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Life's A Beach

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The Harris west coast road reveals beaches around every corner.

We're still in the depths of an island winter, as storm after storm washes across the island bringing cold winds and wild weather to our door.

But, most islanders tend to take this time of year in their stride, particularly if they're the outdoor type who doesn't let a bit of rain put a damper on their spirits.

One of the small blessings to be thankful for during the more challenging seasons is that the beaches of Harris are devoid of footsteps, and it's not uncommon to be the only soul on the sands.

The Outer Hebrides has become, quite rightly, famous for its beautiful beaches, and barely a year goes by without some award or another being bestowed upon them.

Empty winter beach walks at Luskentyre and Seilebost, where cobwebs are blown away.

Earlier this week, TripAdvisor named Luskentyre the 7th best beach in Europe, the highest placing of any UK beach on their final list.

Luskentyre is pretty special, no doubt, and it's no surprise that it regularly takes the top spot when these polls take place.

The unusual sight of mountains and islands on the near horizon and the vast swathe of pristine sand make it a popular choice for visitors.

But the west coast of Harris boasts plenty of other options, some of which reward those who make a little extra effort to reach them. So we asked some of our staff to reveal their favourites…

Low winter sun setting to the west of Hushinish and Tràigh Mheilein

Peter Kwaśniewski recommends following the long and winding single track north-west to the tiny village of Hushinish, home to just four houses.

Here you'll find a small but perfect slice of white sand with Atlantic views to reward the 15-mile rollercoaster journey to where the road finally ends.

Assistant Blender Harry Wood also recommends making that same journey but reveals a hidden secret far over the nearby headland for those willing to venture a little further on foot.

The pure and tranquil sands of Tràigh Mheilein are stunningly located opposite the island of Scarp, and safe and sturdy walking shoes will make the effort worth it. "It's a beautiful beach, no matter the weather," he says.

And his colleague Mairi Mackenzie agrees...

"You have to put in the effort to get there, it’s not a walk for the feint hearted on a windy day, but always worth the journey and you feel so close to Scarp you can nearly touch it."

A short walk leads to Tràigh Na Cleabhaig near the village of Northton.

Sandra Fraser, a favourite distillery tour guide, loves Tràigh Seilebost, a swathe of sand a little further to the south and across the bay from its more famous cousin Luskentyre.

"Seilebost will always be my favourite. Being a former pupil of Seilebost Primary School, we were very fortunate to be taken by our teacher for regular beach outings! Imagine Gaelic music singing in the dunes; it was one of my favourite school memories."

Further south still lies Tràigh Na Cleabhaig near the village of Northton, a favourite of our project coordinator Eilidh MacDonald who tells us…

"In spring, the machair is filled with wildflowers, and you can get an incredible bird's eye view of the beach below when you climb the hill of Ceapabhal behind it."

Two beaches on Taransay. Image © Borve Lodge Estate, Isle of Harris.

Finally, for the truly adventurous beach-hunter, there's Tràigh an Siar and a smattering of other small beaches on the tiny uninhabited island of Taransay, owned by Borve Lodge Estate, just across the Sound of Harris.

You'll need to paddle your sea-kayak to get there, but if you want to pretend to have your own private beach, then there's no better place to play castaway for a night or two.

So, as the days grow longer we'll be doing our best to enjoy these special places before the summer and intrepid tourists return. The secret's out, life's a beach here in Harris, but it's a secret that we're happy to share.

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