Further to the last blog entry, here's a more information-biased entry for those looking at bringing their caravan or motor caravan to the Outer Hebrides.
This entry is a partial update to my 2012 Guide to Caravanning in the Outer Hebrides. I say 'partial' as once you get South of Benbecula there are new sites around that I have yet to properly mention.
Right now, I want to talk about the Isle of Harris. Without doubt, this is my favourite island in the Outer Hebrides. To the North you have the dramatic North Harris Hills, to the West you have gorgeous white sandy beaches, and to the East you have an almost lunar rocky landscape. On top of that, there are three fantastic places to eat and spend an afternoon with a good book and enjoy a friendly chat:
Skoon Art Cafe
and a new addition to my favourites list:
Hebscape Gallery Tea Room
Despite Harris being the nicest island, your options for camping and caravanning are limited. There is no such thing as the perfect site here, each site has its good points and bad points, and that's the point of this article.
First off, a bit of background:
The landscape is, as previously mentioned, beautiful. However, that also makes it very difficult to find any naturally flat area to park a caravan or motorhome. Levelling out pitches is a very, VERY costly process. This cost is passed on to the camper. As such, while people expect camping on the islands to be cheaper than on the mainland, the opposite applies. I find it far more expensive on Harris than on the mainland.
Here are the sites, starting near Tarbert (the main ferry port) and heading clockwise around the lower part of the island:
It's been five years since I've been here but I don't think much has changed. It's a small, CL-style site with basic facilities and four EHUs. The big downsides are the boggy ground, and the very tight entrance as you turn off the road. I only just about managed it with a 7ft6 wide single axle.
LICKISTO BLACKHOUSE AND CAMPING
Lots to like here. Friendly hosts, great view, sheltered from the worst of the Westerly winds, and a 'Blackhouse' which is the focus of the campsite in the evening; a place to use the kitchen, meet other campers, and relax. Good facilities.
Downsides? None if you're a tent camper. A couple if you're in a leisure vehicle. The hardstanding area for caravans and motor caravans is the size of a postage stamp. Single axle caravans only, and you'll need a motor mover or need to be able to manhandle your van. Large units (eg tag axle motorhomes) need not apply. There's only the space for 3 vans, no awnings, and any cars will have to be left on the road. No chemical loo disposal (you need to go to Leverburgh to empty the loo) and it's £20 per night for two people in a van.
A warm welcome from Tony and Sharon, hardstanding, stunning views, chemical loo disposal point, and electric hook-ups.
That's the good stuff. The not-so-good stuff:
£25 per night inc EHU - this is for a site with no shower or toilet facility. Wow.
There are five pitches, not three as on the website. No tents allowed.
Access involves a long drive along the single-track 'Golden Road' down the East Coast of the island - not for the faint-hearted.
The road to the pitches is up a very, VERY sharp incline. 4x4s essential. Motor caravans need plenty of oomph and a robust clutch.
This is the wildest, largest, cheapest (but that isn't saying much) and most relaxed campsite in Harris. You can't book, you just turn up.
Well-drained grass pitches, but only a few tent pitches (and a couple of motor caravan pitches 'up top') have a sea view. However, location is what this site is all about - right on the beautiful sandy beach with the stunning backdrop of the North Harris Hills and the island of Taransay rising out of the sea.
Facilities are adequate, based in old shipping containers. Showers are £1 (but you'd only use them if you don't have on board facilities) and there are loos and a washing up area. WCs are wheelchair accessible.
Downsides? It's a flat fee of £14/night for a caravan/motorhome. That's not great if, like me, you're on your own. There are no EHUs, and nowhere to empty the loo (back to Leverburgh...). The site is littered with seasonal caravans, and as there is no on-site staff presence, there is nobody to keep unruly campers in check late at night. I hasten to add that I have NEVER been disturbed by anti-social behaviour here. Facing North West, the site can get battered by the wind forcing tent campers to scuttle over to Lickisto.
There is a great scheme that has been introduced by the West Harris Trust. You're welcome to Wild Camp in certain spots, but are expected to make a super-reasonable contribution of £5 per night for the privilege. This is a great idea.
The downsides are: The areas are just off the road (i.e. laybys) so there isn't much room, and everything (fresh water, waste water, rubbish) needs to be carried in and carried out. OK for a night stop, not a realistic alternative to a camp site for longer stays.
So there you have the current (2014/15) camping situation on the island of Harris.
I conclude this entry with two alternatives if the actual campsite, or value for money, are of high importance to you.
The BEST CAMPSITE in the Outer Hebrides in my humble opinion is Moorcroft Campsite, in the South West corner of North Uist. Great views, super facilities, friendly owners, easy access, reasonable pricing... THIS is the campsite to come to if you have a large (twin axle) or a wide (8ft) caravan as the road from Lochmaddy ferry terminal is almost completely two-way. You can leave the 'van here and explore seven causeway-linked islands unencumbered. Kilbride campsite down in South Uist is also a nice, clean, neatly-presented site, but is less central.
The BEST VALUE campsite in the Outer Hebrides is Scurrival (Scuribhal) campsite at Eoligarry at the North East tip of Barra. The friendly owner Angus-John charges by the person, not by the unit. Therefore in 2014 I ended up paying £5 per night which included brilliant facilities - big en-suite shower rooms and a kitchen with two washing up sinks. No laundry facilities though (2014).
Fantastic views, and EHUs at £4/n if you want them. I stayed six nights, and was charged the same as I was for one night at Flodabay Farm. But, to be fair, no expensive quarrying and levelling has been necessary at Scurrival.
So there you have it... I hope that's been of some use to you. You have the info... now all you need to do is decide when you're coming!