The beaches on Harris are spectacular and this complete list with photos will help you decide on which ones to visit. And more importantly I have also included other tips such as how to pick the right tide levels and where to take the best photos.
Over millions of years the crashing waves crushed shells into glittering, silver-coloured sand. Along the western end of Harris there is one perfect beach after the other. The white sands and aquamarine waters are something you would associate with somewhere considerably more tropical than Scotland.
But given the weather in this part of the world, strolling rather than sunbathing is the way to enjoy the Isle of Harris beaches. Scotland is not famous for its warm or stable weather but the scenery more than makes up for the weather variability.
You might also be interested in
- The Best Outer Hebrides Beaches
- How to Visit Berneray Beach on a Day Trip
- Wildlife Watching At the Shiants in the Outer Hebrides
- A Romantic Getaway to the Isle of Harris
Beaches on Harris
1. Luskentyre Beach – Traigh Rosamol
When looking at the above photo there is no question as to why this is regularly voted one of the prettiest beaches in the world in Tripadvisor awards.
It would have been easy to imagine overwater bungalows from the Maldives or Bora Bora if it hadn’t been for the fact I was wearing a fleece and windproof jacket. I didn’t see anyone swimming so I can only imagine that the water was freezing.
But for an invigorating stroll beaches don’t get much better than this.
How to get there: Exiting the A859 by Seilebost village, a narrow road called Luskentyre Road takes you the last 5 kilometres out to the beach. At the end of the road is a spacious car park and toilet facilities.
A short walk through rolling grassy sand dunes leads to the beach.
- At low tide wander along the beach and out towards Seilebost beach (number 2 on this list). The white sand covers the whole bay and the views are out of this world. But be aware that in the area around Seilebost there is quicksand so don’t venture far out
- From the top of Beinn Dhubh (the hill behind Luskentyre beach) the views are spectacular
- Read my post on how to get the best views of Luskentyre beach
- Photos: The direction of the sun doesn’t matter but the weather and tide levels makes a significant difference. Try to come when it is sunny and the tide is out
- Tide times: Together with Seilebost these two beaches are the ones where it is important to visit at low tide
2. Seilebost Beach – Traigh Sheileboist
At low tide it seems like the whole bay of the Sound of Taransay is one big sparkly white expanse of sand. It is difficult to know where Luskentyre beach ends and Seilebost beach starts but together they were my favourite beach, not just from the Outer Hebrides, but anywhere I have visited.
This beach is very tide and weather dependent. The extraordinary shades of water, which range from green to turquoise to navy, show best when it is sunny and the tide is right.
Online weather forecasts for Harris are not that reliable and the weather changes quickly. Keep an eye on where the sky looks clear and when it is blue over Seilebost. That is the best time to go.
What you can’t see in the above photo is that behind me the sky was black with rainclouds. That is par for the course in the Outer Hebrides.
How to get there: The beach lies between Luskentyre Road and the A859. At low tide you can get down to Seilebost beach from Luskentyre Road but please stay close to the shore since there is quicksand in the area.
- Along the A859, driving from Tarbet towards Scarista village, there is a viewpoint a couple of hundred metres after Seilebost village. A few cars can park along the road. It is not possible to get down to the beach from here but the views from the side of the road are stunning
- At the start of the circular Beinn Bhubh hike the views over the Sound of Taransay and Seilebost beach are magical
- Read my post on how to get the best views of Seilebost beach
- Photos: From the layby mentioned above the sun is in the right direction for photos from midday. For the hike up Beinn Dhubh the views are fantastic at any time. It is more about picking a sunny day and the right tide levels (see below) than a specific time of day
- Tide times: This is the beach on Harris where tide times matter the most. At low tide the whole bay is white. However, I think Seilebost beach is at its prettiest a little bit before or after low tide. At this time, when the sun shines, you get the green colour of the shallow water as seen in the above photo
3. Scarista Beach – Sgarasta Mhor
The sands at Scarista beach are more golden than most of the other beaches on this list. What it lacks in terms of white sands and turquoise water it makes up for by drama.
On most days large waves come crashing in from the Atlantic and when combined with the wind and the dark blues and blacks from the angry skies of the Outer Hebrides it makes you feel really alive.
How to get there: Running the length of Scarista village, the mile-long beach can be difficult to get down to it unless you know where the access points are.
One entry point is across from the Harris House (the only hotel in the village) but for easier parking the best access is from the end of the village. As the road bends slightly to the left there is room for a couple of cars to park on the right hand side.
Enter through the large wooden gate and walk the few hundred metres through the sand dunes to the beach.
On most days you can hear the waves long before you see them.
- For panoramic views of the beach and the Harris hills nothing beats climbing Ceapabhal
- When driving from Tarbert towards Scarista village a small layby adjacent to Harris Golf Club provides fantastic views over the horseshoe-shaped bay
- Read my guide to the best Scarista beach viewpoints and village here
- Since the beaches line the western side of Harris they nearly all have fantastic sunsets views. But Scarista beach and the layby adjacent to the Harris Golf Course is particularly good for views of the sun setting into the sea
- Photos: From the layby adjacent to the golf course the sun conditions are best in the morning. From the beach or the top of Ceapabhal you will be shooting in the opposite direction so any time from midday onwards has the best sun conditions
- Tide times: Makes little difference for this beach
4. Beach by Teampaill Ruins – Traigh an Teampaill
If it wasn’t for the majestic ruins at the tip of the island this would probably just be another white beach. But what remains of this stone chapel from 1528 makes the beach very picturesque.
Until the 16th Century the stone chapel was a parish church. It served the people living on Harris as well as the islands Pabbay and Berneray on the other side of the straight. Today nobody lives on Pabbay and only 130 people on Berneray.
How to get there: Traig an Teampaill is one of the few beaches on this list that is not accessible by car or bike. It takes about 30 minutes to walk the 2.5 kilometres from Northton village to the beach. But it is an easy walk.
Highland cattle and Hebridean sheep graze the area that you hike through. There are not too many places these animals can be seen anymore and my husband actually thought they were the highlight of the walk rather than the beach.
An added bonus is that the path passes Traigh na Cleabhaig (number 9 beach on this list) on the way.
- Walking along the pastures from Northton village you will get the view above, which I think is the most attractive
- Climbing Ceapabhal the views from above are spectacular
- St Clements church in Rodel (also called Roghadal church) was built by the same person as the parish chapel. The church still stands and is open to tourists, although it is bare inside. But the location at the southern tip of Harris has magnificent sea views
- Photos: Before lunch time the sun shines on the ruins as shown in the above picture. In the afternoon photos are best taken in the opposite direction
- Tide times: At high tide the beach is very narrow so try to avoid visiting at this time
5. Nisabost Beach – Traigh Lar
Another stretch of golden sand and amazing water colours. The views are towards Ceapabhal and Taransay which makes for a nice change from the backdrop of the Harris hills.
On the headland on the other side of the beach is the MacLeoyd’s standing stone. The stone is 5,000 years old and represented the link between the land and its ancestors. When the stone was erected it is believed that the area was farmland and open woodland. It is amazing to think just how much the landscape has changed.
How to get there: The beach is right next to the road. There is room for a couple of cars to park along the A859.
To get down to the beach use the stile next to the layby. A short but steep scramble leads down to the beach.
- Either end of the beach provides fantastic views. The above photo is taken by the rocks at the bottom of the path from the road
- Close to the MacLeoyd standing stone there are sweeping views of the beach, all the way to Ceapabhal in the distance
- On the other side of the small hill is Horgabost beach (beach number 8). If the parking area mentioned above is full there is plenty of parking at the caravan site next to Horgabost beach
- On the cliff high above the road is Talla na mara visitor centre. Flavours restaurant is part of the complex. When we stopped there it was closed for no specific reason but the views over the beach and the Atlantic Ocean must be fabulous
- Photos: Can be taken at any time of day. The sun sets over Caepabhal so from the standing stone the lighting is perfect in the evening for atmospheric shots. Nisabost beach has the finest sunset views of any of the beaches on this list
- Tide times: The beach is much wider and more impressive at low tide. However, it is fairly small and I would not go out of your way to plan a visit based on low tide
6. Hushinish Beach – Huisinis
Huisinis beach is often ranked as the prettiest beach on Harris. Maybe it was this expectation, the poor weather or the fact that my husband bumped the car on a rock in the car park, but I thought this beach was overrated.
Despite literally being at the end of the road and rain lashing, Husinis was one of the busiest beaches we visited. Perhaps it is due to the camping site close by, the large car park, toilet facilities and van selling hot food.
After seeing the amazing beaches listed above I didn’t understand why so many people think Husinis beach is so amazing.
How to get there: From the A859 it takes 30 minutes to drive the 20 kilometres on the narrow and twisting road to Huisinis. For the last few kilometres the road is single lane but with regular places to pass.
It might not have been one of my favourites and it is one of the more remote beaches but I think the drive past the Harris hills, colourful crofts sitting along rocky inlets and castles still makes a visit to Huisinis worthwhile.
- A hundred metres or so before arriving at the car park stop along the road (or walk back) for the view of the beach as seen above. If you are lucky highland cattle may be grazing along the side of the road
- For a different perspective take a photo in the same direction from the beach
- The circular walk over Huiseabhal Beag provides great views down to the beach
- On the way to the beach stop for the short walk to the North Harris Eagle Conservatory where you can be lucky enough to see Golden Eagles. The 30 minute walk starts 7 kilometres after the exit from the main road
- Photos: Are good at any time of day. If taking photos out over the beach towards Ceapabhal and Harris you will be shooting against the sun in the afternoon
- Tide times: The beach is much wider at low tide but personally I don’t think it is worth trying to time a trip with the tide. Save the day with nice weather at low tide to visit Luskentyre and Seilebost beach
7. Northton Beach – Traigh na h-Uidhe
Close to Northton village is this pretty little bay with good views towards the islands of Pabbay and Berneray.
Northton beach is not often listed as one of the top beaches on Harris but personally I felt that this beach looked a lot like Huisinis, just without the long drive.
The drawback is that it is close to popular Temple Café so it can get busy.
How to get there: The small lane leading down to the beach is at the end of the road which runs through Northton village. Park on the road after passing Temple Café.
- The photo above is taken from the grassy verge towards Ceapabhal. Climb up the steep and sandy slope and walk out towards the sea
- It is also possible to walk up the little hill on the other side of the beach although livestock fencing will hamper you slightly. The views back towards the beach shows how narrow Northton is, sandwiched between Scarista beach and Northton beach. But it is the views towards Berneray rather than the beach below that stands out. From the top you can see how much flatter the islands further south are than Harris and Lewis
- Stop for lunch or a chocolate brownie at cosy Temple Café. The round stone building looks like a little hobbit house. With outside seating, a wood burner and large glass windows looking out over Scarista bay it is a perfect stop in any weather
- Photos: Early in the day the sun is hidden behind a hill so arrive from mid-morning
- Tide times: I would not recommend coming at high tide. Any other time will show off plenty of white sand and exposed black rocks making for some fantastic photos
8. Horgabost Beach – Traigh Horgabost
The scenery is stunning with pure white sands, dark blue waters and the South Harris hills in the background. It is actually quite similar to some of the views from Seilebost (beach number 2 on the list).
The downside is that the beach is right next to a busy campsite, also called Horgabost. As a result the beach can get crowded. Or at least crowded by Outer Hebrides standards, which means that there will be a few other people on the beach.
A food truck is parked next to the car park and serves the typical greasy spoon food you would expect. There are not many places to stop for lunch in these parts but Temple Café in Northton is a much better option.
How to get there: Whilst Seilebost can be difficult to get down to from the main road, at Horgabost you can park right by the beach. In fact, Horgabost beach has the easiest access of any of the beaches on the list.
- The best views are from the beach itself, looking out towards the South Harris hills
- It is a short walk across the hill to Nisabost beach (beach number 5) which is much quieter. On the way stop at the MacLeod standing stone
- Photos: Good lighting all day
- Tide times: I don’t think it makes enough difference to the views to time a visit with low tide – just stop when you happen to be driving past
9. Traigh na Cleabhaig
Traig na Cleabhaig is actually two beaches located right next to each other. One is very small, the other slightly larger.
At low tide black stones provides a stark contrast to the white sands. These beaches also have the same good views towards Pabbay and Berneray as Northton beach (beach number 7) and Traigh an Teampaill (beach number 4). But they lack the majesty of the former and the stunning chapel ruins of the latter.
How to get there: Traig na Cleabhaig is located close to Northton village and can only be reached on foot. When walking to Traig an Teampaill (beach number 4) or climbing Ceapabhal you cannot miss these beaches. But they are not interesting enough to warrant the 30 minute walk to see on their own.
- Photos: good at any time
- Tide times: At high tide the beaches nearly disappear
10. Bagh Steinigidh
This is a small and rocky beach a few hundred metres before Scarista village. The views are out to Taransay and the Atlantic Ocean and the black rocks makes a nice change from the sandy beaches. Having said that this is not the most impressive beach on Harris.
It is tempting to walk out onto the shore but the size of the waves can be deceptive. Watch how far the waves comes in before stepping onto the beach or you might end up with very wet feet.
Next to the beach is a picnic table with views out to the Atlantic Ocean although I can’t imagine there are many days when it is not too windy or cold to sit here.
How to get there: The turn off to the small parking area comes up very suddenly. It is on the right-hand side just before the start of the small rise by Blue Reef Cottages.
- Don’t miss the standing stone, Clach Steineagaidh, towards Borve beach. Today only a single stone remains but it was once part of a larger set of stones
- Photos: Early morning or late evening has the best light for photos
- Tide times: At high tide there is hardly any beach but it makes for beautiful photos of the waves smashing over the rocks. The beach is not as majestic as the others on the island so I would not worry about timing your visit with the tide
11. Borve Beach
A couple of gold-coloured sandy beaches expose themselves at Borve at low tide. When driving past at high tide you might wonder where these beaches are since they completely disappear.
The views towards Taransay and out over the Atlantic are fabulous and it is also a good place to look out for local wildlife such as seals.
How to get there: Park at Borve graveyard and it is a short walk across the grassy bank to the beach.
- From the grassy verge at either end of the beach the slightly higher vantage points allows you to photograph the whole beach
- Photos: Any time
- Tide times: At high tide the beach disappears
12. The Beach You Happen to Drive Past
The A859 hugs the western coastline of Harris. One of the joys of driving along this road is spotting a glittering piece of white sand and pulling over to explore it without knowing whether it even has a name.
You might have noticed that there is not a single beach on this list on the eastern side of the island. On the eastern side of Harris the bays are craggy and rocky and the colours range from black to brown.
How to Get to the Beaches on Harris
Rental car is by far the easiest way to get around both Harris and the rest of the Outer Hebrides. The airports on the islands – Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra – and the ferry ports of Stornoway and Tarbert have car rental agencies.
I strongly recommend hiring a car since it will allow you to see so much more of the beautiful landscape. If relying on public transport it is nearly impossible to time a visit to a particular beach for when the sky is clear and the tide is right.
The only form of public transport available is bus. The buses on Harris have a very limited timetable so using public transport requires planning. For the latest bus schedule click here.
The most useful routes to see the beaches of Harris are detailed below:
W10A – Tarbert to Leverburgh and Rodel via Spine Route (along the A859 to Northton village):
This is the most convenient bus route to see the beaches of Harris since many of the beaches are along the A859.
There are roughly 5 departures per day excluding Sundays. However the scheduled departure times are more tailored to school children than tourists.
W10A – Tarbert to Leverburgh and Rodel via Spine Route (to Luskentyre beach):
By advance request most of the departures on W10A can stop at Luskentyre village, which is close to the beach.
Otherwise all departures stop at the Luskentyre Turn which is 4.5 kilometres away. But the walk is worth it. It is largely along beautiful Seilebost beach and at low tide much of the walk can be done along the white sand (but stay close to the shore because of quicksand in the area).
This is a great way to see the two beaches so I recommend getting the bus to Luskentyre village and return from the Luskentyre Turn bus stop.
W12 – Tarbert – Hushinish beach:
During school term a bus makes the 50 minute journey in the morning and afternoon Monday to Friday.
During school holidays bus schedules are split between summer (end of April to mid-October) and the rest of the year. In the summer period the bus runs on Tuesday and Friday. The timetable leaves you 4-5 hours to explore the area.
At other times of year there is no public transport during the school holidays.
There are no departures on Saturday or Sunday at any time of year.
The Outer Hebrides have become a popular cycling destination. The Isle of Harris has more hills than the islands further south but it is still fairly flat. In addition, distances are not too far. As an example, the distance from Northton village to the turn off to Luskentyre beach is 17 kilometres. From here it is another 4.5 kilometres to Luskentyre beach.
Huisinis beach is a bit further away being 55 kilometres from Northton and 26 kilometres from Tarbert. Therefore a car or bus is the easiest way to get to this beach.
Many self-catering cottages and hotels provide bikes which guests can borrower. Given limited public transport bikes are a great way to see the beaches along the A859. Just pick a day when it is not too wet or windy or it might be more challenging to cover the distance than you were expecting.