A sheep casually strolls out into the road and lays down in front of us… “This place!”
The beaches are as white as snow… “This place!”
An old microwave is painted red and sits outside a house, repurposed as a mailbox… “This place!”
A lone man practices playing the bagpipes on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere… “This place!”
You couldn’t make this stuff up! This place is unlike anywhere we’ve been before and “this place” is quickly becoming our most used expression of the trip.
After having a wonderful few days on the Isle of Lewis we continued our journey south into Harris, passing through the atmospheric North Harris Hills on the way. As usual the journey took longer than it should’ve, taking the high roads that run around the mountains it’s impossible not to pull in at every lay-by for a photo. Looking down to see miles of rocky hills with the occasional abandoned stone building, and looking up to see clouds floating barely a few metres above our car.
By the time we had made it to Horgabost Campsite we were ready for dinner and were thankful that there was a hot food trailer on site, also run by the lovely people who run the campsite. Then the rest of the evening was spent unwinding in the comfort of the caravan.
After a wet and windy night we woke up to bright skies and were eager to explore the area, so headed out on a drive. Along the way we stumbled upon a sign for “Bays Cafe” and followed the directions to it, ending up at Bays Community Centre. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect from a place that is essentially a village hall but as we entered we were welcomed so warmly by a man in an apron, as traditional fiddle music played over the speakers. After finishing lunch we got chatting to Jessie, the lovely mature lady who did all of the baking. Like the majority of Hebridean people we’ve met, she was so warm and friendly and showed as much interest in our lives as we did hers. It was fascinating to hear all about island life from someone who has only been to the mainland twice since they were born!
After a good natter we were ready to continue exploring so went to settle the bill, only, she point blank refused to take our money! We kept insisting, practically forcing our money upon her, but she wasn’t having any of it. Eventually we agreed on leaving it in the donations box for the hall instead of in their till. This was just one of the many acts of kindness and generosity that we’d already experienced since being on the islands. When we got back in the car we smiled again, looked at each other and said… “This place!”
As we continued our exploration we found ourselves heading back up through the breathtaking Harris Hills to Aline Community Woodland, and were amazed by the accessibility for wheelchairs. The smooth decked boardwalk makes up part of the Hebridean Way and took us on a stunning trail through the hills, alongside a stream and to a lookout by the beautiful, sparkling Loch Seaforth. As the summer sun shone down on us a golden eagle casted a majestic shadow as it soared overhead- another big, feathered “check” on my Scottish wildlife list.
Back at the campsite that evening the big orange Adria van that kept following us around had pitched up next to our caravan- Our friend (and stalker) Andrew Ditton! After having a quick catch up he introduced us to his friend, Kevin, and we all decided to continue the evening with dinner at ours, cooked by chef Andrew. The night flew by, and with it not getting dark until midnight we all stayed up a little later than we realised, just chatting away, sharing adventures and enjoying the magical place that is the Hebrides.
The following morning Stephen and I woke up late and decided to head straight out for lunch at the Temple Cafe. As the sun broke through the clouds we pulled into the car park and could instantly see its popularity, the queue was trailing outside the door! “This must be a good sign” we said to each other as we made our way inside the circular drystone building. It was like going into a cosy little hobbit house with a fantastic selection of baked goodies on display and once we’d decided on quiche and chocolate brownie we headed to the outside seating area to enjoy the warmth and the view out to the water and the surrounding hills. As we ate we were joined by a very inquisitive little bird who we quickly made friends with, but between you and me, I think he was only in it for the pastry!
Continuing our exploration into the afternoon we stopped off at Hebscape Gallery and Tearoom. Inside, the room was spacious and simplistic and the walls were decorated with stunning fine art photography, all taken by Darren Cole who owned the shop with his partner. We instantly got chatting and loved hearing about how the business started and what inspires his shots, and couldn’t resist picking up one of his beach prints and a selection of cards before we left.
Having chatted away for so long the gallery closed as we got back in the car and our tummies started to rumble. On our travels across the islands we’d seen lots of “honesty shops” on the side of the road, these are huts or cupboards stocked up with goodies and left unattended, for a customer to drop by and leave payment in an honesty box (again, this place!)- we couldn’t wait to visit Croft 36 on our way back to Horgabost. Resembling a quirky little beach hut, it sits on the roadside stocked with sustainable and local homemade food from soup and bread, to oven-ready meals and sweet treats. After a bit of deliberation we opted for a loaf of bread, a “mince and tatties” meal and chocolate cake, left payment in the box and headed back to the caravan to enjoy. And enjoy it we did!
The following day we had a change of campsite and left the sandy shores of the west coast for the rugged shores of the east, and our campsite- Minch View. After making our way down the narrow and winding Golden Road we found the steep entrance and made our way inside. Avoiding the free roaming sheep we pitched up quickly before heading out for another arty afternoon, this time at Skoon Art Cafe.
As we went inside we were struck by the relaxing ambience of the cafe, gentle music was playing and the walls were covered in the most beautiful oil paintings inspired by the islands, and there’s a lot of inspiration to be had! I like to dabble in painting myself but I can only dream of being that talented! The artist, Andrew John Craig, was busy in his studio but we got chatting away with his lovely wife and co-owner, Emma, who showed us that familiar Hebridean hospitality and made us feel so welcome.
Having found a seat by the window overlooking the view we sat and enjoyed coffee and scones before heading off to Tarbert for a wander.
Although Tarbert was the nearest thing for miles resembling anything close to a town, it’s only a small community so a wander around didn’t take long. Of course we stopped off in the Harris Tweed shop before heading back to the campsite for summer solstice. The below photograph was taken after midnight and I’m fairly certain it didn’t get any darker than that all night!
Our last full day on the stunning Isles of Lewis and Harris was a day of running errands, so we headed back up north to Stornoway, where we could get everything done in one place. First on our list was a visit to the laundrette, then we needed to stock up on fuel and LPG at one of the only places in the Outer Hebrides with an LPG pump. After a visit to our new friends, Cathy and Kevin, we popped to the supermarket for some supplies and finally, we were stocked up and ready to continue our adventure!
“This place” was quickly becoming one of our most memorable trips, we just knew there was so much more to be explored.
But first, we needed to catch another ferry…