After the excitement of Christmas has passed, I find myself needing something to look forward to, something to keep me going through the cold and dark mornings when I just want to stay in bed and hibernate. I’ve been thinking about summer holidays, and reminiscing about the trip we took last year to North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. I thought I would share with you why I think it’s one of the best places to go in the UK for a relaxing, dog-friendly holiday, so if your idea of a good holiday involves being far away from crowds of tourists, plenty of walks on sandy beaches, and eating lots of cake then read on.
Some of you may be thinking you need to Google where North Uist is but I’ve already done that for you, see the map below! North Uist is a small island off the West Coast of Scotland and is part of the Outer Hebrides. It is part of the same land mass as South Uist and Benbecula and is connected to Berneray in the north via a causeway. Given its location, North Uist probably isn’t ideal for a weekend mini break but if you are going to spend a week there then the travel time to get there is completely worth it. All the places I mention in this post are marked on the map below.
What to do
The main attraction of going on holiday to The Outer Hebrides for us was the number of beaches! Much of the west coast of North Uist, Benbecula, and South Uist is sandy beaches so you are spoilt for choice for places to walk and enjoy the scenery. Our favourite walk was around the RSPB Balranald nature reserve which is spectacular, with a lovely circular route that follows the coast and gives lots of opportunities to spot the local wildlife. A close second was probably the beach on Berneray, where we stopped at a tiny B&B (which also has a tearoom) for coffee and cake.
The pub on North Uist, the Westford Inn, is dog friendly in the bar, does great food, and has a good selection of local beers. It is always busy so make sure to book a table. I would highly recommend the monkfish scampi which I have to confess I ordered both times we visited! There are a number of small supermarkets dotted around the islands as well as a bakery and butcher so if you stay in a cottage you have plenty of places to stock up while you are there. One of the foodie highlights for me was discovering Kallin Shellfish where you can buy freshly caught scallops, crab and fish for a fraction of the prices you pay on the mainland. The Hebridean Smokehouse was another favourite, they sell a selection of smoked fish and shellfish and we loved the smoked salmon pâté and smoked scallops!
There are so many other places to visit, the islands are full of historical sites including the Neolithic burial cairns on North Uist and the Cladh Hallanround houses on South Uist which we visited on the final day of our trip. On our holiday we spent most of our time on North and South Uist but we did take a day trip to the island of Eriskay (connected to South Uist by a causeway) and a day trip over to the Isle of Harris by ferry.
Day trip to Harris
Harris is jaw-droppingly beautiful and is only a one hour ferry journey from Berneray. We arrived in Leverburgh around 11am and drove up the rocky, almost lunar east coast and stopped at one of my favourite places on Harris, the Skoon Art Cafe. Skoon Art cafe is a cafe and art gallery in one and is well worth a trip for a delicious piece of cake (I recommend the marmalade ginger cake!) and a browse of their beautiful artwork. After our coffee stop and art purchase (yes, we bought one of the paintings in the gallery) we headed North to the main town, Tarbert where we explored the Harris gindistillery and the tweed shops. The distillery is well worth a visit to sample the gin and see their beautiful tweed walls! Harris gin is delicious and makes a perfect gift as it comes in a fabulous glass bottle.
Next on the agenda was to explore the West coast of Harris, with a stop at Luskentyre beach. It is regularly voted one of Scotland’s top beaches and it is easy to see why, with miles of white sand and the dramatic contrast of the hills right next to the beach. Bobby loved his walk there and we enjoyed the spectacular scenery and the sunny weather. Lastly we made the journey back to the ferry terminal and stopped for a bite to eat (more cake!) and a coffee at The Anchorage cafe before heading back to North Uist.
Where to stay
We stayed in a wonderful cottage on the west coast of North Uist. The Cottage on Loch Hosta looks small from the outside but when you are inside it feels spacious and the views over the loch from the living area are amazing. You can spend hours watching the birds on the loch. The kitchen is well kitted out with everything we needed and there is even a four poster bed! A white sand beach is only 10 minutes walk from the cottage and every time we went for a walk we were the only people there, so this meant Bobby was able to walk off the lead which doesn’t happen very often.
One thing to remember is that there is no wifi in the cottage and very little mobile phone reception, this was perfect for us as it meant that we had a proper holiday from emails. If you need to check email/social media there is free wifi available at the local community centre, the Claddach Kirkibost(which has a cafe) and at the Westford Inn.
How to get there
There are two way of getting to the Outer Hebrides, by ferry and by plane. We took the Calmac ferry from Uig, on Skye to Lochmaddy although you can take a ferry from other ports on the west coast. The drive to the ferry terminal from Edinburgh was one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever taken, taking in Perthshire, skirting the Cairngorms and the Nevis range, up through Invergarry, and on to Skye. Once on the island you definitely need a car, so if you are flying there you will need to hire one.
The ferry itself is very dog friendly. There are special indoor seating areas for dogs and their owners plus there are outside decks where dogs are welcome too. We spent most of the ferry journeys outside enjoying the scenery, the views you get of Skye as you are leaving and then Harris and North Uist when you are arriving are second to none.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our holiday on North Uist, just writing about it has made me desperate to book another week there this summer. I’d love to know where you like to take your dog on holiday, do let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations for dog friendly holidays that involve lots of walks and stops for cake!