When I planned my holidays for the summer, I did not even think for one second to go somewhere else outside of Scotland. However, obviously as in every country, it is now high season when it comes to people having and going on holidays, so I was trying to figure out which place may not be completely crowded.
I have to say I was quite surprised when I went onto the ferry, that then to discover that looooads other people had planned to go to Lewis. And that was only the ferry from Ullapool. Wondering how many more came up from Uig on Skye and via plane.
Driving up to Ullapool
But from the beginning :). I made my way up to Ullapool on Tuesday morning. If you drive through without any stops or traffic jams you probably need about 4.5 hours from Edinburgh to Ullapool. But I knew I would stop several times and that it would take me much longer.
My best idea was to stop at Rogie Falls. It’s a waterfall about 20 minutes to drive outside of Inverness on the road to Ullapool. I have been there twice before. Just because it is nice to stop there and have a little break with a wee walk. So I did not really think about anything else than to just sit down and have my lunch down there.
When I was standing on the bridge to cross the waterfall and taking a picture I suddenly noticed something jumping out of the water. I was pretty perplex to be honest as I had not expected anything to happen. I waited and stared at the water. Several more salmons started to jumped out and back into the water! It was amazing to witness. And they were huge. Like you can really see them very clearly. I could not stop taking pics and videos. So I stayed much longer than planned.
I arrived in Ullapool in the late afternoon but I could only check in at 5pm so wondered around the city in the sun. It was actually really warm on the whole drive up already.
My Air B&B was very central, right at a big Tesco and only a few minutes to walk to the seaside and harbour area. I had a king size bed and a lovely cosy room. The bathroom was in the hall but I had it for myself. Before I went out again I had to take a little nap from the drive up. I then walked down to the harbour, got a chippy and just sat on a bench watching the boats and people around. I did get pestered a lot by midges again of course…
I then went back to the B&B and just chilled to later walk out again for the sunset. It was cracking! But I could not just sit on a bench and watch as there were midges all over. Like it was just not possible to sit and relax. I could not even stand for a few minutes – I had to move around all the time, walking up and down the road. It was worth it tho.
1st day at Lewis and Harris
The next morning when I was due to go to the ferry it poured down like hell. Like literally buckets of water coming down. The water was standing about 3 cm on the roads. Not joking. It was proper flooded. I only had my sneakers on as obviously it was warm and dry the night before. My car was right next to the house but my feet were completely soaked when I got into the car. I drove down to the harbour with wet feet and then changed into my wellies.
As said I was pretty surprised how busy the ferry was. The journey to Stornoway took 2.5h and it cleared up when we left towards the open see. I already saw a couple of Dolphins then but had no chance to record them or take a pic. I also did not get that you could go outside on the deck… Which really guts me now. But well, I know it for next time now 😉
It was pretty cloudy again when we arrived in Stornoway. I drove up to my Air B&B which was only a few minutes drive from the harbour. I checked myself in as the host was away working. After resting I took a walk around Stornoway and had a toastie and coffee. I don’t know if it was because of the grey weather but I was not a big fan of the town. Like compared to Oban or Portree it all looked kind of sad. This is also why I basically did not take any pictures of Stornoway.
When I got back it was already quite late in the afternoon but I decided to already have a look around by car. I drove down towards the Callanish stones but drove past and went for dinner in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. On the way back I then stopped at the stones. They are pretty impressive and as it was quite late not many people were around.
On my way back I also drove a bit further North of Stornoway and stopped at a beach there just to spend some time. It was just nice and quite and peaceful there.
2nd day on Lewis and Harris
The next day was actually the 1st proper day on Lewis and Harris. I drove down until I ended up in Leverburgh just to get an idea of the island. Then I drove back up and stopped at Seilebost Beach for a break and enjoying the beautiful white sands and clear waters. I then made my way up to Tarbert to have a coffee and to also get a bottle of Harris Gin. Just because I love that bottle 😀 I will probably never open it tho.
When I sat down I chatted to a Swiss couple who did a 6 weeks tour trough Scotland ending it in Edinburgh for the Fringe. I was proper jealous… 6 weeks to only travel around!
I also then wanted to see Lyskentyre beach but I did not get a parking space – too many cars and especially caravans. Honestly I hate caravans… They are everywhere and take up so much space. Also on the single track roads. It’s just annoying. So yes, I did not see Lyskentyre 😦 But there is always a next time.
Instead I drove to Huisinis Beach. Very good decision. The drive there was a bit of an adventure tho. Narrow roads, lots of curves and blind summits. And sheep on the road. The beach was very nice and I wish I could have stayed longer.
I was pretty undecided what to do with the rest of the day when I drove back. Due to my awful planning for this trip. I stopped at one of the Lochs and it was finally wind still. And I love how the sky reflects on the water of the Lochs then.
Then I drove back to Stornoway to have dinner but then went down to the Callanish Stones again as I wanted to see the sunset. However, to see a sunset that far North in summer you have to wait until past 11pm actually. It was only about 9pm when I arrived there. But still the sky looked amazing. It was all pink and violet with greatly shaped clouds. It just looked unreal. Generally the light and the blue of the sky on the islands are absolutely amazing. Like not from this world.
I also stopped at the smaller Callanish stones which are in the middle of a sheep field along the road. So I had to walk through the field and was again almost eaten alive by midges. But it was so worth it as no one else was there and the sky got darker now and even more colourful.
On my drive back to Stornoway I could see the fiery sunset at the horizon next to me which looked fantastic in the violet clouds around it. But I was too far away do take a decent pic with my mobile phone only.
3rd day on Lewis and Harris
On my last day on the Outer Hebrides I drove down to Uig in North Harris and spend quite some time and the enormous white beach at Uig sands. When I went towards the water the tide was about to come in and this happened incredibly fast. So I think people need to be very careful when they are out there. The beach is huge and you have to walk a few metres to actually get to the water. However it is beautiful and you can only envy people living right next to it.
From there I wanted to go to Mangersta to see the sea stacks but ended up at a beach again. I had it for myself for at least half an hour. I almost felt like I was on a lonely island. You could watch the sea getting rougher tho the windier and cloudier it got. The waves got pretty high too. I also went up to the cliff to have a look around. Jesus… the wind almost blew me over the edge! And it was a high edge.
Looking at google maps now I would only have needed to keep driving the road I was on a bit further down…
I don’t know but this time I was really not well planned on my trip. Normally I know exactly where I want to go and how to get there. But this trip was really chaotic for how I would have normally done it. It was still very nice and I got to see a lot but I am now a bit sad I did not see everything I could have just because I wasted the time driving up and down not knowing where I was going. Especially since I only had 2 days really. I know there is always a next time but it will take a few months until I can head out there again.
I thought of doing some island hopping next year in spring. Going from Mull to Skye, from Skye to North Uist and then to Lewis and Harris. I would probably need to take 2 weeks holidays then tho. But this is like my current plan for next year now :).
It was already quite late in the afternoon when I left Mangersta. I made my way back towards Stornoway but you actually almost pass the Callanish stones then so I stopped there AGAIN. This time it was really busy as it was still early for the day and super sunny with blue sky and really warm. I noticed myself getting super frustrated with all these people around. I know I’m a tourist myself but honestly sometimes people are just so annoying when they visit places. Like one woman was literally walking from stone to stone to touch each one of it. And you can see there are quite a few stones. Like why?
I did not stay long this time but drove further on and ended up at the Shawbost Mill by accident really. But it was so cute and I stayed for a bit just sitting there by the little river. On the drive back I also briefly stopped at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village – little historic cottages by the sea. One of it is now actually a hostel. But to enter it and the museum it was already too late and it was closed so I could only take a pic from the hill above.
I had dinner in the hotel along the road again which is just more peaceful then the pubs in Stornoway. As I had to get up super early the next morning to get the ferry back to Ullapool I did not stay very long but headed back to get an early night. Of course it was after 10pm until I finally fell asleep. And it was not really a deep sleep because I was so nervous to oversleep.
I arrived way too early at the ferry terminal then. The barrier for the check-in was not even open. I was so tired I was actually really afraid of the long drive down to Edinburgh. When I was finally on the ferry I had a little nap in one of the seats in the observatory area.
Not too long tho as I wanted to see dolphins again and have a breakfast before we arrived at Ullapool. The ferry was super busy again and I actually had to queue and then sit with an elderly couple to have breakfast.
When we got of the ferry in Ullapool it was all grey and rainy and I almost lost my patience when I got stuck behind all the caravans again coming from the ferry driving towards Inverness as well. I was close to stop at one of the parking slots along the road and have a nap before I kept driving but decided against as all I wanted was to get home as soon as possible.
I got stuck in traffic jam coming into Inverness and again before crossing the Forth Bridge to South Queensferry. In total I was only at home after 6.5h after leaving the ferry and I was just shattered. This was one of the most tiring drives I have ever done. Just because of the lack of sleep. Next time I would definitely stay the night again before making a long drive. I personally think it is actually quite dangerous as well. Especially when it’s rainy and you have to concentrate so hard on the road.
As written above I definitely want to go again but better planned 😉