Lewis and Harris are a single large island in the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles of Scotland. It's the third largest island in the British Archipelago, only Great Britain and Ireland being larger. Harris (Gaelic Na Hearadh) is the mountainous southern third of it, while boggy low-lying Lewis makes up the northern two-thirds. Only in modern times were they connected by road: historically you could only travel from one to the other by boat, as if they were individual islands. Moreover their transport links were to different mainland ports, so they became separate counties.
Harris is divided by the deep notches of West and East Loch Tarbert.
- 1 Tarbert is the main village and ferry port, and the obvious base for exploring all of Harris.
- 2 Leverburgh on the west coast is the main settlement of South Harris
Calmac car ferries sail:
- from Uig on Skye to Tarbert on Harris, twice a day taking under two hours (Nov-March some days in just one direction).
- from Berneray (linked by road to North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist) to Leverburgh on Harris, four a day taking an hour.
- from Ullapool in Wester Ross to Stornoway on Lewis, twice a day taking 2 hours 30 min (Nov-March only one on Sunday).
Harris has no airport. The most convenient air route is from Glasgow to Stornoway then drive south. Another way is to fly to Benbecula then take the ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh.
There are six buses M-Sa between Harris and Lewis, taking 75 min. A linked bus / ferry service runs up the Western Isles through Barra, the Uists and Harris and across Lewis to Stornoway, so M-Sa it's possible to go the whole way in one day. To do so northbound you need to set off from Castlebay Barra at 06:20, but for Harris you could leave it till 10:20, passing Lochboisedale South Uist at 13:20, Benbecula at 15:00 and Lochmaddy North Uist at 15:30 to reach Leverburgh on Harris at 17:00 and Tarbert at 17:30. Going south, you need to leave Stornoway at 09:30 to go the whole route, and leave Tarbert at 10:45, Lochmaddy at 13:45, Benbecula at 14:25, Lochboisdale at 15:25 reaching Castlebay at 17:35.
Car is best in this remote area.
By bus: Bus W10 is the Western Isles "spine route" from Barra and the Uists. It runs along the west coast of Harris on A859, from Leverburgh via Northton, Borve, Seilibost, Luskentyre turnoff, and Golden Road turnoff into Tarbert, 45 mins. It continues across north Harris to Stornoway. There are six per day Mon-Sat.
Bus W13 runs up the east coast lane from Leverburgh via Rodel, Ardslave and Geocrab then either direct to Tarbert or meandering through Grosebay and Drinishader. Two run Mon-Sat, another four are school buses.
- The lighthouse on Scalpay island, linked by road to Tarbert.
- Rodel church, south of Leverburgh.
- Luskentyre beach.
- Climb Clisham, north of Tarbert, the only "Corbett" in the Western Isles.
- Hike the "Postman's Path" above Rhenigidale, past abandoned villages.
- Take a boat trip to lonely St Kilda.
- Drive or cycle the "Golden Road" along the east coast between Tarbert and Rodel.
- Various cafes along the main road, but the best dining options are the two hotels in Tarbert.
- No stand-alone pubs, the Tarbert hotels have public bars.
- The Isle of Harris Distillery in Tarbert produces gin and scotch whisky and is open for tours.
- Camping: There are sites around the island, some extremely picturesque, some not official.
- There are hostels in Tarbert, Leverburgh plus some remote locations eg Rhenigidale.
- There are hotels in Tarbert and a small one at Scarista near Leverburgh. The most luxurious splurge is at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle on the lane between Tarbert and Huisinish.
- There's bed & breakfast and self-catering cottages dotted around but mostly near Tarbert or Leverburgh.