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Why These 2 Lesser Known Islands Are The Best UK Beach Getaways This Summer

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The best beach destinations have more than just sun, sea, and sand. They also have something unique that makes them stand out from the crowd.  

When Forbes chose their top 4 European island destinations to visit this year, these UK hot spots came 2nd on the list.

And it’s easy to see why.  

sandy beach and clear turquoise sea at Seilebost on the isle of Harris in the Western isles of Scotland

Here’s what you need to know: 

Visiting The Isles Of Lewis And Harris  

I’m talking about the Isles of Lewis and Harris which are some of the lesser-known Scottish islands.

The Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris are officially just one island, but they are referred to as 2 because they each have their own landscape, access points, and cultural heritage.  

view of Port of Ness on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

They form part of the Outer Hebrides in the Scottish Western Isles.

They are barren wastelands and breathtakingly beautiful at the same time.

The weather here is typically Scottish, which means a generous helping of wind and rain outside of the summer months, but during the summer season, you can enjoy some of the most incredible, unspoiled beaches that you can find anywhere in the UK.  

The Best Beaches In Lewis 

I’m writing this from an admittedly biased perspective as the Isle of Lewis is home to my family home and is one of my favorite places in the UK as a result.  

But is a breathtakingly beautiful place to be a tourist. And there are no better beaches anywhere in the UK, whatever the weather.  

With an abundance of remote, soft white sand beaches it’s difficult to choose the best beaches in the Islands of Lewis and Harris.

But some of my favorite spots include:  

Aerial drone view of Port of Stoth on the Isle of Lewis
  • Port Stoth. My favorite beach on Lewis is a lesser-known spot. This tiny cove is located just 100 meters away from the Butt of Lewis lighthouse in Ness. Few tourists visit this beach because it is so remote, meaning you often have the whole place to yourself. Local wild swimmers and surfers also love it here. Fringed with tall cliff tops, this beach is breathtakingly beautiful.  
     
  • Uig Sands. This is a vast stretch of incredibly beautiful white sands fringed by turquoise waters that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean if you ignore the weather. Unlike many of the other beaches on the islands, Uig is also accessible by car, as you can park right by the dunes.  
     
  • Luskentyre Beach. The most famous beach on Lewis and Harris is Luskentyre beach which is on the Isle of Harris. Miles and miles of golden sand with views of the mountains make this beach as unique as it is beautiful. Because the beach is so huge here its popularity isn’t a concern. You’ll still have plenty of room to play and explore.  
  • Eoropie Beach. This is the best beach on the islands for children, but it is also a beautiful beach in its own right. To get here you park by the Eoropie playground then walk over the sand dunes until you hit the beach. A river runs from the park to the beach here, creating channels and rock pools that are great for exploring.
Hebridean Coast, Isle of Lewis

Not Just Beaches  

The islands of Lewis and Harris have so much more to offer visitors than just beaches.  

If you take the drive down from Lewis to Harris then you will pass through perilously winding roads and mountainous landscapes.

These are incredibly popular with outdoor adventurers.  

Sunset over the stone circle at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland

On the Isle of Lewis, you can visit the Calanais Standing Stones.

These remarkable stones were erected between 2900 and 2600 BC making them older than the more famous standing stones at Stonehenge.  

You can also visit the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village which is one of the main tourist attractions on the island. These houses are blackened inside and out because their traditional open peat fires blackened the walls.  

Despite their very basic interiors it is incredible to think that some of these houses were still inhabited until the middle 1970's.  

The houses also offer spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean which they overlook, and they are a great spot for hiking, cycling, and even surfing.  

Isle of Harris Gin Distillery, exterior building in Tarbet in the Outer Hebrides.

Some of my favorite attractions in Harris include the opportunity to see the world-famous Harris tweed being made by hand on traditional looms, and it’s impossible to resist a visit to the Isle of Harris distillery.  

Getting There  

The Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris are amongst some of the most remote spots in the UK as well as the most beautiful in Scotland.  

There are 2 ways to get to the Isle of Lewis. You can either fly from Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Stornoway airport with Loganair.  

This is the Scottish national carrier, which is the only airline that serves Stornoway. 

Caledonia ferry enroute to Isle of Skye

Alternatively, you can travel to the port of Ullapool on the coast of the Scottish mainland and take the ferry to Stornaway. The crossing time for this route is 2 hours 45 minutes.

Traveling by ferry is the most popular route for local residents as it is considerably more affordable than flying.  

To travel to the Isle of Harris you can take the ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye to Port Tarbert which is on Harris.  

There is no airport on the Isle of Harris but because Harris and Lewis are connected, it is possible to fly into Stornoway and then drive to the Isle of Harris instead.  

Scottish Islands By Cruise Ship 

Stornoway port is a popular stop for small cruise ships. In 2023 over 100 ships visited the island breaking all previous records.  

Stornoway harbor on the isle of lewis scotland

Until now cruise passengers have been tendered to the island on small boats because the port couldn’t handle the size of the cruise ships visiting the island. 

But that will all change this cruise season thanks to the opening of a new £49 ($61 million) Deep Water Terminal that will allow larger liners to dock right in the port and will dramatically increase the number of cruise passengers visiting the islands this year.  

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