For the sort of calm and awayness that only the north of Scotland can afford, the Isles of Harris and Lewis are like few other places on earth. You can experience every type of weather throughout a single day, and you will always be met with a kindness from the locals that is, at first, slightly surprising but then completely enveloping.
When you visit the Isles, you will readily see that most people visit to camp and hike and bike. As such, there aren’t a lot of hotel options, and definitely no chain hotels that I could say. Located on the southern part of the island is the Scarista House (https://scaristahouse.com/), a lovely Georgian Mansion with 7 rooms. Breakfast is included and Flora definitely has a wee kitchen which is ideal given how remote the guesthouse is, and how limited restaurants are.
If I only had one night, I am certain that I would stay in one of the self-catering apartments in Lews Castle! In none of my research did this appear so I had no idea it was even possible until visiting the castle one day. https://www.togethertravel.co.uk/destinations/scotland/lews-castle/accommodation Based on the website, the rooms look comfortable and modern and I can only dream of staying here if even for just one night.
Situated in Tarbert, not far from the Isle of Harris Distillery and the docs is the Harris Hotel (http://www.harrishotel.com/). A hotel from the start, it has a long and storied history and looks like a lovely place to stay for a relaxing vacation.
If you’re arriving by ferry and want to stay in Stornoway – the largest populated area with shopping, sites, and restaurants – I would suggest The Royal (https://www.royalstornoway.co.uk/). I didn’t stay here but when walking around Stornoway and I peered in the windows, it definitely looked like a place that I would want to return to.
You don’t go to the Isles as a dining destination. That doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good, and if you’re in to seafood and meats, I’m sure you’ll be very happy, but as a vegetarian, there weren’t a lot of options.
Most “hotels” offer food but at what appeared, to me, to be at a bit pricey levels. That said, I had hoped to try The Royal hotel’s Boatshed restaurant (https://www.royalstornoway.co.uk/dine/the-boatshed.html) as they did offer a few vegetarian and vegan options.
Also part of the Royal, but in a more casual, less formal environment, is HS-1 Café (https://www.royalstornoway.co.uk/dine/hs-1-cafe-bar.html). The menu looks identical to its sister restaurant, just a tad cheaper.
And although neither of the following are restaurants, I love their concepts and encourage everyone to visit if you can. They are located on the same street, even further south on the Isle of Harris, but well worth the adventure. Croft 36 (https://croft36northton.wixsite.com/home) is a wee “shed” of an establishment that opens at 11am, offers a variety of sustainably prepared breads, sweets, soups, and hot foods, that closes when everything is sold.
Temple Harris https://www.templeharris.com/, described as a “hobbit house” looks amazing. They have outdoor seating that looks over an inlet leading out to the sea where you can enjoy preordered food in a truly relaxing atmosphere.
The entire island is a site to behold so be sure to reserve that rental car well in advance. There are not chain rental agencies on the island so you can’t just rock up.
Any trip to the Isles must incorporate a sea tour. We did the Shiant Tour with the Isle of Harris Sea Tours company and they were outstanding. A 6 hour boat tour that departs from Tarbert and heads due west is an absolute joy and an incredible opportunity to see puffins, razor bills, shags, grey seals, and if your lucky (which I was), sea eagles. There’s a 1.5 to 2 hour layover on Eilean an Taighe, an island with a 150 year old bothy where we were treated to a coffee to accompany the sandwiches that we brought for lunch.
If time permits, you must also visit the 3 accessible lighthouses on the Isles: the sadly named, but stunningly gorgeous Butt of Lewis Lighthouse (which is really the head of the island, for the record), the mid-point Tiumpan Head Lighthouse (not accessible to visitors as the accommodations are now privately owned and appear to be a dog and cat kennel), and the southernmost, and harder to reach after a more or so trek, the Eilean Glas Lighthouse.
And last but not least, Stornoway is great just for the return to an inhabited center but also because the Lews Castle, and the parks/grounds surrounding it are absolutely lush and gorgeous.
And a final note:
Getting to Stornoway and the Isle of Harris can be a challenge. We found that Logan Air frequently changed flight times between booking and actual departure so be sure to stay aware of your flights. But more importantly, I think it fair to guess that weather can wreak havoc on flights: the plans are small – from wee propeller planes to the more common short-haul but still small Embraer planes – which would not be pleasure, and perhaps not even possible, during some of the high winds and storms, and dense fog, that the Isles experience. I understand the ferry crossing from Ullapool (near Inverness) is an option in a pinch but, thankfully, we didn’t have to investigate that!
So enjoy. And explore this wonderful remote island in the north of Scotland. It really is worth the adventure!