Distance: 23miles (37km) Ascent/Descent: 590m/520m
Start/Finish: Luskentyre Beach to Ardvoulie
Terrain: 20% road, 60% Good path, 20% Swampy path
Transport: Bus Services for both start/end
Route: Route Map | Garmin Course
I can't understand why such a great official walking route receives such little promotion! I had never heard of the "Harris Walkway" until browsing through tourist brochures in the Hotel at Tarbert. Even the brochure offered a mere hint as to its existence - a set of straight dotted lines across a map of Harris, accompanied by just a paragraph with little clue as to what the actual route involved. So I got myself online and started searching the internet expecting to find dedicated pages about this "walkway" which was opened in 2001 by Cameron McNeish, but all I found was other walkers' exclamations at the lack of information available, along with sparse accounts and a couple of photographs.
Admittedly, on inspection of an OS map of Harris, and given the start and end points (Ardvoulie to the N of Tarbert and Selibost to the SW), the route any road-avoiding explorer would choose is fairly obvious. A series of old tracks cut through the hills of Harris, and the Harris Walkway basically links them together, with just a little bit of road walking in between.
Some work has gone into this walkway - sections are marked with a plaque at either end (many now faded), giving a brief description in English and Gaelic. Also every section has at least one strategically placed bench providing a fine place for lunch or a breather.
The excellent Hebrides Transport bus services visit both start/end points. I based myself in Tarbert (ferry from Uig, Skye), and in the morning took the bus down to Luskentyre, ran from there back to Tarbert, then at 4pm took a bus N to Ardvoulie and again ran back to Tarbert. It would make a pleasant, unstressful two-day end-to-end backpacking trip with plenty idyllic camping spots to choose from.
The continuation from there became much rougher, lots of leaping over bog and an occasional bit of sinking, tall marker-posts indicated the way down. After barely more than 3 miles I was on the other coast of Harris, where the route shies away from the possibility of tarmac and instead negotiates a rocky lump then meanders through one of the rockiest scenes I've seen in Scotland. Sure enough an information board declares that this area was used in Stanley Kubrick's '2001 Space Odyssey' due to its moon-like landscape.
After passing a lochan, a track joins from the right - this was my onward route, taking me down to the road junction and a plaque that described the "Coffin Road" I'd just followed.