of Great Bernera which is a small island attached to Lewis by a bridge.
It’s also touted as the best beach on Lewis (ironically, given that it’s not technically on it). Our B&B host said he reckons that’s only because loads of people from Stornoway go there! That’s when he recommended the loop around Cliff & Reef, which… to be fair, he had a point with those.
However I will agree to disagree on Bosta, because it is DELIGHTFUL!
It even has an Iron Age house, sadly closed at the moment and even though I tried to peer in through the door, I couldn’t really see anything. But it’s fine, because Bosta provided a lovely walk.
And finally, on to quite possibly my favourite beach of all, and fortuitously the closest beach to where we were staying for a few days. Slightly less fortuitous is the fact it rained when we went down onto it.
Mangersta is very off the beaten path, several miles further on from Uig, which tends to be the furthest most people seemed to go. (We were, in fact, staying a few miles even further on than that!)
Which is possibly what makes it such a surprising find.
Had it not been raining, we would have sat with a book for a while, but sadly the weather gods were not on our side. Even so, we took a lovely walk along the beach.
Nearby, one place high on my list was the Mangersta Stacks.
Though not technically a beach you can visit, I feel I have to include them! They’re incredible – and again I almost missed them, having only found out about them a week or two before we visited.
So what do you think? Does Lewis or Harris have the better beaches, or do you just want to visit them all?!
P.S. more posts will be coming soon, I promise! After our wedding – which is NEXT WEEK! – I have a whole host of posts to write, as well as some more upcoming trips. So expect to read much, much more about Lewis & Harris, plus many more places around Scotland and further afield. Hope you’re all doing well!