In the further reaches of bonnie Scotland, you may be surprised to find this island paradise. People imagine rocky crags and chilly winds when thinking of the more distant regions of Scotland, however the beautiful Isle of Harris is more turquoise waters, stylish dining and epic surf.
It’s the kind of scenery you might expect down on the southern coast or on the other side of the world in some tropical destination, but the Isle of Harris is a unique and breathtaking island, perfect to add to your bucket list and ideal for your next holiday to Scotland.
What you’ll find on the Isle of Harris
A breadth of scenic shorelines, stunning mountaintops and charming places to eat and drink await on this island. Discover pretty villages where you can spend the day in cafes down by the seafront or delve into the more remote places of the Island of Harris for wonderful walking opportunities and far-reaching views of the unique landscape.
Crystal-clear shallows and white sandy shores provide miles and miles of epic coastline bordering this large Scottish island.
The two top beaches on the Isle of Harris have got to be Luskintyre Beach and Hushinish Beach, although all of the island’s beaches have an effervescent quality created by the incredible turquoise colour of the water. Feel as though you’ve stepped out of the modern world and into a land of Scottish legend and myth when you walk down to these sandy shores.
Luskintyre Beach sits on the north coast of South Harris and is protected by the island of Taransay, which you can see across the water, and it’s possible to spot dolphins, seals, otters and sea eagles during a walk here. Meanwhile, Hushinish Beach is further north and sits in a bay on North Harriss’ western coast.
Other popular beaches on the Isle of Harris include Seilebost Beach, Horgabost Beach, Borve Beach and Northton-Scarista Beach.
If you’re thinking of bringing your dog along on your holiday to Scotland (a perfect excuse for a pup holiday!), take a look through our guide to the best dog-friendly beaches in Scotland.
And if you already know you’d like to holiday near the sea, start browsing our holiday cottages and lodges near the coast in Scotland.
Characterful villages: Tarbert
The community centre of Tarbert may be just a village, but it’s the largest on the island and the cultural hub of the Isle of Harris, centrally located on an isthmus that connects the South Harris and North Harris and Lewis together.
There are attractions, eateries and walking routes in this pretty locale, and as it sits on the edge of beautiful Loch Tarbert, there’s the opportunity to go sailing or kayaking on the beautiful clear waters.
Other pretty villages on the Isle of Harris include:
Leverburgh, the second biggest village on Harris where there’s a ferry port, mini market, salon, medical practice, three churches, post office and gift shop.
Hushinish, where a hamlet of just four family homes overlook one of the island’s exquisite beaches.
Or Northton, where Seallam! Visitor Centre offers a little insight into the island’s history, café, beach and beautiful salt flats.
Discover more pretty villages throughout the country with a look at our post: Charming coastal villages in Scotland
Find a wonderful getaway on the island and start browsing our holiday cottages and lodges on the Island of Harris.
Food and drink on the Isle of Harris
Keeping time-honoured Scottish traditions alive, this northern island has it’s very own whisky distillery with a 'Social Distillery' ethos – this essentially means it’s open six days a week to welcome visitors. You can visit their restaurant for a bite to eat and to sample a dram of their world-famous whisky. If you’re not a whisky lover, no worries, as they also specialise in a gin infused with sugar kelp, which has inspired their ‘Seafood Project’.
Are you a true whisky connoisseur? During your time in Scotland, you may want to consider a visit to the distilleries on the Isle of Skye.
Eat out on the Isle of Harris
There’s a variety of cafes, restaurants and eateries across the island, you just need to know where to look! Here are just a few options for your time in the Outer Hebrides:
Butty Bus - Leverburgh local favourite, ideal for walkers or hikers passing by this incredible beach and fancy a traditional tasty chip butty.
The Machair Kitchen - a rather beautiful cabin-like venue by one of the Isle of Harris’ stunning beaches.
The Anchorage Restaurant, Cafe and Bar – locally-sourced seafood, fish and chips and home baking; visit for a light lunch or a special dining experience of lobster and champagne.
Looking for a caterer? Flavour do dinner parties and special events, you’ll dine on a Hebridean fusion menu with locally sourced produce that can be tailored to your guests' requirements and - the best bit - no washing up!
Things to do on the Isle of Harris
Set sail in a kayak or canoe and you could explore the many lochs, caves and sea stacks that make up the coast. Rent a kayak or enjoy a guided tour of the spectacular coastline.
Surfing is an unexpected pastime to be found upon this northern island. Catch a wave against Harris’ mountainous backdrop with Surf Lewis. Based in Stornoway up on the Isle of Lewis they offer SUP, open water swimming and snorkelling activities too.
Walk, roam and hike your way across the island
The biggest challenge would be to summit the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides, Clisham centrally located on North Harris.
Walk to the top of Beinn Dhubh for breathtaking views down to Luskentyre beach.
Pull on your hiking boots and follow this Rubh' an Teampaill Route, that takes you out to the far west of South Harris, past beautiful beaches and to the ruins of a medieval chapel.
Head to Bunavoneader Whaling Station (Bun Abhainn Eadarra) to explore the landscape and see one of the most intact examples of a whaling station in the northern hemisphere.
Other things to do on the island
There are few manmade attractions on the island but that’s not why people travel here. They come for the chance to escape and retreat into nature, that’s why this island draws artists, adventurers and nature enthusiasts year-round.
You can sail across to the long-abandoned Island of Scarp to the north, which has a fine machair that’s ideal for birdwatching. Spot lapwing, skylark, dunlin, redshank and golden eagles, the latter of which is thriving in this region, with the highest density of golden eagles in Europe being found in the Harris Hills.
Or drive in the opposite direction to the southern island, Scalpay, connected to Harris via a single track bridge. Home to a lively population, harbour and lighthouse, it’s perfect walking territory with things to see and places to eat when you’re done exploring.
We’ve already mentioned the island’s incredibly high density of golden eagles; well, keen birdwatchers can spot these magnificent birds from the North Harris Eagle Observatory.
Lastly, Scotland is known for its spectacular road trip routes so make sure you go for a drive to see the best of this beautiful island. You could drive through some of Scotland’s rockiest low-level scenery on The Golden Road, apparently named for the high cost of building along the treacherous rocky landscape.
Love wildlife? Take a look at the kind of animals you can expect to see during a wildlife-spotting trip to Scotland.
Holiday cottages and lodges on the Isle of Harris
We have a selection of holiday cottages, lodges and log cabins throughout Scotland and its scattered islands. Visit the glistening beaches, kayak through the turquoise water and climb the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides before returning home to your own cosy cottage on the Isle of Harris. Start planning your trip by browsing our holiday cottages on the Isle of Harris.