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Help structuring our day

Bristol, United...
2 posts
Help structuring our day

Hello and sorry in advance for long post:

We are due to visit the islands at end of June and want to have a rough structure so as to make the most of our time but relaxed enough to stumble across hidden gems. We start with flight to Barra. The idea of our trip is for my OH’s big birthday and it incorporates everything he enjoys and to purchase a mans Harris Tweed Jkt!

So, the question for this post is for our time in Harris&Lewis. Realistically we have 2 full days plus part of a day. One of these days is a Sunday. Here’s a brief outline.

Friday ferry arrival Leverburgh 15:30 - accom Tarbert

Saturday - early bus to Stornoway to collect hire car - tour Lewis

Sunday - eagle observatory/beaches

Monday - south Harris - ferry at 16:00 to Skye (car will be collected from Tarbert)

Bearing in mind we would have to book tours, which is somewhat restrictive. Is the following doable without too much stress and actually worth doing (I realise that’s a bit subjective but opinions welcomed, there may be alternatives we don’t know about )

Saturday - after car collection:

Stornoway to Carloway Mill tour > Callanish Stones > Uig bay > Abhainn Dearg Distillery tour (open til 4pm).

Thank you

27 replies to this topic
Manchester, United...
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1. Re: Help structuring our day

Hi JA - welcome to the forum!

Lewis/ Harris is a big island and a weekend is not really long enough to cover it.

One problem is that the eagle observatory is at Meavaig, not far from Tarbert on Harris. So if you go there from Stornoway on the Sunday you'll be doubling back on yourself a long way. Better by far to drop by there on the Monday morning on your way to Tarbert.

Squeezing in the distillery and Carloway Mill and Callanish before 4 pm on Saturday feels like a bit too much of a rush to me. You might need to chosse between the whisky and the Harris Tweed!

Seeing that you have arranged to drop off your hire car at Tarbert, maybe you can pick it up there as well?

Edited: May 12, 2021, 7:02 pm
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2. Re: Help structuring our day

Am I missing something - I'm not quite sure how the flight to Barra fits in to this timetable- or is that happening before youy arrive at Leverburgh on the Friday?

I assume you are planning on catching the 7.35 bus from Tarbert on the Saturday morning which will get you to Stornoway by 8.38? Allowing time to pick up the hire car, you should be at Carlow Mill by 10.30 latest. I don't know how long the mill tour will take or buying a tweed jacket (assuming you are planning to buy the tweed jacket there?)

Depending on time you finish at the mill, you may want to head to Abhainn Dearg Distillery next for the tour. The website says they are open until 4pm but that may mean the last tour is at 3pm.

Callanish can be done on the way back to Tarbert as it is only a very short detour. The site is freely accessible at all times. In June the visitor centre is open until 8pm.

Outer Hebrides...
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3. Re: Help structuring our day


It's definitely all doable. Not sure what Abhainn Dearg your will be. Abhainn Dearg is a relatively new and pretty small distillery. If you've been on a distillery tour on mainland Scorland then I would definitely expect a more real and authentic experience! I would do this first before Uig bay beach and i can recommended booking a table at Uig Sands restaurant. Beautiful food with fantastic views.

Perhaps just explore Lewis on the Saturday and Sunday and leave early on the Monday for Harris? So much more in Lewis and plenty restaurants open in Stornoway on a Sunday.

An additional or alternative distillery tour could be done in Tarbert. Isle of Harris distillery is great and it's across the road from a fantastic Harris Tweed Shop.

Edited: May 13, 2021, 12:00 am
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4. Re: Help structuring our day

It’s all a bit rushed but do-able. I’d second the tour at the Harris Distillery. I really enjoyed it. They have a great wee cafe but I’m not sure if they’ll be open by the time you go. It wasn’t when we were there a couple of weeks ago.

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5. Re: Help structuring our day

Thanks to everyone for your comments that I have taken on board , as well as studying the road map, I am a lot clearer now.

Mentioning Barra is a red herring, that’s where we start our journey but it’s irrelevant to this question - it’s just my muddled head!

We will change the collection point for car hire to Tarbert, where our accommodation is booked then head straight to The Mill first thing. From there will drive towards Abhainn Dearg distillery for their last tour of the day, fitting in what we can in between. Callanish can be done on way back.

Will then visit Stornoway later in the day on Sunday after going to the eagle observatory in Harris.

I think this seems doable without too much rush.....

Thanks everyone for your help .

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323 posts
6. Re: Help structuring our day

I used Car Hire Hebrides in Stornoway who were excellent. I think they charge an extra £75+VAT (£90) for pick up or drop off at Tarbert.

72 hours is a reasonable amount of time.

The Eagle observatory is about 30 minute drive from Tarbert, then maybe 30-40 minutes walk, then whatever time you want to spent in the observatory. I didn't see and eagle there (and I slept over night !) and I'm not sure you are any more likely to see an eagle there than anywhere else. It's a lovely road to have a drive down though, and in fact well worth going all the way to the end to Hushinish. I saw deer (twice), long haired cattle standing in the middle of the road, plus there's a castle and a waterfall, and all sorts of other interesting little things, plus spectacular views. I'd be tempted to just do the drive and forget the observatory, but if you're up for a little walk, then no harm in adding it on and turning a 2 hour drive into a 4 hour excursion.

A 'must' on Harris is a drive down the west coast, stopping for views and also walks at Luskentyre and at least one other beach (maybe allow 2 hours from Tarbert to the south west corner including stops). If you're going by bus from Leverburgh to Tarbert, then you'll see some of this on the way no doubt, but it's not the same as doing it in your own time and taking a closer look.

For me the highlight of Harris and Lewis, is the walk from Northton in the south west corner, out to the temple. Again, allow a good 2 hours. Not to be missed.

If you add that lot up then that's probably close to a (very) full day.

On Lewis, the drive out to Uig is an interesting one as well, and can take in the Callandish standing stones, plus various other points of interest on route. Harris the highlight though.

Then plenty of time to go to the distillery etc on top of that. Stornoway's not a bad old place for a short wander and some fish and chips, if you're taking the car back (in which case you'll need to get the bus back to Tarbert for the trip over to Uig).

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7. Re: Help structuring our day


Rob - I appreciate your very detailed description for Harris, really enjoyed reading that, thank you.

We have now changed our car hire collection/pick up in Tarbert , where we will be staying, which we thought allows a little more flexibility for our short time we will be there. Our main point is that one of our days is a Sunday, and bearing in mind we want to buy a Harris Tweed Jacket whilst there, how on earth we should schedule our time to fit it all in.

This is a 60th birthday trip for my partner that has all the elements that he enjoys - culture, nature, scenery, wildlife and whisky! We are starting with flight to Barra then have 3 days in the Uists, onto Harris, Isle of Skye and then finish in Oban. All without our own transport! So, as you can imagine, I have a heap of paperwork and time planning is quite important, although I am trying not to be too stringent so we get some ‘down time’ that will include some walks.

Obviously it has been touch and go whether we could travel at all, and we are well aware it still is, and quite nervous about it to be honest. I am thinking positive that all the cogs will turn seamlessly as one ferry cancellation will cause us a right conundrum! If we can pull this off it will be a fantastic, memorable once in a life time trip - isn’t that what life is all about!

I think we will pack a picnic and do all the things you suggest in Harris on Sunday, perhaps play it by ear regarding the observatory now knowing its quite a walk there and doesn’t guarantee a sighting. We have boat trips booked etc so hopefully will see eagles somewhere along our route.

Thanks again.

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8. Re: Help structuring our day

No probs OP.

Sorry, it would have helped if I'd read your post properly !!

Yeah, Harris is the toughest place to be on a Sunday. Pretty much nothing open I believe. Hopefully you'll be able to get breakfast and dinner at your accommodation though, in which case it's not going to be a major issue. Just stock up on a snack for lunch on the friday (at the shop on Berneray) or Saturday (at one of the shops in Tarbert, or the excellent supermarket just outside Leverburgh).

From what I can see, your problem is likely to be the opening hours of the distillery and carloway mill (which I bet would be awesome). According to their website, the distillery is closed on Saturdays, so you would have to do that in the 11am-1pm slot on Monday. I can't find the mill opening hours, but in any case, you're probably not going to want to go up to that part of Lewis twice. I suggest you contact them now to find out their opening hours. If they're open at 9am on Monday then you might be able to fit that in before the distillery, and then have time (via a quick look at the standing stones) to get the car back to Tarbert. The other option if the Mill is open on a Saturday would be to go up there on Saturday and write the distillery off for another time. Uig sands isn't worth breaking your backs for, particularly seeing as you'll have seen Harris.

So that give 3 possibilities (if the Mill is open on a Saturday):

1. An early start on Monday morning and a packed day on Lewis (leaving all of Saturday and Sunday free for Harris).

2. A leisurely trip up to Lewis on the Saturday (but sadly missing the distillery), with Sunday and half of Monday on Harris.

3. A leisurely trip up to Lewis on the Saturday for the mill (if it's open), and another one on Monday for the distillery), leaving all day Sunday on Harris.

I notice that there's a tweed shop in Tarbert that's open on Saturdays.

When you go up to Harris, keep your eyes peeled for that turn off to Callanish. I missed it and ended up going into Stornoway and then driving here there and everywhere trying to find the turn. It's well before Stornoway. It's a decent sized signpost (brown) I think, but don't forget you're looking for it or you'll go straight past. Wouldn't matter if you're going up there on the Saturday, but on the Monday it could screw everything up.

Edited: May 14, 2021, 4:07 pm
Glasgow, United...
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9. Re: Help structuring our day

The shop in Tatbert that sells Tweed jackets/coats etc is excellent with a huge selection.I got my husband his Tweed jacket there 3 years ago.

That said there are also outlets that stock Harris tweed in the mainland cities (if that ends up being an option.)

I agree with Rob about the Eagle Observatory - the walk in is ok but given the other wildly scenic and beautiful walking options, I'd rate it very low .You will also see eagles all over the island if you keep your eyes peeled to skylines. We saw a pair of golden eagles circling way off beyond the Observatory when we were there but I've had much closer sightings elsewhere, even on the actual road OUT to the Hide😀

Also agree re that Northton walk, it's a beauty and really sums up the magic of the Outer Isles.Great spot for a picnic, at the ancient ruined church with the white sand beach and turquoise sea.Often porpoises in that area.

A few photos when we did it last


Uig on Lewis is a brilliant area - we couldn't get booked in the restaurant, too busy but if time allows another fabulous short circular drive (signposted) to make it out to Reef beach.Classic Outer Isles scenery and if anything Reef is perhaps even more of a wow than Uig Sands (which is superb!)

If of interest/use in focusing your short time there, some time ago, I put this collection of photos together of my own 'Best of the Outer Hebrides' based on multiple trips. We go out every year usually basing in North Uist and Harris. This July, Barra and N.Uist.They are magical islands and I hope you get the weather to really see them at their best.


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10. Re: Help structuring our day

On the Uists, I'd recommend a trip to Balranald (and to walk along the shore there) if your timings work with the bus out of Berneray/Lochmaddy.

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