Wild Camping on Harris and Lewis

In June 2016 I packed my dog, Inca, and my camping gear into the car and headed to Skye for the ferry to Tarbert on Harris. It was first trip to Harris and Lewis, and have now returned many times.

There are many, many, places to wild camp on the islands and these are some of those from my first trip. Public transport is infrequent but has good reach and is reliable, but doesn’t normally carry dogs. Nothing works on Sundays apart from a limited ferry service.

We drove to Rubha Hunish on Skye for the first night. It’s becoming well known for its “lookout” bothy, but the path down onto the headland makes for some stunning camping spots. Note that the path immediately opposite the bothy leads right over the cliff edge and is best avoided.

The next day we took MV Hebrides over to Tarbert and drove out to Hushinish and walked in towards Meilein on the Cravadale path. The Stiamar Path is easy if occasionally precipitous and Meilein is a system of dunes and machair with a large freshwater loch nestled in. Cravadale is a short way further and well worth visiting and probably one of the best set beaches in Scotland.

We then headed up to Stornoway and the coast towards Tolsta. There is an old drove road from Lionel to North Tolsta which we’ve left for another year. The beach at North Tolsta has a broad machair and the advantage of being well sheltered if there is a strong westerly wind.

The Butt of Lewis is supposed to be one of the windiest parts of Scotland. It’s also the end of the Hebridean Way if you’re cycling. There’s not a lot of shelter but the breeze was mild for us. The headland walk from Eoropie is pleasant and there are many places to overnight.

We then started to explore the north western coast of Lewis. There are many hidden treasures here; coves and beaches. Dalbeg and Dalmore are adjacent and linked by a cliff path. There were a few vans by the beach at Dalbeg so we wandered up onto the cliffs for the night.

Next is Carloway and Garenin where there is a blackhouse village. Walking up onto the cliffs will take you on a stunning walk back towards Dalmore. We stopped at Callanish and then moved onto the Valtos villages – Cliff, Kneep and Reef. There is a formal campsite at Kneep and informal at Cliff. We moved up on the higher ground for the night.

The road quickly arrives at Ardroil which is a huge flat beach and plenty of machair. We then moved on towards Brenish and Mealasta – an old listening station which is the end of the road and some interesting coastline.

Our final night was spent at Mangersta – there’s a bothy here bookable via the owners, the Linda Norgrove Foundation. It also features in one of Peter May’s recent books although not by name. It’s a magical place. It’s not a large beach but the breakers are spectacular even with a gentle breeze. There are a couple of spots in the machair just behind the beach and more further up on the cliffs.

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