Elsa’s spent the past few years travelling around England and Wales so we decided that it was time to leave some paw-prints a little farther north and crossed the border to Scotland! Our main base was on the Isle of Skye but we also went on an excursion to the Isles of Lewis & Harris...
CalMac ferries sail from Uig on the Isle of Skye to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris and they are wonderfully accommodating to people who are travelling with their pets.
After boarding the ferry by car we took Elsa up onto the deck, fully prepared to brace ourselves for a windy and wet crossing, but were relieved to find that CalMac’s larger ferries have an indoor pet friendly seating area!
It’s incredibly spacious too, so the fact that dogs are not permitted on the seats (under any circumstances) didn’t really bother Elsa because she had plenty of room to make herself comfortable. The ferry was very clean and there were areas where you could go to get refreshments.
Since I had been both mentally and physically prepared to sit on the outer deck with Elsa when I boarded the ferry, being able to sit inside on a large, comfortable seat, enjoying a bacon sandwich and a coffee with Elsa settled beside me felt like like I had been upgraded to first class!
The first thing that I noticed about Lewis & Harris is that the landscape is quite different to Skye, it’s more rocky with beautiful colours; the emerald sea is fringed with yellow seaweed along the coastline which contrast beautifully against the heather and moss on the hills. Even the weather seemed to have brightened up a bit!
Harris is famous for it’s Tweed fabric and I’m a huge fan so we headed straight to Harris Tweed and Knitwear - a must-visit for any tourist!
Although the shop isn’t openly dog friendly, the lady did let us bring Elsa in out of the rain and allowed us to try a coat on her for size too. They sell lots of accessories for dogs including collars, leads, coats, bows and poo bag holders.
Surprisingly, the prices are quite reasonable so I did treat Elsa to the red Tweed coat… as well as a few things for myself!
This shop also has an exhibition where you can learn about the history and craftsmanship of Harris Tweed.
It’s no secret that we are beach enthusiasts and our next stop was a real treat for Elsa…
Luskentyre Sands has been voted one of Britain’s best beaches on TripAdvisor. It’s definitely the most breathtaking that we’ve ever visited and Elsa wasted no time rolling around in the beautiful white sand. The view from the beach is spectacular too, it’s not hard to see why this area is often described as ‘a little slice of heaven’.
There is a sign at the beach entrance which says that dogs are welcome but must be kept under control. The islands all have free-roaming cattle and sheep so we were incredibly cautious, only dropping Elsa’s lead to take a quick picture.
We were fortunate enough to have a bit of sunshine for most of the day but all good things come to an end and we decided to continue our journey before it started raining, but I am absolutely certain that we’ll return to this beach again one day.
Before we headed to our hotel we spent some time exploring Stornoway and found a wonderful dog friendly shop called Tweedtastic where they sell all sorts of gifts and accessories. Elsa was very spoiled by the lovely ladies in the shop who gave her some treats to keep her occupied while we browsed.
We stayed at The Crown Inn for the night. This hotel is renowned for being the venue where Prince Charles once bought a cherry brandy after giving his security detail the slip whilst on an excursion when he was just 14 years old!
Dogs are welcome in the very same bar area and there are also tables available so you can dine with your dog too. The rooms are quite basic, (which was to be expected given that we were in Stornoway and not St. Tropez!), but they had everything that we needed for a comfortable night’s sleep. The highlights of our stay here were the food and the service, both were exceptional!
After a delicious full-Scottish breakfast at the hotel we headed to Calanais Stones on the west coast of Lewis. This impressive arrangement of standing stones dates back to the Neolithic era but their enchantment is diminished by a number of houses that have been built very close to the site. Nevertheless, Elsa had great fun bounding around the site with the wind in her hair!
This beach is well-known as the site where a Viking Chess set was found in a small stone chamber by Malcolm MacLeod in 1831 and a wooden statue sits at the entrance to commemorate the discovery. Unfortunately Elsa clocked someone kite-surfing as soon as she stepped onto the beach and was completely preoccupied with keeping her distance from the kite sail!
If you don’t get a chance to visit Harris Tweed and Knitwear then there is another Tweed shop next to the ferry port in Tarbert where they also sell the bulk fabric and host talks and demonstrations about this famous material. I don’t think that these shops are dog friendly though, but they may make exceptions so it’s always worth asking.
The Isle of Harris Distillery also sits by the port and this is where the famous Isle of Harris gin is made. The bottles are so beautiful and I couldn’t resist treating myself to one as a souvenir! We didn’t take Elsa into the distillery because we just assumed that dogs wouldn’t be permitted, but I’ve since done a bit of research and found this response to a question that was posted on TripAdvisor in 2017: “We only allow four-legged friends in the entrance foyer and by the fireside. You are also very welcome to order from the Canteen and sit by the fire with your dog and we'll bring your food to you.”, so if you really want to pick up a bottle of their gin and have no one to look after your dog then it’s worth double-checking with someone, just in case they change their policy.
I thoroughly enjoyed our whirlwind trip to Lewis and Harris, it had the perfect balance of dog friendly attractions and activities combined with good food, amazing scenery, interesting history and great shops. This is undoubtedly somewhere that we will return to, hopefully soon!