Outer Hebrides: beaches and eats?

Old Mar 7th, 2006, 08:06 AM
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Outer Hebrides: beaches and eats?

Hi All,

My husband and I will be lucky enough to squeeze in a few days on the Outer Hebrides this coming August. We can't wait!

I'm wondering if anyone would like to share their opinions on the best beaches and restaurants on the isles. We'll be on North and South Uist, Harris and Lewis. All of your opinions and suggestions will be most welcome!
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 08:23 AM
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Hi Andrea
I'm just planning our (DH et moi) first visit to Scotland, trying to figure out how much we can see without making ourselves crazy. First step for me is Fodors forum for research, and buying guidebooks. From recommendations here, I bought "Scotland the Best" -- there's an update just published, and I found it on Amazon. It's written by a Scot -- lots of lists of "best of..", and that includes beaches. Might be just what you are looking for.

(My DH was most intrigued by the list of "bloody good pubs"... ;-)
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 08:52 AM
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Andrea,

It depends what you want from a beach. As a rule the best ones are on the west coasts.

For my money the best 'big' beaches are in Benbecula, North Uist (at Baile Raghnill you can do an interesting walk around the nature reserve) and South Harris. Access is generally easy. (To me South Uist's beaches although long are not so easy to get to.)

The north west coast of Lewis has nice 'small' beaches at Dail Beag, Dail Mòr and in the far north at Eoropie; also in the far north-east at Tolstadh (which can be combined with a splendid walk along the road across the Bridge to Nowhere).

No idea about dining out, we always self-cater using local butchers as suppliers.

Michael
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 09:22 AM
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wasleys has given you good suggestions about beaches.

Probably the best restaurant in the OH is the Bonaventure on Lewis. But you will probably need to book ahead - especially in August.
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 09:14 PM
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Thanks to everyone for their feedback. Michael, thanks for your beach suggestions. As far as what sort of beaches I like, I suppose I go for scenery, white sands, the possibility of spotting wildlife. What I've read in a guide book today seconds your pick of South Harris beaches.

Janis, thanks for your suggestion of Bonaventure. I've also seen this restaurant recommended in guide books, but they don't elaborate much on it. Do they use local fish and game in their cuisine? Do you think it is necessary to make a booking this soon, for August?

Thanks again!

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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 11:11 PM
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Oh no, I wouldn't think you'd need to book more than a week or 2 ahead. Maybe a month for an August weekend.

It is very well known for using the freshest of ingredients and lots of local meats/game/veg.

I haven't eaten there, but have been to the chef's previous restaurant in Edinburgh and it was absolutely wonderful.
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 11:57 PM
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The great thing about the Outer Isles is... the white beaches. Basically the whole of the west coast is one long beach, and you can walk on any of it.

At the top of North Uist is an island called Berneray, which has HUGE beaches with massive dunes... and there's no-one on them. At all!!

What I like about South Uist is the machair, the land behind the beach which is shell rich, and lovely to walk along.

Eriskay, at the bottom of South Uist, has just been opened up to the masses by the causeway, and, although I haven't been yet, it too has great beaches (allegedly). It's the "Whisky Galore" island.

Now, food. Ah, well, about the islands....They really don't do great restaurants. On the Uists, avoid the Lochboisdale Hotel (and anywhere else in Lochboisdale, for that matter. the Polochar Inn isn't bad, but it has a FANTASTIC location. On Benbecula, the otherwise soul-less Dark Island Hotel has a goodish restaurant; on North Uist, the Lochmaddy is bearable, and the Langass Lodge is meant to be positively good. I recall having nice ordinary food in Taigh Chearsabhagh.

If you see it on a menu it's worth trying the hot smoked salmon.

Again, I've not been, but Scarista House on Harris gets a good name.

Where are you staing and how long will you be?
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Old Mar 8th, 2006, 04:22 AM
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Interested, Janis, I haven't heard of the Bonaventure - what was the the chef's previous restaurant in Edinburgh ?

Re the hot smoked salmon - don't make the mistake of expecting it to be hot (I've actually seen a newspaper review complaining that the hss wasn't hot !)
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Old Mar 8th, 2006, 06:15 AM
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Andrea,

For beach + birds try Baile Raghnill (we saw a snowy owl and corncrakes there on our last visit). For eagles you are probably better off on the east side of Harris, or in west Lewis on Bearnaraigh between Breacleit and Bostadh (we've seen several there). Otters more likely in the east, apparently just north of Loch nam Madadh is good but we've seen them in various places, however they are elusive.

For beach + scenery I reckon it's South Harris. If you drive to the end of the road by the burial ground at Losgaintir you can walk along the coast to the north with good views across to North Harris. Other good views from the main road south. In Lewis from Eoropie you can walk south over the fields (beach) or north along the cliffs (rugged) to the light house at the Butt of Lewis.

Michael
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Old Mar 8th, 2006, 06:24 AM
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caroline: It's la Bagatelle in Tollcross.
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Old Mar 8th, 2006, 10:05 AM
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Thanks again for all of your great responses!

Sheila, We'll be taking the ferry from Oban to Lochboisdale, staying the night at the Lochboisdale hotel, as we didn't want to travel far that late at night. Then we'll spend two nights on Harris.

Presently, we're having a difficult time finding accomodation near Tarbert. We want to stay close to the town because we'll be taking the early morning ferry to Skye.

If anyone has suggestions on accomodations in or near Tarbert, I'd really appreciate them. We've tried the Harris Hotel but they're booked already. Then I called the Leachin House and got yelled at by the proprietor, who says they're no longer a guest house. He might want to inform all of the Scottish tourist websites of that! Geez!

Thanks again to all for your help.

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Old Mar 8th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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If it's not too late, change the Lochboisdale to the Polochar. If it is, don't worry; I'm sure it'll be fine.

I have never failed to see eagles on the hill to the south west of the main road out of Lochmaddy (do you see a Uist bias in my postings?, but Balranald is wonderful too. MY best Uist bird was white phase gyr falcon (white bird on a white sanddune in a blizzard, as my friend Helen says).

have a great trip
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Old Mar 9th, 2006, 12:46 AM
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Thanks Janis. Went there once but years ago & it wasn't great; but subsequently it got a vg review from Gillian Glover (still some years ago) so maybe 'your' chef was there then.
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Old Apr 5th, 2006, 08:36 AM
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You could have a look at www.sollasgolfcourse.co.uk for some info and photos of North Uist. There is a forum where locals will answer any questions.
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