One of the many things that the Outer Hebrides are famed for (apart from being remote and producing a lot of tweed) is the outstanding quality of their beaches. Despite the (very) northern location, there’s more than a little hint of the tropics in the acres of fine white sand and turquoise waters. On days when the sun is shining, the beaches really are astonishingly beautiful and, best of all, you’ll generally find that you have them all to yourself. We saw too many to count when we were there, but I thought I’d pick out three that became firm favourites.
*A toilet with a view*
Okay, so this is one E.M. Forster didn’t think to write a book about, but that’s his loss as Hushinish on the Isle of Harris really is a gorgeous place. On the downside, it’s a bit of a trek to get there as it’s right at the end of a long stretch (over ten miles) of single track road with a steep gradient towards the end. Try not to let that put you off, though, as there are numerous passing places and local drivers are very generous about pulling in and allowing visitors past. Once there, you will find you can park right next to a smallish beach with panoramic views which is well situated to make the most of the sunshine when it finally appears. On the day we visited we were all alone apart from a farmer’s collie dog. If you’re in the mood to be a bit flamboyant, the public toilets that overlook the beach are reported to have one of the best views in the UK, but you’ll have to be brave enough to perform your business with the door wide open. On the plus side, you’re unlikely to get caught as there are only 3 or 4 houses here; on the downside that means there’s nowhere to buy an ice cream.
*Impossible to pronounce, but lovely nonetheless*
On our way back from Port Nis on the Isle of Lewis, we spotted signs for Eoropaidh beach and decided to investigate and I’m very glad we did as it’s another glorious beach. It’s not quite as accessible as Hushinish – the car park is perhaps quarter of a mile from the beach – but the walk to get there is mainly over level ground and the majority should manage it easily. The sand here is more golden than white and the sea isn’t quite as azure, but even on a mildly breezy day the surf whips up and crashes on the shore in a terribly impressive ways. There are nice views across the bay to settlements up on the hills and it’s an excellent beach for walking or playing with children on as the sand is uniformly flat and firm.
*Its name sounds like the title of a Mervyn Peake novel*
But Horgabost beach is a much less Gothic affair than Gormenghast, which is what the name reminds me of. Anyway, this is a beach we found when out visiting St Clement’s church at Rodel. This quickly became my favourite beach because we always had it all to ourselves. There is a camping and caravan site there, but at the end of October everyone had clearly packed up and headed home, leaving us with the firm white sands, ridiculously cerulean waters and lush views across to Taransay and the mountains of Harris’ interior. By the standards of the local beaches this is quite small but it more than made up for that by the incredible sunsets that seemed to happen every night that we visited. My pictures look photoshopped but I promise they’re not: the sky really did go all those incredible colours.
Please bear in mind that if you ever visit Harris and Lewis this is by no means a comprehensive list of must-see beaches; they’re simply the ones that I really enjoyed. This is a part of the world that has an embarrassment of riches in this regard so it’s well worth getting a map and setting off and exploring for yourself.