Visiting the Isle of Harris beaches
While Scotland’s west coastline has been generating well merited hoopla for some time, the glorious Isle of Harris retains a special place for me as the unmatched King of the Beaches. Golden sands meet turquoise waters backed by majestic peaks – making this one of my favourite places on the planet.
The finest examples exist along the west coastline where one after another, endless stunning sandy beaches compete to better the previous. Driving west and south from Harris’ ‘capital’ of Tarbert, the likes of Seilebost, Horgabost, Borve and Scarista stun and awe. As a moderately interested golfer, the latter stands out as really extraordinary. Neighbouring the Harris golf course, Scarista helps make it one of the most locationally stunning courses in, well, anywhere.
Equally magnificent is Luskentyre, likely the most famous of all of Harris’ coastal treasures. A huge expanse of predominantly deserted white sand, the water is crystal clear, the backdrop is spectacular and the scale is simply head spinning. Found on a side road to the north of the main strip of west coast beaches, Luskentyre is an absolute must.
A little further from the beaten track, Hushinish is another personal favourite. It requires a 40 minute dalliance north west of Tarbert along one of the Isle’s best examples of lunar landscapery. After such a surreal journey it is almost astonishing to find such a sublime spot waiting at its end. With precious little but water now standing between you and North America, it’s hard to shift that ‘end of the world’ feeling. Some exploration of the nearby area delivers some fantastic views over to the remote island of Scarp and there is a walking route to the north of Hushinish beach for the more adventurous. For those that are keen on this moderately challenging leg stretcher, the route is pathed at first but does require good boots. The end destination is Traigh Mheilen beach – another absolute stunner – which faces Scarp. Allow around an hour at a leisurely pace both ways and, weather permitting, Traigh Mheilen is a top spot for a private picnic.
Now, all of this gushing praise is not to say it’s time to get the rubber ring out. These chilly waters are not for the faint of heart and engaging in proper submersion would require at least a moderate doze of crazy. But as long as only your feet cross that barrier, I doubt finer beaches exist. The only other places in Scotland that have come close for me are to be found at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides. They get a mention in my things to do on the Isle of Barra blog post. While Scotland’s beaches are obviously best enjoyed under glorious summer sunshine, there is something mesmerising about planting yourself in the sand on a gloomy day and attempting to fathom how you have miles and miles of this stuff all to yourself.
You can listen to me rambling on further with affection about the beauty of the Isle of Harris on my Radio Scotland broadcast. Just click play below.