village on Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK

For other places with the same name, see Tarbert (disambiguation).

Tarbert is a village on Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With a population of 550, it's the main town and ferry terminal for Harris. It's the ideal base for touring the whole of Harris: you can also tour Lewis (which of course is the same island) but that's quite a drive from here.

Get in Edit

Map of Tarbert (Harris)

1 Tarbert pier has Calmac ferries year-round daily from Uig on Skye, taking 1 hour 40 min. Until end of March 2024, return fares are £67.70 per car, £13.70 per adult including driver, and £6.90 per child. Buses from Glasgow connect with the ferries at Uig.

Uig harbour is closed 30 Oct to 11 Dec 2023 and all ferries are cancelled, so instead take the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway and travel to Harris by road. This is the second stage of works to enable new ferries to use Uig pier. The first stage in Jan-March 2023 overran so be cautious of sailings to Tarbert towards Christmas.

Other routes are from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway on Lewis then south by road, or to North or South Uist then by ferry to Leverburgh on Harris and go north by road.

By bus: Five buses run M-Sa between Tarbert and Stornoway, taking 75 min. A linked bus / ferry service runs up the Western Isles through Barra, the Uists and Harris and across Lewis to Stornoway, so M-Sa it's possible to go the whole route within a day. To do so northbound you need to set off from Castlebay on Barra at 06:20, but for Harris you could leave it till 10:20, reaching Lochboisedale on South Uist at 13:20, Benbecula at 15:00, Lochmaddy on North Uist at 15:30 and Leverburgh on Harris at 17:00 then Tarbert at 17:30. Going south, you need to leave Stornoway at 09:30 to go the whole route, and leave Tarbert at 10:45, Lochmaddy at 13:45, Benbecula at 14:25 and Lochboisdale at 15:25 reaching Castlebay at 17:35.

Get around Edit

Tarbert can easily be explored on foot, but you needs wheels to get anywhere in rugged Harris.

Car Hire Hebrides are based at the filling station opposite Harris Hotel, tel +44 1851 706500.

No Sunday buses; M-Sa Bus W10 runs along A859 six times, Bus W11 runs 2-3 times between Tarbert and Rhenigidale. Bus W12 runs 3-4 times between Tarbert, Amhuinnsuidhe and Huishinish. Bus W14 runs 3-4 times between Tarbert and Scalpay.

See Edit

The Clisham is a "Corbett"
  • 1 Bun Abhainn Eadarra or Bunavoneader along B887 west of Tarbert is the remains of a whaling station, active from 1904 to 1929. Its three ships worked in the North Atlantic, seeking oil from whale blubber. Thereafter oil was derived from other sources and whaling became uneconomic, though the station had a brief revival in the 1950s. It's a unique survival in Britain of a shore station.
  • Amhuinnsuidhe Castle (see Sleep) is one you can't help visiting, since the public road grazes its front doorstep. But no tours or stopping on the road here, it's for guest shooting-parties only.
  • 2 Eagle Observatory is a cabin in the hills near Loch Scourst. Park on B887 at Meavaig and hike two miles up the track. Most visitors see no eagles but read in the sightings book that the place was besieged by them the previous day and a Fiat 500 was carried off.
  • Beehive shielings are Hebridean igloos - lacking wood or ice, shepherds make these little shelters out of stone covered with turf. There's a collection on the hillside above the track to the observatory.
  • 3 Huishnish may have Scotland's most scenic loo at "The Gateway" shelter where B887 ends. Look out for wildlife along the coast, and you might hike the two miles northeast to Crabhadail glen and beach.
  • Scarp is the island half a mile west of Huishnish, uninhabited since the 1970s. The channel is narrow but tricky to navigate, so in 1934 Scarp was the target of dingbat experiments to send mail by rocket. The positives to take from this endeavour is the rockets did hit the island.
  • 4 Sgeotasaigh or Scotasay is an island uninhabited since the early 20th century, near the ferry route into Tarbert. The lighthouse is a stubby navigation light on a separate islet.
  • 5 Scalpay is an island ten miles east of Tarbert, connected by bridge since 1997. Sgalpaigh may mean ship island or scallop island, and this is specifically Scalpay of Harris to distinguish it from Scalpay off Skye. The village is west near the bridge, with a pub bistro and couple of B&Bs. The lane southeast peters out at Kenavaig, from where you can hike a couple of miles to Eilean Glas lighthouse, built 1789 and now automated and still in use.
  • See Leverburgh for access to Luskentyre beach.

Do Edit

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle
  • 1 Clisham at 799 metres / 2621 ft is the highest mountain and only "Corbett" in the Outer Hebrides. The simplest ascent is from the crest of the A859 between Tarbert and Ardvourlie (Aird a' Mhulaidh), and head up the southern shoulder.
  • 2 Scaladale Centre, Aird a' Mhulaidh HS3 3AB, +44 1859 502502. M-Sa 09:00-17:00. This is a residential outdoor activity centre for young people, open all year, on A859 near the boundary between Harris and Lewis. It's often block-booked by groups, but may have availability for bunks and for activities such as mountain biking or sailing on the loch. It's not routinely staffed, so you need to arrange access in advance. Dorm £25 ppn.
  • Rhenigidale (Rèinigeadal - see Hostel below) was only connected by road in 1990. Until then, the land route was the "Postman's Path" - a steep but firm hiking trail, not recommended for bikes. The way leads by the abandoned villages of Gearraidh Lotaigear (abandoned in the 1970s) and Molingeanais (abandoned 1964). Eventually the trail reaches the Tarbert-Scalpay road.
  • Drive or cycle the Golden Road, the switchback lane along the east coast from Tarbert to Rodel at the south tip of Harris.
  • Visit St Kilda. Kilda Cruises is based in Tarbert but in calm summer weather does day-trips from Leverburgh, see that page for boat operators.

Buy Edit

  • Cash: there's an ATM within Essence of Harris candle shop on Pier Rd, open M-Sa 09:30-16:30. The Bank of Scotland doesn't have an ATM: it's open M Tu Th 10:00-14:00 but will close permanently in Feb 2024.
  • A D Munro, Main Street HS3 3DG, +44 1859 502016. M-F 07:30-18:00, Sa 08:30-18:00. No supermarkets on Harris, so this is the main store.
  • Harris Post Office opposite AD Munro on Main St is open M Tu Th F 09:00-17:00, W Sa 09:00-13:00.
  • John Morrison, Main Street HS3 3DJ, +44 1859 502474. M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Friendly little newsagent and grocers.
  • Harris Tweed: Isle of Harris Shop next to the distillery is open M-Sa 09:00-17:00. It's the outlet for Clo Mor in the old school at Drinisher (near the hostel at No 5, see Sleep), where there's a small exhibition and you can also buy.

Eat Edit

Scarp, reached by rocket in 1934
  • Island Bites is a fast-food trailer parked by the junction of Main St and Pier Rd, open Tu-Sa 09:00-14:00, 17:00-19:00.
  • Pierhouse Restaurant is within Hebrides Hotel, see Sleep.
  • 1 Waterside Cafe, Pier Rd HS3 3DG. M Tu, Th-Sa 10:30-16:00. Bustling cafe with outside and inside tables, serving reasonable but unexceptional fare. However it isn't on the waterside - you might get a glimpse from an outside table, but what you mostly see is traffic on Pier Road.
  • 2 Flavour, Cnoc na Greine HS3 3DS, +44 7388 366361. Th-Sa 07:00-23:00. Rave reviews for this out-of-the-way restaurant on the road towards Scalpay. Get there quick before the chef gets head-hunted by a swanky Knightsbridge eatery charging five times Flavour's prices.

Drink Edit

  • Water: fill your bottle from the blue pillar fountain opposite Hotel Hebrides.
  • Bistro Bar is within the Hebrides Hotel, open daily 12:00-21:00.
  • 1 Isle of Harris Distillery, Tarbert HS3 3DJ, +44 1859 502212, . Tours May-Sept M-Th. Distillery founded in 2015 producing gin and Hearach single malt whisky. The latter has almost finished maturing and goes on sale from 23 Sept 2023, for an RRP of £65 per bottle. It's medium peaty. Tour £17.50.
  • Brewery: Loomshed is at Cnoc na Greine half a mile east of town. The shop is open Tu W 12:00-17:00, Th-Sa 17:00-21:00.

Sleep Edit

Harris whisky goes on sale 23 Sept 2023

Budget Edit

  • Backpackers Stop, Main Street HS3 3DJ, +44 1859 502163. Hostel with 3 dormitories, open March-Dec. Clean and comfy, with bike storage. You need to be out between 10 AM and 2 PM. Dorm £25 ppn.
  • 1 No 5 Drinishader, Drinishader HS3 3DX (4 miles south of Tarbert), +44 1859 511255. Small hostel and self-catering cottages, dog friendly, they offer kayak hire. Dorm £24 ppn, double room £65.
  • 2 Rhenigidale Hostel, Burnside, Rhenigidale HS3 3BD (6 miles from Tarbert on foot or 13 miles by road). A hostel run by Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust, open all year. It doesn't take bookings and has no phone, so you take a chance on availability and it's unsuitable for large groups. No shops nearby, so bring along food. Assistance dogs only. Dorm £20 ppn.

Mid-range Edit

  • Avalon, Hill House, 11 West Side, West Tarbert HS3 3BG (a mile west of ferry pier), +44 1859 502334. Good welcoming B&B. B&B double £70.
  • 3 Ceol na Mara, 7 Direcleit HS3 3DP (a mile south of Tarbert), +44 1859 502464. B&B in 20th-century Hebridean house on croft land, open April-Sept. It earns rave reviews for its quality of service. B&B double £180.
  • Harris Hotel, Scott Rd, Tarbert HS3 3DL (west edge of village), +44 1859 502154. Reliable long-established hotel open all year. JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, stayed here in 1912 - look for his initials scratched on the dining room window. B&B double £140.
  • Hotel Hebrides, Tarbert HS3 3DG (by ferry pier), +44 1859 502364, . Comfy place open all year with 21 en suite rooms, and four self-catering apartments. The restaurant is popular with passers-by. B&B double £180.
  • Self-catering cottages include Ullabhal & Clèiseabhal on Tarbert Main St.

Splurge Edit

No ferries Nov-Dec 2023!
  • 4 Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, HS3 3AS (on B887 15 miles east of Tarbert), +44 1859 560200. Grand baronial pile built in 1867. Mostly catering to fishing and deer-stalking parties, with hire of rods, guns, ghillies, boats; but others will enjoy. Post-covid they don't offer individual rooms, but you can be Laird of the whole show (sleeps 18) for £40,000 a week. The space between shore and hill is so narrow that the public road practically brushes the front door mat.  

Connect Edit

As of Sept 2023, Tarbert has 4G from all UK carriers, but it's very patchy and doesn't extend far from town. 5G has not yet reached Lewis and Harris.

Go next Edit

  • North to Stornoway, which is the best base for exploring Lewis.
  • South to Leverburgh and Rodel church, and onward by ferry to the Uists.

This city travel guide to Tarbert is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.