Our magical trip to Scotland – Part 6: Isle of Harris

The Isle of Lewis and Harris is a unique case among the islands of Britain, dear friends: it’s divided in two; the northern part is called Lewis, and the southern part Harris. And the division isn’t at the narrowest point, either, where Tarbert, the capital of Harris is situated, but it goes right through the island further north.

As I’ve told you, Stornoway with its population of 8,000 is by far the biggest town on the island; Tarbert is much smaller, its population is about 550, and the whole Isle of Harris is less populated than the Isle of Lewis – which, I hoped, meant that we’d get to see some REALLY rural scenes there.

And we weren’t disappointed: as the roads became narrower towards Tarbert, sheep (which these days even in Ireland and Scotland are usually neatly kept within their fenced fields) started appearing near and then on the road! What fun for a city girl like me who rarely gets a chance to see farm animals from a close distance…

Then we came into Tarbert, a pretty little settlement with a small harbour from where ferries go to the small surrounding islands. Picturesque houses on the hillside, traditional little shops and cosy tea houses – Tarbert is well worth a visit!

The most famous feature of Tarbert, though, is its distillery, the first one on the island. Founded in 2015, it’s already produced some fabulous gin, while its whisky is still maturing in the barrels. At the shop, you can buy Harris Gin, tonic water and other local products, and at the soup kitchen you’ll get some real home-made Scottish soup or a piece of home-made cake – and a gin and tonic, of course!

We went on to the southern part of Harris – here the roads get really narrow, and there are stopping points for letting cars pass that occasionally come from the other direction. If you’re looking for complete peace and quiet, you’re just right here! The landscape is breath-taking, with lochs among the hills and marvellous sandy beaches on the seaside.

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At the southern tip of Harris, there’s a medieval church you shouldn’t miss when exploring the island; St. Clement’s Church. Some of the old MacLeod chieftains are buried here, and the Gothic architecture is really interesting; you can take photos as you like, and you can even climb the narrow stairs all the way up the tower!

Well, that was all from our wonderful island holiday – at some point, we had to go back to the mainland and home to London… We’d decided to take it easy this time, though, and do the return journey in two days; which meant that we had to find a room for the night somewhere. We took the ferry back to Ullapool, where the bus to Inverness was already waiting – perfect! It’s a lovely ride through the Highlands, just like driving through a postcard…

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We reached Inverness in the early evening, and all we needed now was a hotel room there… It did take some time and searching (after all, this was the holiday season, and Inverness is absolutely full with tourists going on walking tours up the mountains), but we found a nice little room at the Waverley Guest House – so now we could explore the town…

Inverness, the ‘gateway to the Highlands’, is a lively little city, the most important one in the whole region and very popular among tourists from all over the world. So, of course, it provides lots of eateries and pubs and entertainment! We had a couple of whiskies, and a fantastic ‘Hebridean Pizza’ – with haggis and black pudding, of course, those two great Scottish national products…

The next morning, it was time to get back to London – quite honestly, I’d started feeling so much at home in Scotland I didn’t want to leave! We got the train back to King’s Cross station – and there we were again, back in the city rush, with people running past you and shoving you, loudspeaker announcements, police sirens; a bit of a shock for a moment… But, of course, we’ve now got new lovely memories from a wonderful trip – and, especially when I’m wearing my new outfit, I still feel very Scottish!

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If you’re planning a trip to the Outer Hebrides, dear friends – and I can assure you, you’ll have the time of your life there! – here’s a very useful website with all the necessary information:

www.isle-of-lewis.com

See you soon, friends, and Alba gu brath – Scotland forever!

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