A 19th Century French writer and journalist once said: “Things change, yet stay the same.” At the time his wife probably rolled her eyes and thought, ‘he’s off again!’
But we know what he meant. But he can’t have been thinking about Uig when he said it. Had he known Uig existed, which is rather unlikely.
The stunning Uig landscape may look permanent but up until about 12,000 years ago was covered in sheets of ice many hundreds of feet thick. The ice melted, rounding off the tops of Mealisval and Teanisbhal; gouging out a huge cleft that became loch Suaineval (the deepest loch in Lewis); dumping millions of tons of gravel in what is the Carnish quarry today and creating a mighty river which flowed through Glen Valtos – Lewis’s Grand Canyon in miniature.
A couple of thousand years hurried past before the first hunter/gatherer peoples arrived by sea and made their encampments around the shores of Uig, living on the rich harvest of fish, shellfish and seabirds that the area provided.
Over the centuries sea levels rose and obliterated almost all trace of them. More changes occurred with the arrival of the first farmers around 5000 years ago. They grew crops and introduced the first sheep to the islands.
By Eilidh Whiteford
The complete dining experience is a delicacy to be savoured and enjoyed at Scarista House in Harris.
A Grade B listed Georgian building, formerly a church manse, with views of the Atlantic Ocean, heather-covered Harris mountains and a three-mile sandy beach on its doorstep, Scarista House has been open as a restaurant and small hotel for 40 years – with current proprietors Tim and Patricia Martin now playing hosts for nearly 20 years.
And the couple have earned a well-respected reputation over the years, not only for the hospitality offered to hotel guests, but for the traditional, high-quality, fresh food delivered in the House restaurant.
The care taken in the sourcing and preparation of Scarista’s food has been recognised by travel publisher and environmentalist Alasdair Sawday as the only Outer Hebridean restaurant to feature in his ‘Eat Slow Britain’ book.
Scarista House is also listed in the Michelin Guide, the Good Food Guide, and as one of The Times newspaper’s Top 10 Best Places to Eat by the Sea in the UK.
By Katie Macleod
On the Isle of Berneray, neither locals nor visitors will be able to miss the brand new, bright blue Berneray Shop and Bistro, located just a few minutes from the ferry terminal and the causeway linking the island to North Uist.
The newly redesigned and licensed bistro is open year-round for lunches, homemade cakes, and teas and coffees, as well as for evening meals from April to October, while the attached shop is also an off-licence that sells local produce and meats.
Formerly Ardmaree Stores and the Lobster Pot Tearoom, the business was bought over and rebranded at the end of 2017 by Lochmaddy-based Abigail Nicholson and her husband Ruairidh, who – as well as installing a commercial kitchen and new flooring – have transformed the space with a nautical-style design that complements its seafood-filled menu.
Evening bistro-style meals are available from 5.30pm-8.30pm during the high season of April to October, with seafood options like lobster and langoustines supplied by Ruairidh himself, who works as fisherman. “We’re also trying to use local suppliers as much as possible,” explains Abigail, referencing island businesses such as JA Macdonald for fruit and vegetables, Kallin Shellfish for crab meat, Munro Butchers for meat, and Stag and Macleans Bakeries.
By Eilidh Whiteford
“Appear at the right time and visitors might just get a wee sample straight out of the oven – and that's a rare treat!” says Salar Smokehouse owner Iain MacRury.
Originally established in 1987, Salar Smokehouse was bought by former production manager Iain in 2015, when previous owners Loch Duart Ltd shut down the plant.
Last year saw the business reopen to great success, not only through its internationally recognised Salar Salmon products, but also the expansion of the Smokehouse shop to now house fine crafts and gift-wares by 27 local artisans, including exclusive Hebridean Jewellery ranges.
“The shop has been a success and everything we stock is unique to us,” said Iain. “We make sure we don't carry lines that the other island shops do as we don't want to compete, and it lets us offer something different.”
And this summer new product developments and fish flavours ensure even more mouth-watering treats in store, with the new 'Salar Smokie' – the Uist version of an Arbroath Smokie - and new salmon flavours of Lemon and Black Pepper, Lemon and Tarragon, and Chilli and Lime.
“We make our own rub for the chilli and lime, so you can't get quite the same anywhere else,” Iain said, adding: “And it's going down very well so far.”
Yet there is more, as during the summer a stop-off at Salar Smokehouse could see customers come away with just about anything, as Iain and his team will be smoking whatever fish and shellfish the local boats bring home on the day.
“We'll have smoked scallops in the summer and we'll be doing special smoking's on the day of whatever comes in from the local boats,” Iain said. “It'll be limited and a one-off each day, but it'll be as fresh and as local as it comes!”
For delicious fish, gifts, crafts and much more, a stop at Salar Smokehouse, situated at The Pier in Lochcarnan, is well worth it – especially after the fishing boats have landed!
By Elly Welch
I worry about the homogenization of our hospitality industry - the box ticking, star-ratings-led craze is knocking the quirky corners off everything. Of course, standards should be good but the creeping absence of difference is cutting out the chance of happy surprises.
Praise be, then, for Scarista House, sweet hotel and welcomer of souls. There’s not a beige carpet, spa-bath or scatter pillow in sight at this Georgian Manse turned island-getaway in windswept west Harris. The wifi is come and go, there’s no TV in the bedrooms and chips aren’t on the menu. What there is, though, is unforgettable charm and personality.
I get a skip of excitement approaching its steep, whitewashed walls set proud between the green Harris hills and the golden arc of Scarista beach.