Recently, Jamie was interviewed by Holiday Scottish Highlands and Islands on his very favourite aspects of living on the Isle of Harris. From the silent, crisp beauty of the island in winter, to the best eating spots, have a read of the all his top tips below..
My favourite beach on the whole island is Huisinis. A long winding road leads you out of our village, Bunavoneader, along past Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, and out to the coast.
As you continue to make your way down the road, remember to watch out for the wildlife – I have spotted eagles, stags and other birds of prey as I’ve driven along that road. You’re suddenly met with a small stretch of white sand, with blue/green water lapping the shoreline, this is Huisinis. With resident Highland Coos wandering over the grassy hilltop beside the beach, it provides the ideal setting for a day out with the family. Aaron brings his bucket, spade, diggers (and anything else he can fit in the car), along and we spend hours playing away on the secluded beach – usually not seeing a single other person the whole time.
It was also Huisinis where the Essence of Harris seed was sown; Deenie and I went for walk one quiet Sunday afternoon, and ended up discussing starting a business here on Harris – and the rest is history!
Most special time of year
Although the summer season is usually everyone’s favourite time to come to Harris, it is actually Christmas which I find so special here on the island. There is nothing more peaceful than going for a walk around the island on a crisp, winter’s day.
The weather here is unpredictable at best, but when you are lucky enough to get a dry, snowy and calm day during winter – it is the perfect time to get yourself down to the beach, and clear the cobwebs!
The local fire service deck the village out with Christmas lights and a big tree, and the smell of peat wafts through Tarbert as people cosy up to their fires on the short, cold winter days. There is a calming stillness about the place, and a real sense of community spirit is shown through the local carol services and school pantomimes.
I love the time it gives me with my family, and it provides a much needed contrast from the chaos and craziness that is the summer season!
Things to do on the Isle of Harris – The one thing every tourist should do
If you have a car, or you’re feeling adventurous on your bike, I’d recommend visiting the wonderful cafes and eating spots of Harris. Travelling between each cafe will allow you to see so much of Harris, and will make for the perfect afternoon as you combine brilliant food with amazing scenery.
After visiting the Essence of Harris shop on the Main Street (shameless plug!), the first place on my list is Skoon Art Cafe on the East Coast of Harris. If you head out of Tarbert (you can get to the cafe via The Golden Road, which I would highly recommend), and follow the signs to Geocrab, you will find Skoon tucked away at the bottom of the hill. Surrounded by oil paintings by Andrew John Craig, you can spend hours in the tranquil little cafe eating home-made soups and bread.
Next up is the Machair Kitchen, which is located in Talla Na Mara (the community centre on the West Coast of Harris). The cafe and restaurant overlooks Nisabost beach, where you can go for a post-lunch stroll, in preparation for your next eating spot!
Last but definitely not least, is the Temple Cafe in Northton – a quirky spot which sells delicious home-made quiches, soups and home-baking, and sits on the water’s edge – another view to check off your list! There are plenty of activities to do on the island- but a day full of eating and peaceful walks is definitely something I’d recommend to visitors.
Your best wildlife encounter
My favourite wildlife encounter was dolphin-watching at Eilean Glas lighthouse. The lighthouse is situated on the Isle of Scalpay, around a 20 minute drive from Tarbert. There are two options to reach the lighthouse on Scalpay by foot. One takes around 20 minutes, the other around 3 hours; both are enjoyable, but make sure to check the weather before undertaking the 3 hour route!
Once you reach the red and white striped lighthouse, you feel cut off from the world. You walk into the old grounds and can look out for miles and miles across the Minch – it is the perfect spot for spotting dolphins, whales and seabirds. I was lucky enough to watch as a pod of Common Dolphins swam by, and it was a very special moment.
Favourite road or drive
When it comes to things to do on the Isle of Harris, I have a favourite drive which is the one towards Bunavoneader from Tarbert, my drive home. As you drive out of Tarbert, and past Ardhasaig, you are suddenly met with the breathtaking Harris hills.
Snow-capped in winter, and fantastically green in summer, the ‘V-shaped’ silhouette of the Clisham and its neighbouring hills is never a dull sight to drive towards. The Clisham is the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides (standing at 799m), and the imposing mountain, and the blue waters beneath is a magical sight to drive home to every night.
See you soon!
It's clear that Harris is absolutely filled to the brim with outdoor activities, cafes and wonderful craft spots- it has something for everyone! If you're heading over, we'd love to hear from you- why not pop into the Essence of Harris shop on Tarbert Main Street, a warm Hebridean welcome awaits.
Essence of Harris shop, Tarbert Main Street