Wanderings around Scotland's West Coast
This post is part of a paid partnership with West Coast Waters to promote the many ways you can immerse your senses around the Scottish west coast
A couple of months ago I was sitting on a bench in the pretty hamlet of Strathcarron, scooping up small mounds of cooling ice-cream dispensed in a tub at the local shop. The Scottish summer was doing what it was supposed to for once. It was warm enough to ditch my jacket (a rare occurrence!) and the azure blue sky was dotted with enough white cotton ball fluffs to stop my pale skin from burning. Gazing across the echo of crumpled brown hills on the still waters of Loch Carron, I mindfully celebrated my first west coast trip of 2021.
This was the start of my summer holidays and my next stop was the Isle of Skye. The last time I had followed this route was back in 2019, before the world was gripped by a pandemic and the freedom to travel was something I took for granted.
In the two years since I last wound my way along Scotland's west coast and over the sea to Skye, much has changed, but as I sat quietly inhaling the salty tang from the loch I also realised how much has remained the same. The timeless landscape of Wester Ross was exactly as I remembered and the feelings it inevitably stirs up in me hadn't disappeared. It all felt familiarly reassuring.
On my last trip here I made a detour to Plockton for an overnight stay before crossing the Skye Bridge. My relationship with Plockton goes way back to the mid-90s, to a time when a Highland policeman named Hamish Macbeth was a regular fixture on tellies around Scotland. The quaint TV village with a breathtaking backdrop was quickly added to my travel list.
Even though I've visited many times since, on my West Coast Waters Campaign in 2019, I got to experience the village and coastal scenery from a whole new perspective. Guided by Alison from Sea Kayak Plockton I absolutely loved every minute of my first sea kayaking adventure, despite being more than a bit apprehensive at the beginning. Rounded off with a seal spotting cruise with legendary local Calum Mackenzie and a locally landed seafood dinner at The Plockton Inn, I don't think my day could have been any better.
OVER THE BRIDGE TO SKYE
However, on this trip I was heading straight to Skye for a unique overnight stay in Boris the Military Pod, a converted army radio repair workshop in Kylerhea on the south east coast of the island. Located within walking distance of the shoreline, I spent the evening sat on the rocks watching bobbing seals in the Kyle Rhea strait, the narrowest point between Skye and the mainland. Sitting by the calming waters of the west coast was quickly becoming a theme for this holiday.
I could also spot the characterful Glenelg Ferry - the short journey from the mainland on the last manually operated turntable ferry in the world is my favourite way to travel to Skye.
All too often, visitors make a beeline for the same cliched sites that seem to appear on every 'must do' Skye list and consider the island ticked off their bucket-list, often within a day!
As someone who has visited Skye many times and stayed in a different area each time, I can tell you there is much more to see and do, I'd even go as far as saying there are some better things to do.
On my last trip I stayed in Waternish and joined Divers Eye Boat Trips on one of their short cruises to the now uninhabited Islay Island. Wandering around the ruins of a long row of waterfront cottages and the laird's house which has a murderous past was a real highlight. I was the only visitor that day and despite being a stone's throw from the rugged and bustling Skye coast, it felt a world away as I stood alone among the remnants of past lives.
From a trip around the Sleat Peninsula to a boat trip to reach the remote Loch Coruisk, there are countless unique and memorable experiences to be had in Skye if you are willing to let go of your FOMO and break away from the crowds.
Last year I spent a week on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. After my trip many people asked me to write a blog post with my recommended attractions that they could refer to for their own trip. However, even after a week, I felt I had only scratched the surface and although I could have easily written a classic '10 things to do' list, I would have been doing the island and my readers a disservice.
I strive for my Scottish travel guides to be among the best out there which means they are well researched and I personally visit every location I write about. There is no point in me churning out another blog post that only features the popular attractions or I wouldn't be giving you anything that hasn't been written about widely already. I want my Scotland travel blog to offer you something fresh, original and comprehensive which also showcases some of the many hidden gems that other guide books and blog posts miss out.
I only write about a place once I feel I have gotten to know it fairly well and have explored beyond the stereotype. Often this involves multiple visits and in this case it took a second trip later in the year for me to feel comfortable enough to write about this captivating island.
Lewis has a long history and a deep culture so to sum it up in a 'top ten' list doesn't do it justice. Although travel blogging is my job, at the heart of what I do is travelling to learn about and understand the destinations I visit on a deeper level. I hope to encourage others to do the same.
While this blog post featuring my recommended things to do on the Isle of Lewis could be used purely as a tick-list, I would suggest it is better used as a starting point for learning about the many aspects that have contributed to moulding the people and the culture of this interesting island in to the place you see today.
TRAVEL TIPS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
From top attractions to hidden gems, activities to try, and places to eat and shop - hopefully you will find something that appeals in my recommendations. They are all tried and tested by me so you are getting the benefit of my personal experience to help you put together your own Isle of Lewis itinerary.
Incidentally, if you are still needing some help to put your Scotland travel itinerary together or would like a local to check your plans are doable, then I offer a range of Scotland itinerary planning services that might be of interest.
Here are a few things to note when planning your trip to Lewis -
Parking at some of the popular attractions is quite limited and those with motor-homes seemed to be struggling to find a big enough space. Arrive first thing if you can is my top tip for the popular places.
Religion is a big part of life on the island and most places close on Sunday, which is a day of rest and worship. This is worth remembering when you plan your itinerary.
Public transport is limited so I do recommend a car to make the most of your time.
You can sail to the Isle of Lewis from Ullapool with CalMac Ferries - you might also like to read my recommended things to do in Ullapool
You can also reach Lewis by sailing from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Harris and driving to Lewis, which is the route I followed on my west coast of Scotland road-trip
I've also marked all of the places mentioned in this handy interactive map to help you plan your itinerary.
A HANDY MAP OF LEWIS WITH ALL THE LOCATIONS MENTIONED
My recommended things to do on the Isle of Lewis
Stroll along the beautiful beaches
While the Isle of Harris may be better known for its breathtakingly beautiful beaches, Lewis's southern neighbour definitely has some competition in the north. In fact the beaches of Harris get so much limelight, the stunning offerings on Lewis tend to get a little overshadowed. I wasn't aware of the plentiful large expanses of pristine sand on the island until I arrived.
On my first trip I stayed in North Tolsta and everyone in my family unanimously agreed that nearby Traigh Mhor was our personal favourite, with the adjacent Tràigh Ghearadha (Garry Beach) also being highly rated. In case you are wondering - tràigh is Gaelic for sandy beach.
On my second trip I stayed in Ness and explored the nearby Eoropie Beach which turned out to be another favourite. Other places I highly rate include Reef Beach, Cliff Beach at Valtos. and Tràigh Uig which is enormous and stunning but a I found it to be a bit busier than the others.
I have no doubt there are many more I have yet to discover but these were a few favourites.
Calanais Standing Stones & Visitor Centre
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