Photo Guide for: LEWIS AND HARRIS

I'd been dreaming of photographing Harris and Lewis for years, so I was over the moon when I finally managed to make it happen. I spent two whole weeks exploring these stunning islands, which are part of the Outer Hebrides archipelago.

 

Lewis and Harris are the largest island in Scotland, covering an impressive 2,178 square kilometers. The landscape is a captivating blend of rugged mountains, sweeping coastlines, and tranquil lochs. It's a place where nature reigns supreme, with more sheep than people – there are around 200,000 sheep and only about 21,000 human residents.

 

Lewis boasts a rich history dating back to the Neolithic period, with ancient monuments and ruins scattered across the island. One of the most famous is Callanish Stones, an awe-inspiring circle of standing stones that predate Stonehenge.

 

Harris, on the other hand, is a land of contrasts, with abandoned buildings and charming details that are both decaying and beautiful. It's a place where past and future collide, where vast expanses meet a sense of serenity, and where ruggedness blends with enchantment.

Together they form an island that's full of contradictions, and I loved every minute of it.

 

One of the things I loved most about Lewis and Harris was the peaceful atmosphere and the lack of crowds. I know that tourism is on the rise in Lewis due to the new cruise ship port, but the crowds tend to be concentrated in a few areas. The rest of the island is still relatively quiet and relaxed, with plenty of parking and plenty of opportunities to have the photo spots to yourself, especially if you're out and about early in the morning.

 

Here are the 30 must-visit photo spots for Lewis and Harris (this map provides an overview. You can read the text below for all details about the photo spots, such as where to park and when to shoot).

 

Map created with Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

A poetic love letter for Lewis and Harris. Watch this video to get you in the mood for this weird island!



Reaching Lewis and Harris: A Comprehensive Guide

To reach this island paradise, your adventure begins with a scenic drive and a ferry ride, immersing you in the beauty of the Scottish Highlands from the moment you set out.

 

 

Planning Your Journey:

 

Choosing Your Starting Point: Begin your journey from one of the mainland ports, namely Ullapool or Uig on Skye. Ullapool offers direct ferry connections to Stornoway, the main town on Lewis, while Uig connects you to Tarbert, a village on Harris.

 

Booking Your Ferry: Reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak seasons. Book your ferry tickets well in advance to secure your desired departure times and avoid disappointment.

 

 

Driving to the Ferry Ports:

 

Ullapool Ferry Port: From Edinburgh, follow the A9 north until you reach Inverness. Continue on the A835 towards Ullapool. The journey takes approximately 4.5 hours.

 

Uig Ferry Port: From Edinburgh, follow the M8 west until you reach Glasgow. Take the A82 towards Fort William and then follow the A830 towards Kyle of Lochalsh. From Kyle of Lochalsh, take the Skye Bridge to reach Uig on Skye. The journey takes approximately 6 hours.

 

 

Tips for a Smooth Journey

 

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, consider these helpful tips:

 

  • Book your ferry tickets in advance: Ferry schedules and availability can fluctuate, especially during peak seasons. Booking your tickets in advance will guarantee your spot and avoid any last-minute hiccups.

  • Plan your travel time wisely: Be mindful of ferry departure and arrival times, ensuring ample time for check-in and potential delays. Consider early morning or late afternoon departures to avoid peak travel times.

  • Pack for all types of weather: The weather in the Outer Hebrides can be unpredictable, so pack accordingly. Bring warm clothing, rain gear, and sturdy footwear to navigate the diverse landscapes.

  • Ferry cancellations can occur due to mechanical problems with the ship or harsh weather conditions. If your ferry is cancelled, contact the ferry company immediately for assistance with rebooking or alternative travel arrangements. Stay calm and patient, as the ferry company will do their best to accommodate you.

  • Embark on your journey to Lewis and Harris with a sense of humour, adventure, and flexibility. Things might get wrong. But hey - it's Lewis and Harris, it's part of the experience!

How long do you need to discover Lewis and Harris?

Are you asking yourself how long you need to stay? Well, the answer to that question depends on how deep you want to dive into the island's beauty.

 

For a quick taste of the island's charm, a 3-4 day road trip from Stornoway to the north of Lewis, then down south to Harris, and back would suffice. Along the way, you'll find plenty of stunning viewpoints and photo spots to capture those Instagram-worthy moments.

 

If you're keen on capturing those epic sunrise and sunset shots, or if you want to explore photo spots that require a bit more legwork, I'd recommend dedicating at least a week to Lewis and 3-4 days to Harris. This will give you time to reach those photo spots that require a bit more walking and to enjoy the island's ever-changing weather, which can transform the landscape in a matter of hours.

 

But honestly, the longer you stay, the more you'll discover. Every day on Lewis and Harris is a new adventure, and if you have the time, you could easily fill your days for a month or more. So, pack your bags, embrace the island's unpredictable weather, and let the magic of Lewis and Harris unfold before you.

 


Where to stay in Lewis and Harris?

Most folks tend to base themselves in Stornoway, the largest town on Lewis, and explore from there. It's a convenient option, with restaurants and supermarkets within easy reach. The rest of the island is rather sparse in terms of dining out or grocery shopping.

 

While Stornoway offers convenience, it also means a fair bit of driving, which can be a pain if you're chasing those early sunrises or late sunsets with your camera. The best photo spots in Lewis are in the North and West, which means an hour or more of driving from Stornoway.

 

That's why I personally opted for self-catering accommodation near the Callanish Stones. From there, I could reach the best photo spots in under 30 minutes. I stocked up on food for the week when I arrived by ferry in Stornoway and packed lunches for my daytime explorations, with a light supper in the evenings.

 

When I headed to Harris, I drove back to Stornoway to do groceries for my Harris stay. Be warned: there's NO supermarket on Harris, only small village shops with limited options. I stayed in a traditional Harris cottage for a week near the "Golden Road" in the moonscape-like landscape of South East Harris. It was an absolute gem, and I highly recommend it.

In Tarbert, there's a lovely cafe and even a pizza takeaway, so you won't starve.

 

So, whether you prefer the convenience of Stornoway or the tranquility of self-catering accommodation closer to your desired photo spots, Lewis and Harris have plenty of options to suit every traveler's style. Just remember to plan your grocery shopping accordingly, especially if you're venturing into Harris.


30 Must-Visit Photo Spots in Lewis and Harris

1. Bridge over the Atlantic

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When I first arrived at this photo spot, I was in for a surprise. Instead of the single bridge I'd seen in countless photos, there were two! One was a newer addition, and it hadn't made it into the usual photographer's repertoire yet.

 

Despite the unexpected bridge, the location still held immense promise. The real magic happened when I ventured uphill on the Great Bernera side and framed the two standing stones in the foreground. The juxtaposition of modern and ancient structures, set against the backdrop of the vast Atlantic Ocean, was simply breathtaking.

 

For the most dramatic shots, I recommend aiming for sunrise or capturing the scene on a gloomy day to create an atmospheric mood. The moody skies and the crashing waves will add an extra layer of drama to your photographs.

 

Parking is easy on the Bernera side, where a new car park awaits a few cars. 

 

 

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2. Bosta Beach

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Nestled on the picturesque island of Great Bernera, Bosta Beach offers a wealth of photographic opportunities, from the hauntingly beautiful graveyard to the ancient Iron Age house, all set against the breathtaking backdrop of the uninhabitable islands of Flodaigh and Bearasaigh.

Bosta Beach is steeped in history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Iron Age. The Iron Age house, which is now a scheduled monument, is a reminder of the island's rich past. The large graveyard, with its weathered tombstones, adds to the beach's atmospheric charm.

 

 

The beach is easily accessible from the main road on Great Bernera. Ample parking is available above the beach, where the road ends. From the parking area, you can choose to take the upper path or the lower path to the beach. Opt for the upper path for the best panoramic photos. This vantage point is ideal for capturing the grand scale of the landscape and the interplay between the historical elements and the natural surroundings.

Use the Iron Age house and the large graveyard as foreground elements to add depth and scale to your images.

 

Wear sturdy  and waterproof footwear: The path to the beach can be wet, muddy, and uneven, so wear sturdy footwear for a safe and comfortable walk. 

Allow 40 minutes for the walk: The loop walk takes approximately 40 minutes. Plan your time accordingly, especially if you plan to spend time photographing.

 

The best time to photograph Bosta Beach is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as this avoids the harsh midday backlight.

 

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3. Time and Tide Bell Bosta

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Located on the picturesque island of Great Bernera at Bosta Beach, the Time and Tide Bell is a unique subject for photographers. This evocative sculpture, installed in 2010, resonates with the rhythm of the sea, its clapper struck by the rising and falling tides.

 

The Time and Tide Bell is easily accessible from the main road on Great Bernera. Ample parking is available above the beach, where the road ends. From the parking area, follow the path down to the beach, which takes approximately 10 minutes.

 

The optimal time to photograph the Time and Tide Bell is during mid-tide. At high tide, the bell may be submerged and you have to shoot from a long distance, while at low tide, the surrounding seaweed can detract from its beauty.

The best day time would be early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as this avoids the harsh midday backlight.

  

Employ long exposure photography with an ND filter, a long lens, and a tripod to capture the bell's timeless elegance. The smooth, blurred water will accentuate the sculpture's minimalist form.

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4. Norse Mill and kiln

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The Norse Mill and Kiln, located near Shawbost on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, is a fascinating historical site that provides a glimpse into the region's Norse past. These well-preserved ruins, dating back to the 13th century, offer a unique opportunity for photographers to capture the essence of this bygone era.

The Norse Mill and Kiln represent an important chapter in the history of the Isle of Lewis. These structures were once used to grind grain and dry barley, providing essential resources for the local community. The mill's waterwheel, powered by a nearby stream, speaks to the ingenuity of Norse engineering.

 

Reaching the Norse Mill and Kiln is straightforward. From the main road, simply follow the well-marked path that leads towards the coast. The walk takes about 10-15 minutes.

 

Feel free to explore the mill and kiln's outside and interior, but be mindful of their historical significance and handle the structures with care.

 

The ground around the Norse Mill and Kiln can be wet and muddy, especially after rain (which means - always). Waterproof footwear is essential for a comfortable and safe visit.

Come on an overcast day to capture all details without any harsh contrasts.

 

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5. Ness Post Office

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Ness Post Office stands as a charming and iconic symbol of the village's atmosphere. This quaint postal outpost, with its unassuming metal shed-like structure, exudes a unique blend of simplicity and charm, offering a captivating subject for photographers.

 

Conveniently situated along the main road in Ness, the post office is easily accessible to photographers. Simply pull over and park your car just adjacent to the building, granting you immediate access to this photographic subject.

 

Overcast skies provide an ideal lighting condition for capturing the Ness Post Office. The diffused light eliminates harsh shadows and creates a soft, even illumination that accentuates the post office's rustic charm.

 

While the Ness Post Office is the main attraction, take some time to explore the surrounding village.

 

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6. butt of lewis

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Perched on the rugged northwestern tip of the Isle of Lewis, the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse stands as a beacon of resilience against the relentless forces of nature. Its imposing red brick tower, rising 37 meters above the wild Atlantic Ocean, has guided mariners safely through treacherous waters for over 160 years. This iconic landmark offers a captivating subject for photographers, with its dramatic coastal setting and rich historical significance.

 

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse is easily accessible by car. Follow the main road from Stornoway until you reach the village of Ness. From there, continue on the single-track road towards the lighthouse. Ample parking is available adjacent to the lighthouse visitor center.

 

From the parking lot, take the path behind the lighthouse to reach the second promontory, where you'll find the best vantage points for capturing the lighthouse.

 

The best lighting conditions for photographing the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse are afternoon until sunset.

The Butt of Lewis is known for its strong winds and was once entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the windiest place in the United Kingdom, so exercise caution when standing near the edge of the cliffs.  

 

Respect the Natural Environment: The area around the lighthouse is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, so be respectful of the natural environment. Leave no trace of your visit and avoid disturbing the wildlife.

 

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7. Port stoth

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Port Stoth played a pivotal role in the island's maritime history, serving as a landing point for supplies and a refuge for ships during storms. The ruins of a 19th-century storehouse stands as a testament to the bay's former importance.

 

This picturesque inlet, with its perfectly horseshoe-shaped bay, offers a great photographic opportunity.

 

Port Stoth is conveniently located just off the main road, making it an easy stop for photographers exploring the Isle of Lewis. Roadside parking is ample and readily available, allowing you to park your car and embark on your photographic adventure.

 

Port Stoth is an ideal location for capturing the tranquility of the sea and the smooth movement of the waves. Utilize a tripod and long exposure techniques to create mesmerizing images with a dreamy, ethereal quality.

The lone building perched atop the cliffs adds a unique focal point to the landscape. Use this structure as an anchor for your compositions, creating a sense of balance and harmony with the surrounding natural elements.

 

Explore the various vantage points that Port Stoth offers. From the top of the cliffs, capture panoramic views of the bay and the vast expanse of the ocean. Alternatively, photograph from the road, using the path as a leading line that draws the viewer's eye towards the bay.


Recommended time is late afternoon and sunset.

 

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8. garry beach

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Garry Beach is a photographer's dream come true. This idyllic expanse of white sand, adorned with dramatic sea stacks and hidden caves, offers a stunning backdrop for captivating images.

The beach's name, Garry, is derived from the Norse word "gjá," meaning gorge, a testament to the area's Viking heritage.

 

 

The key to capturing the essence of Garry Beach lies in understanding the rhythm of the tides. During low tide, the sea stacks stand majestically on the exposed sand, their grandeur diminished without the crashing waves as their backdrop. Conversely, at high tide, the water surges towards the shore, engulfing the photo spot behind the stacks and rendering it inaccessible.

The optimal time to capture the stacks in all their glory is during the two hours before and after high tide. This delicate balance allows you to photograph the stacks with the captivating interplay of water and stone, while still maintaining access to the photo spot. If you're fortunate enough to witness this synchronicity during sunset, the scene will be transformed into a masterpiece of light and shadow.

 

Low tide unveils a hidden treasure: the Garry Beach caves.
When the tide renders photography from the beach impossible, don't despair. Ascend the cliffs that overlook the beach and discover a new perspective. From this elevated vantage point, the stacks and the surrounding landscape unfold in a panoramic vista.

 

Parking is easy at Garry Beach, with a car park conveniently located just a short walk away. From there, it's a leisurely 10-15 minute stroll to the beach.

 

Take your ND filters and your tripod with you!

 

Photographers should exercise caution and be mindful of the tides, ensuring they remain safe and avoid being caught by the rising waters!

 

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9 . Loch Bhaltois

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Loch Bhaltois is a stunningly beautiful loch on the Isle of Lewis, and the boathouse is a must-see for any photographer visiting the area. The boathouse is a picturesque little building nestled on the edge of the loch, and it makes for a great subject for photos. The surrounding scenery in the background is just as beautiful, and you're sure to get some amazing shots of the loch, the mountains, and the boathouse.

 

Pull over at the lay-by along the main road, where you can park a couple of cars. From there, it's a quick two-minute stroll down the path towards the loch.

 

Experiment with different viewpoints to capture the boathouse in all its glory. From the hilltop, you'll gain a sense of separation between the boathouse and the majestic mountains that tower behind it. Venture closer to the loch's shore and witness the boathouse standing proudly against the backdrop of the mountains.

 

On a windless day, try using an ND filter and a long exposure to smooth out the water's surface, creating a serene and picturesque scene.

 

Morning is the ideal time to photograph the boathouse, as the soft morning light casts a warm glow upon its weathered exterior. If you're fortunate and the skies are clear, you will be able to capture the mountain peaks peeking out in the distance. But don't fret if the weather is gloomy; a bleak day can produce equally captivating shots, lending a mysterious and moody atmosphere to your photographs.

The boathouse is still in use and private property, so pleace be mindful and respectful.

 

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10. Arivruaich

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If you're a fan of abandoned places, this house near Arivruaich is sure to pique your interest.

 

You might be able to find roadside parking along the main road. If not, I've linked the more official car park at the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument, just a few hundred feet from the lost place.

 

Remember, even though this property is abandoned, it's still private. Please shoot with discretion and avoid taking photos if you notice any signs of renovation or activity. When I visited, the place was completely deserted, and I was the only soul around.

 

Proceed with caution if you decide to enter the house. The floors and ceilings are unstable, so it's best to stick to photographing through the windows.
The most stunning shots can be captured by approaching the building from a distance, framing it against the picturesque backdrop of the loch and mountains.

 

It's a prime location for an elegant house, and one can't help but wonder why it's been abandoned and left to decay.

 

A stormy, gloomy day would perfectly complement the somber atmosphere of this lost place. I was "unlucky" enough to visit on a beautiful day, so I had to make do with the sunny conditions.

 

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11. St Columba's Church

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St Columba's Church on the Isle of Lewis is one of the few round churches still standing in Scotland. It's a fascinating piece of history, and it's well worth a visit if you're in the area. St Columba's Church is a beautiful and atmospheric place, and it's a great spot to take photos. The views of the surrounding countryside are stunning, too.

 

Along the main road, you'll find a convenient car park that can accommodate several vehicles. From there, follow the path leading towards the church. On your left, you'll spot the Aiginis Farm Raiders' Monument, which might also be worth capturing in your photographs.

 

Within a leisurely five-minute stroll, you'll arrive at the church, making it an easily accessible photo spot.

 

For the best illumination, aim to visit during the day when the sun casts its glow upon the church's structure. If you're keen on capturing the vibrant hues of the sky and silhouette the gravestones and church, then consider visiting in the morning or evening, positioning yourself so that you're shooting towards the sun.

 

The surrounding grounds feature a collection of weathered ancient gravestones and pathways that can serve as effective leading lines in your foreground composition.

 

However, remember that this is a place of worship, so treat it with respect and be mindful of your surroundings during your photography session.

 

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12. Mangersta sea stacks

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To the west of Lewis you’ll find the magnificent Mangersta Sea Stacks. They tower from the sea - sharp, stoic and sort of scary. Imposing and awe inspiring, all at the same time.

These rock formations are believed to have been created over 165 million years ago, during the Jurassic period.

Legend has it that these towering pillars were once giants, transformed into stone by an angry sorceress.

 

Parking at this spot can be tricky, as it's limited to roadside parking along a single-track lane. Please park your car considerately, choosing a spot with grass and ensuring your vehicle is completely off the road to allow others to pass safely. Do not, under any circumstances, obstruct passing points, as there are many campervans on the road, and you could create a traffic hazard.

 

Once you've found a safe parking spot, head towards the cliff edge. Be mindful that there is no marked path, and the terrain is wet and boggy, so wear wellies or other waterproof footwear. Tread cautiously and watch your footing.

 

After a 10-15 minute walk, you'll reach the cliff edge. Venture towards the promontory to find the best vantage point for capturing the stacks and the cliffs behind them.

 

If you're blessed with good weather, sunset is the prime time to visit. The setting sun will paint the cliffs and stacks in hues of pink, orange, and red, creating a breathtaking spectacle. If conditions are calm, consider trying some long exposures to capture the smooth, dreamy movement of the waves.

 

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13. Callanish Stones

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The Callanish Stone Circle is one of the most iconic landmarks on the Isle of Lewis, and for good reason. This ancient monument is believed to have been constructed over 5,000 years ago, making it even older than the famous Stonehenge in England. The circle consists of a central monolith surrounded by a ring of standing stones, and it is thought to have been used for religious and ceremonial purposes.

 

When I visited the stones, access was easy and free. I parked at a small gate near the stones and could enter through a gate at any time of the day or night. However, I've read that they're considering making access available only through the visitor's center, so it's advisable to double-check the current arrangements before your visit.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed having the freedom to roam among the stones and explore various viewpoints. However, be aware that it's a popular spot. To capture shots without too many people in the frame, I stayed until midnight. It was June, and the sun set late, so many photographers were eager to capture this moment.

 

Even at 5 am, you'll encounter people. Be patient and respectful, allowing others to take their shots and wait for your turn.

 

I wonder if access for sunrise and sunset will remain unrestricted or if it will become like Stonehenge, with controlled access, expensive entrance fees, and limited opening times. I hope not, as this sense of freedom made it such a special place.

 

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14. Stac a’ Phris Arch

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Stac a’ Phris Arch is a natural wonder located on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. This stunning arch, carved by the relentless force of the Atlantic Ocean, stands as a testament to the power and beauty of nature. The arch is a popular spot for photographers and hikers, and it's easy to see why. The views from the arch are simply breathtaking.

 

Parking can be a bit of a pain here. If you're lucky, you might bag a space in a lay-by off a side road. Check the parking link above for more info. Otherwise, you'll need to park at Shawbost Beach and walk back accordingly.

 

From the lay-by, take the path heading northwest. Soon, the main path will vanish to your left. Keep going straight towards the cliffs, and and then to the left. The coast path is marked with poles here and there, so you won't get completely lost in this vast, moonscape-like landscape.

 

After a 30-minute hike, you'll reach the arch. Now, a serious warning: don't even think about going near the viewpoint at the edge when it's stormy. And check every single step to make sure the rocks are stable and solid, not crumbling. Below you is a sheer drop, and at the bottom, very rough waves crash against the rocks. No photo is worth taking such a high risk.

 

However, if the weather's playing ball, you're not afraid of heights, and you're sensible about not exposing yourself to unnecessary risks, this photo spot is the bee's knees for any seascape photographer!

 

There are two main viewpoints. One involves clambering up the rocks opposite the stacks, and the other is further uphill, offering a more side-on view of the arch.

 

Bring a tripod and ND filters. As the sea is often rough, very long exposure of 20 seconds or more could work, but I personally prefer shots with 1-2 seconds to capture the textured movement of the waves.

 

Sunset can paint the sky with gorgeous colours. However, I would only recommend heading back to the car in the dark if you're familiar with the location. Take at least one daytime shot to get to grips with the cliffs and safe standing spots.

 

Sturdy shoes are essential for the hike along the cliffs.

 

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15. Gearrannan Blackhouse Village

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Step back in time at Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a cluster of traditional cottages that once housed crofting families on the Isle of Lewis. These charming stone dwellings, with their thick walls and thatched roofs, offer a glimpse into the region's rich heritage.

Today, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village has been lovingly restored, offering visitors a chance to experience the authentic charm of Hebridean life. Some of the cottages have been converted into holiday accommodation.

 

Just in front of the open-air museum's entrance, there's a convenient car park where you can leave your vehicle. To enter the museum, you'll need to pay an entrance fee. Be sure to check the opening hours before your visit. If you're not staying in one of the cottages, your photography is limited to daytime hours.

 

Take a leisurely stroll around the quaint village, capturing the charming details of the old houses and their thatched roofs.
For a shot of the village as a cluster of houses, with the path serving as a leading line, head uphill to the right just as you enter the village.

 

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16. Dun Carloway Broch

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Journey back in time to Dun Carloway Broch, an Iron Age marvel perched on a hill overlooking the Isle of Lewis's rugged coastline. This remarkable structure, dating back to the 1st-2nd centuries BC, is one of the best-preserved brochs in Scotland.

 

The iconic silhouette of Dun Carloway Broch, with its peak rising majestically against the backdrop of the landscape, makes it an ideal photography spot. It strikes the perfect balance between ruins, adding a touch of charm, and preservation, allowing for clear and captivating images.

 

Feel free to explore the broch at your own pace, venturing inside and climbing the stone steps that lead up the tower. You'll uncover some fascinating details along the way.

For a more panoramic perspective, ascend the hill to the right before reaching the broch. You'll be rewarded with stunning views of the sea, mountains, islets, and the broch nestled amidst this picturesque panorama.

 

The car park is conveniently located below the broch, just off the road. A gentle uphill walk of about 10 minutes will bring you to the viewpoint, making it an accessible walk.

Shooting time is really any time.

 

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17. Shielings

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Scattered across the rolling hills and rugged coastline of the Isle of Lewis, shielings were once a vital part of the island's crofting life. These simple huts served as summer pastures for families, who would migrate from their permanent dwellings to their turf fields or with their livestock.


The easiest shielings to access are located along the A858 on the Isle of Lewis. You'll find plenty of them easily visible from the road, without the need to trek through unpredictable boggy fields. Some of these shielings have been renovated with colorful materials and serve as weekend retreats, while others remain in ruins, adding a touch of typical Lewis charm.

 

I've marked the location of the first shieling in the link above. Continue driving along the A858 towards Achadh Mòr, and you'll encounter many more.

 

Parking is available near the shielings along the roadside. Since it's a single-track road, be mindful not to obstruct the through-traffic.

 

Spend some time exploring the shielings with your camera, experimenting with different foreground elements, such as old tools, wildflowers, or paths leading towards the structures.

 

A bleak and rainy day is ideal for capturing the essence of these shielings. The stark landscape and muted colors will enhance the rustic atmosphere.

 

As you explore the shielings, remember that these structures are privately owned. While it's generally acceptable to walk around the exterior, refrain from entering the shielings, touching any objects, or taking anything with you. Maintain a respectful distance, comparable to the size of a front garden. 

 

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18. Scalpay Bridge

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Spanning the waters of the Sound of Harris, the Scalpay Bridge stands as a remarkable feat of engineering, connecting the Isle of Scalpay to the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Prior to the bridge's construction in 1997, residents of Scalpay relied on a sporadic ferry service, often disrupted by harsh weather conditions. The Scalpay Bridge brought a sense of liberation and convenience to the islanders, easing their daily commute and facilitating the exchange of goods and services.

The bridge's sleek, graceful design complements the natural beauty of its surroundings, becoming an iconic landmark on the Hebridean landscape.

 

Once you reach the bridge, still on the Isle of Harris side, pull over into a small lay-by on the right, just before the bridge begins. You can park your car there for a short time and walk down the dirt road to the left of the bridge.

 

From down there, you'll get a stunning view of the bridge's vast span, towering majestically above you. Use the dirt road as a leading line to guide the viewer's eye into the scene.

 

A wide-angle lens is ideal for capturing the bridge's grandeur and fitting a large portion of its structure into your frame.

 

Cloudy days or night shots can create dramatic effects, emphasizing the bridge's imposing presence against the backdrop of the sky or darkness. Black and white photography can also add a timeless touch to your images, highlighting the bridge's architectural details and geometric beauty.

 

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19. Stockinish

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Nestled amidst the rugged beauty of the Isle of Harris, the village of Stockinish exudes a captivating charm, steeped in history and steeped in traditional Hebridean life. The village has a picturesque harbour, where colourful fishing boats bob gently in the waves, adding a touch of vibrancy to the rugged coastline. Stockinish's quaint cottages, with their whitewashed walls and thatched roofs, line the narrow streets, creating a captivating ambiance.


Upon arriving in Stockinish, head straight to the harbour. Ample parking is on hand to allow you to explore the area. From the harbour, you'll get some captivating views of the sheltered bay, where colourful fishing boats gently bob amidst the backdrop of a traditional white cottage.

 

This picturesque scene is an ideal all-day-long shot and a perfect stop-off while embarking on the Golden Road Tour in the Isle of Lewis.

 

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20. golden road

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Winding its way along the eastern coast of the Isle of Harris, the Golden Road, aptly named for its sun-drenched stretches (or for the money the construction had cost, who knows...), is a captivating scenic route that reveals the island's beauty.

This narrow, single-track road, known for its twists and turns, offers breathtaking vistas of the moonscape-like coastline.

As you navigate the Golden Road, keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of wildlife, including seals basking on the rocks and seabirds soaring overhead. The road also passes through charming villages, offering opportunities to immerse yourself in the authentic Hebridean way of life.

 

I've marked just one of the countless photo opportunities along the Golden Road. This particular shot aims to capture the lunar-like landscape with the road winding its way through lochs, bays, and lava fields. The desolate beauty of this landscape even inspired Stanley Kubrick for his film Space Odyssey.

 

If you're only pausing for a short while and don't plan to venture far from your car, you can usually find roadside parking, just ensure you don't obstruct the flow of traffic.

 

The Golden Road is particularly captivating on a gloomy day, accentuating the starkness of the lava landscape.

 

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21. Lost place isle of scalpay

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Photographers with a penchant for lost places will find a hidden gem on the Isle of Scalpay. This abandoned house's appearance is ever-changing, as evidenced by photos taken by other photographers over the years. When I visited in 2023, the interior had collapsed, the floorboards were rotten, and the remaining tins on the shelves were rusted. Despite its decay, it remains a captivating subject to explore.

 

Venture uphill behind the house, and you'll discover a completely different perspective, almost as if it's a separate house. From this vantage point, capture a panoramic shot with the seascape as a stunning backdrop. Alternatively, from the road, the small windswept tree, standing forlornly beside the house, adds to the atmosphere of decay.

 

If you're just making a quick stop for a photo, it's perfectly fine to park your car along the roadside, as long as you don't obstruct the flow of traffic.

 

This location is particularly captivating on a rainy, gloomy day. The Hebrides are not the islands to lounge around in during bad weather!

Please exercise caution as this is a site where you could easily injure yourself, especially if you venture inside. Additionally, remember that you are on private property, so please show respect.

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22. shipwreck ardinashaig

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Not just houses meet their demise on Scalpay, Harris, and Lewis. Cars, bikes, camper vans, even bathtubs – you name it. In the Hebrides, disposal isn't a concept; abandonment is the norm. Decay becomes an integral part of the landscape. And let's not forget the many abandoned boats and ships, like this behemoth of a wreck that seems impervious to the elements.

 

You'll find it near the Scalpay Bridge on the Scalpay side. It's an easy stop – just pull over by the shore and start snapping. Gloomy weather works particularly well for this subject, as the serenity of the background contrasts sharply with the decaying shipwreck.

 

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23. Manish lost place

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The iconic passing place signs of Harris are a testament to the island's network of single-track roads winding through the remote lava landscape. In Manish, I stumbled upon this perfectly imperfect sign, standing askew amidst the rugged scenery. The lopsided sign harmoniously complemented the decaying villa in the background, creating a composition that perfectly captures the essence of Harris.

 

For a quick photo stop, there's parking space along the roadside, ensuring you don't obstruct traffic flow.

 

This spot is once again a haven for photographers seeking gloomy, atmospheric shots. After all, the Hebrides aren't known for their sunny dispositions!

 

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24. Lingerbay abandoned food van

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This abandoned food van along the Harris South Coast was a truly serendipitous discovery. Despite its state of utter disrepair, two neatly written signs still clung to its exterior – a menu and a "sorry, closed today" notice. Today? Really, just today? I couldn't help but chuckle. It seems like fish and chips will never be served from this van again... At least, I hope not.

 

Still, it was the perfect spot to capture the essence of Harris and its decaying charm. Who knows how long it will stand there (knowing Harris, I'd wager for many more years to come), but perhaps you'll have the privilege of seeing it too.

 

And here we have it again – another quintessential lost place, brimming with Harris charm. A quick stop with easy parking right beside it, perfect for a gloomy day.

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25. Luskentyre Beach

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All right, here we go – the photo spot most of you have been eagerly anticipating: Luskentyre Beach. This pristine stretch of sand is the reason many photographers embark on a pilgrimage to Harris. I've even seen YouTube videos of photographers overwhelmed with emotion, their dreams of capturing this idyllic scene finally realised.

 

And you know what? It's beautiful. But... well, it's just beautiful. There's no denying that Luskentyre Beach is a stunning expanse of soft white sand, framed by majestic sand dunes and the rugged Harris mountains in the distance. As the sun dips below the horizon, casting a warm, golden glow over the landscape, the scene is simply breathtaking – a sight to behold for any nature enthusiast.

 

However, from a photographer's perspective, I'd say it's a decent spot, but nothing extraordinary. Nevertheless, I was more than grateful for the opportunity to photograph this natural masterpiece. After all, it's a legendary location in the world of photography.

 

To reach Luskentyre Beach, follow the road to its end, where you'll find a public car park. From there, make your way towards the beach and take your time exploring the sand dunes for interesting viewpoints. Head south towards the bend in the beach, where you can shoot in both directions, capturing the endless expanse of sand on one side and the majestic Harris mountains on the other.

 

The walk back to the car park takes approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on how far you venture along the beach. 

 

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26. Rodel

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Dating back to the late 15th century, St Clement's Church in Rodel is one of the largest and most well-preserved medieval churches in the Outer Hebrides. St Clement's Church fell into disuse shortly after its completion due to the Protestant Reformation. However, the churchyard continued to serve as a burial site for the powerful MacLeod clan, further cementing its significance in Harris's cultural heritage.

St Clement's Church stands as one of the most iconic landmarks on the Isle of Harris.

 

Parking is available along the road, near the public toilets, where you'll find marked parking spaces.

 

From the road, look for a small, well-hidden path that leads uphill. This path offers the best vantage point for capturing the church nestled amidst the quintessential Harris landscape.

 

Feel free to hike all the way to the top for a breathtaking view, but don't forget to pause along the way to take photos. The perspective changes constantly, and I personally found the half-way mark to be optimal, with the church tower rising majestically above the mountains. As you go further up, the church blends more into the landscape.

 

The uphill climb isn't too steep, but it does require a basic level of fitness. And since it can get quite boggy, wear sturdy shoes. The hike to the top of the hill takes approximately 20-30 minutes.

 

Sunrise is undoubtedly the best time to capture this shot. Avoid visiting during the day, especially when the sun is shining brightly, as the harsh contrast can ruin the photo's composition.

 

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27. Northton salt flats

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Nestled on the southern tip of the Isle of Harris, Northton Salt Flats is a fascinating expanse of tidal wetlands, a rare ecosystem that supports a diverse array of salt-tolerant plants and wildlife.

The area's unique geology and tidal patterns have sculpted the salt flats into a mesmerizing mosaic of channels, pools, and mudflats, creating a photographer's paradise, especially with the mountain in the background.

 

A small parking area lies just before the salt flats. Although you'll need to walk about half a mile to the photo spot, avoid parking closer, as the road can get quite busy, and locals aren't too keen on cars blocking passing places. The walk is flat and takes about 10 minutes.

 

Once you reach the spot where little islets form a mosaic in the flats, carefully descend the hill. Arrive early enough to find a good perspective, as it can take some time. If you're planning a sunrise shoot, consider scouting the area a day in advance to find the composition that suits you best.

 

The light will be favourable throughout the day, but I think sunset would suit it best. Choose a day when the mountains in the background are clearly visible and not obscured by clouds.

 

Remember to pack your wellies, as this is a wetland area. Be cautious when wading through muddy streams, as you might get stuck or sink in. Avoid venturing too deep into the vegetation, and respect the nesting birds and other wildlife.

 

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28. Scarista Bus

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This is the Scarista Bus, nestled near the picturesque Scarista Beach in Harris.

 

Yes, it appears dilapidated and battered, but its story is quite remarkable, albeit with an unhappily ever after. And here's the tale:

In January 2005, a ferocious storm ravaged the coastline, destroying a caravan used by local Western Isles Scouts groups for weekend adventures. A year later, the Scouts were gifted an old bus to replace their lost caravan. Diligently, they converted it into a habitable living space, a new and improved clubhouse. A cooker and kitchen area were installed, communal seating was added, and even a small bathroom was placed where the driver's cabin used to be. It was their perfect new base for exploration and overnight stays. It's easy to imagine it once brimming with activity, filled with raucous laughter and lively conversations. A stark contrast to the muted scenes of disrepair and decay that greet visitors today.

 

But who knows, perhaps one day someone will heed its call for help and restore it to its former glory? In Harris, anything is possible...

 

Today, the Scarista Bus stands as an eerie, spooky, and nostalgic reminder of a bygone era. It's a peculiar sight, for sure, and a must-see for those who appreciate the unique charm of Harris.

 

 

Parking is available along the main road where the path towards the beach starts. Simply head towards the dunes and the coast, and within a couple of minutes, you'll encounter the Scarista Bus.

 

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29. Scarista phone booth

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This charming red telephone booth, once a bustling hub of communication in the quaint village of Scarista, has now become a popular destination for photographers seeking to capture a slice of British nostalgia. Unlike many of its counterparts that have fallen silent, this phone booth remains remarkably functional.

 

If you're an enthusiast of these iconic red phone booths, Harris and Lewis offer a treasure hunt of sorts, with quite a few scattered across the islands.

 

The Scarista booth however is conveniently located along the main road, with a small parking spot right beside it.

 

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30. the Temple Head

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Perched atop a rugged headland on the Isle of Harris, Rubh an Teampaill, also known as Temple Head, offers breathtaking views of the Sound of Harris and the rugged mountains beyond.

The site is of historical significance, with evidence of human occupation dating back to the Mesolithic era. The remains of a 16th-century chapel still stand sentinel, adding a touch of mystery and intrigue to the landscape.

I highly recommend visiting Rubh an Teampaill at the break of dawn. Parking is limited to a handful of spots at the end of the road, just before the hiking trail gate. These spots fill up quickly during the day.

 

Once you've parked your car, grab your water bottle and a snack, and embark on this stunning 50-minute walk to the old chapel. Simply pass through the gate and follow the straight path. After about 15 minutes, you'll encounter a fork in the road. Take the left path into the dunes and continue walking. You'll pass another gate, and soon the chapel will come into view. Be mindful of the livestock, including the majestic Highland cattle.

 

One of the best viewpoints is before you reach the headland with the chapel. The picture-perfect sandy bay serves as the foreground with the chapel standing proudly in the background. After capturing this scene with your tripod and some ND filters to smooth the water and clouds, continue your walk and capture the mountains from uphill, where the chapel stands. If you have a wide-angle lens, you can capture a panoramic shot encompassing the chapel, mountains, and ocean.

 

 

You can easily spend a few hours here experimenting with different foregrounds and backgrounds – rocks, sand dunes, sheep, beach, etc. It was one of my favourite spots in Harris, so don't rush. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic amidst this breathtaking scenery.

 

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Whether you're an occasional photographer or a seasoned professional, Lewis and Harris will not disappoint. Trust me on that!

 

The tranquil atmosphere, especially in Harris, is truly remarkable, untouched by mass tourism. It's like stepping back in time 30 years.

 

I must also emphasise the importance of respecting the local culture of Lewis. The island observes the Sabbath, meaning everything is closed on Sundays, and children are not allowed to play on beaches or playgrounds. While no one will mind if you as a tourist visit the beach on a Sunday, please be discreet and avoid making loud noises. Regardless of your personal beliefs or views on this tradition,  you are a guest on their island, so treat it with respect!


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Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Keith Armitage (Thursday, 14 December 2023 12:20)

    This Photo guide has so much information it will be with me when I go early next year. The amount of time you spent making this must have run into many hours. Thank you, Joana for making this accessible, I hope to come back with many memories and some images to be proud of.