Hushinish, Harris Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

Hushinish is a remote region on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is accessed via a twisting 12-mile single-track road on the southwest of the island which presents stunning views of South Harris and the island of Taransay.

Once at Hushinish, visitors can enjoy a white sand beach surrounded by a rugged coastline in addition to kayaking to the nearby island of Scarp.

Address:Huisinis Gateway,
Isle of Harris,
HS3 3AY
Opening Hours:Hushinish is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year. Note: There may be road closures depending on the weather.
Admission Price:Hushinish is free to visit.

Parking:There is a free car park at the Huisinis Gateway for cars only. A dedicated campervan area is located 400 metres from the car park. The campervan site has electric hook-up points (available from April to October only).
Contact:N/A
Facilities:The Huisinis Gateway is a free-to-use cabin next to the Huisinis car park. Inside are picnic benches, toilets, showers, and information about the local area.
The car park has waste bins, a chemical disposal point, recycling bins, and a freshwater standpipe.
There are no shops in the area.

The highlights

1: North Harris is full of wild places, but many of them can only be accessed via a long hike across hills and moorland. Hushinish, on the other hand, lies at the end of a tarmac road meaning it’s easily accessed by cars and bikes.

2: The beach at Huisinis is small but sheltered so it’s a great spot for a beach day. A much larger deserted beach can be found by following the track near the car park which heads along the bottom of the hills to the Sound of Scarp at Crabhadail.

Although the Sound of Scarp is only 1/4 mile wide at the beach it is not advisable to swim across to Scarp as the currents can be treacherous.

3: If you like snorkelling, you’ll love the waters around Huisinis beach. The amount of marine life is incredibly diverse and you’ll see a rich marine environment under the waves as you swim around including a variety of sponges and starfish, dogfish, wrasse, crabs and jellyfish.

Hushinish Harris

Visiting tips

1: Many people visit Huisinis to enjoy snorkelling in the clears waters that surround the reefs to the west of the bay. However, be mindful of a few key points before setting off into the water.

1: Never snorkel alone. 2. Be mindful that the currents on the north side of Huisinis are strong. 3. There are Lion’s Mane jellyfish in the area which have a painful sting. 4. The marine environment at Huisinis is very fragile so avoid disturbing the marine animals and do not take anything away with you.

2: The campervan site is a great spot for pitching but it’s rather small with space for 4 campervans only. There is no booking so availability is on a first-come-first-served basis. Payment can be made by an on-site honesty box as well as by text (details are signposted at the site).

3: If the car park is full please do not park on the machair (wild grassland) as it’s becoming damaged by vehicles. Note that all land past the cattle grid on the B887 (the single-track road) is part of the crofting community on the west side of the beach.


Overview

The island of Harris and Lewis is one of the most visited of the Outer Hebrides.

While Lewis is flat and almost completely covered in open moorland, Harris is much hillier, especially in the area north of Tarbert.

This part of the island is wild and remote and offers walkers a variety of excursions into the great outdoors, from the scenic Isle of Scalpay to the mountainous peaks of Clisham.

Heading to the western side of the island is rather tricky as the roads are few and far between, but there’s one road in particular that has become something of a must-do for tourists.

Hushinish Harris

This road – the B887 – starts 3 miles west of Tarbert at the foot of the mountain range that divides Harris from Lewis.

At 12 miles it’s not exactly long, but it’s narrow and has multiple switchbacks which make the journey slow, with the complete route taking 30 to 45 minutes by car.

The B887 finishes at the most westerly point of Harris at a tiny crofting settlement called Hushinish (Huisinis in Gaelic).

Hushinish is a small promontory that curves south around a shallow bay with a beach on one side, while the other is comprised of bare rock and shallow cliffs that face the island of Scarp.

Hushinish Harris

It’s an extraordinarily pretty area and it’s one that has become synonymous with two activities in particular – snorkelling and kayaking.

In addition, Hushinish is a popular spot for campervans thanks to a recently-opened parking area and it’s also one of the best places in the Outer Hebrides for wildlife watching.

Parking up and scanning the sky with a pair of binoculars (link to my favourite optics) opens up opportunities to see golden eagles soaring overhead while the shoreline is a favourite spot for otters on the prowl for their next meal.

There’s also a good chance of seeing red deer in the hills that surround Hushinish (especially in autumn during the rutting season), and the sea is a favoured place for seals, dolphins, and minke whales.

Hushinish Harris

Tourist information

The road to Hushinish is one of the most enjoyable drives in the Outer Hebrides, so it’s just as well there are plenty of off-road spaces to stop and soak up the views of Taransay and South Harris.

As nice as the coastline is though, the highlight of driving the B887 has to be the North Harris Eagle Observatory which is widely regarded as one of the best locations in Scotland for watching golden eagles.

From Loch Mhiabhaig, you can park at the observatory car park and walk north along a gravel track for 1.5 miles to a bird hide situated in the middle of a glen that’s home to a breeding pair of golden eagles.

Hushinish Harris

These magnificent birds can usually be seen soaring overhead so there’s a very good chance you’ll see them when you visit, though they’re most active during bright and breezy weather.

The drive from the observatory car park to Hushinish is around 8 miles and isn’t really suitable for large motorhomes in my opinion, but even so, there’s a designated camping area near Hushinish which has electric hook-up points.

There’s also a small car park behind Hushinish beach which has a visitor cabin complete with toilets, picnic benches, and showers, but there are no shops in the area so you will need to take supplies with you.

The beach is small and clean and the bay is shallow, so it’s a great place for a family day out, especially if you enjoy snorkelling.

Hushinish Harris

The western end of the bay has reefs that are home to shoals of fish as well as jellyfish and starfish, and as the water is so clear you can see them all in dazzling detail.

Be aware though, that the water is cold throughout the year – even in the height of summer – so a wetsuit is highly recommended as it will keep you toasty while providing protection from some of the jellyfish which have a rather painful sting.

The opposite side of the Hushinish promontory faces the Isle of Scarp which is a fairly short paddle away if you have a kayak, and launching is made easy thanks to a jetty situated next to a small shingle cove.

Hushinish Harris

A kayak really opens up this part of Harris as the coastline is incredibly scenic once you round the headland and veer north towards Loch Crabhadail.

This small sea loch has a nice wee beach, behind which is another loch (Loch a’ Ghlinne) which offers a good 2.5-mile walk around it, though there are no footpaths and the terrain is rather boggy.

If you’d prefer to kayak to Scarp, the best crossing point is at Traigh Mheilein beach opposite the Kyle of Scarp which is less than a 1/4 mile across.

Once on the island you’ll find a number of ruined houses left behind by the last crofters who departed in the 70s, while the rest of the island is barren and rocky, but no less attractive for it.

During my visit I wandered around the area behind the old crofter’s houses and climbed to the top of Sron Romul hill which was probably the high point (no pun intended) of my entire visit to Hushinish.

The second highlight was walking from the Hushinish car park to Traigh Mheilein beach which is a half-mile stretch of golden sand that was blissfully deserted.

The sea is shallow and therefore has that gorgeous turquoise colour that the Outer Hebrides is famous for, but sadly the currents are fierce so swimming is best avoided.


Tourist map of Scotland

Isle of Harris,
HS3 3AY

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Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

North Harris & Loch Seaforth – 456 Explorer.

West Lewis & North Harris – 13 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

North Harris Eagle Observatory. Address: Isle of Harris, HS3 3AW. Distance: 9 miles. This nature reserve is set in a stunning location within a mountain range in North Harris.

A gravel path leads into the mountains from a roadside car park to an observatory that offers views of a breeding pair of golden eagles.

Isle of Harris Distillery. Address: Tarbert, Isle of Harris, HS3 3DJ. Distance: 16.5 miles from Scalpay Bridge. This is a lochside gin and whisky distillery situated near the ferry terminal in Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

The distillery features a cafe, gift shop and guided tours that explain the process of gin and whisky production.

Harris Tweed Shop. Address: Caberfeidh, Tarbert, Isle of Harris HS3 3DJ. Distance: 16.6 miles from Scalpay Bridge. The Harris Tweed shop in Tarbert is the main retail outlet for authentic Harris Tweed on the island.

Inside, visitors will find a range of pre-made gifts and clothes made from genuine Harris Tweed as well as lengths of cloth that can be purchased in bulk.

Clisham. Address: Isle of Harris HS3 3AP. Distance: 15 miles. Clisham is the highest mountain (designated as a Corbett) in the Outer Hebrides, with a total height of 2,621 feet.

There are several paths that lead to the summit but the most popular starts at a car park on the A859 and heads northwest on a straight line for 3.25 miles. Once at the top, climbers can enjoy a beautiful panorama across Harris and Lewis.

Scarp. Distance: 1 mile from the Huisinis causeway. Scarp is a wild and remote uninhabited island situated north of Huisinis in North Harris. The island can be accessed by kayak from the Huisinis jetty.

The remains of buildings owned by the last inhabitants (who departed in 1971) can be seen on the island and the largest hill (Sron Romul, 1,000 feet) offers incredible views from the top.


Frequently asked questions

What is the Isle of Harris famous for?

Harris is best known as a tourist destination due to its beaches (Luskentyre is the highlight), mountains, dramatic coastline, and scenic villages.
The island is also known as the birthplace of Harris Tweed – the durable patterned fabric made from locally-sourced wool.

Can you stay on the Isle of Harris?

The are many places to stay on the Isle of Harris, from hotels to guesthouses and Airbnb holiday rentals to campsites. A good resource to find accommodation is the Explore Harris website.

How do you get to the Isle of Harris?

The Isle of Harris can be accessed via Calmac ferry services that operate from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway, and Uig on Skye to Tarbert.
See the Calmac website for further details.

Is the Isle of Harris the same as the Isle of Lewis?

The Isle of Harris and Lewis is one landmass, but it is designated as two separate islands.

This is because the mountain range on North Harris meant that in the past it was difficult to travel between the north and south regions of the island, so residents classified themselves as either being from Lewis (northern half), or Harris (southern half).

Harris is further subdivided into North Harris and South Harris with both regions divided by an isthmus near the village of Tarbert.