1 Lickisto, Isle of Harris HS3 3EL
Lickisto is on the eastern coast by what’s known as the Golden Road. That’s not because it’s spectacular but because it cost an absolute fortune to build across such tricky terrain. On the other side of the island it’s a totally different experience: with the prevailing weather battering wind and water against the coast, the western side of Harris is a land of huge sweeping bays with golden sands and water that’s travel-brochure blue. Head over to Seilebost for a breathtaking example that, on a good day, will have you swearing you’re somewhere in the Caribbean.
Perched snugly above a sea loch on Harris, this campsite is perfect for exploring the wilds of the east coast or the breathtaking beaches of the west, but many, many campers barely leave the site, so drawn are they to its rock-star charisma. Harvey and John, its owners, have transformed a rough and rocky croft into a relaxing retreat, where the love they have lavished on their labours can be clearly seen and felt. Harvey’s a fancy cook and bakes fresh bread for the camping guests every day before going off to work at his hair salon in Tarbert while John does all the handywork. Since acquiring Lickisto Blackhouse a few years ago, they’ve been slowly converting the place – the croft they live in, the old blackhouse and a couple of byres – into one of the finest little campsites in the country.
The camping pitches are personally cut by John, and are separated from each other by wild grasses and heather, giving everyone their own individual space; plus there are a couple of yurts for lazybones, pitched high up on the site to give splendid ocean views. Each comes with woodburning stove, running water, futons (with linen), gas stove, carpets and candles. Harvey even pops a homemade loaf in, so don’t forget your butter and jam.
The site has its own restored blackhouse, where you can cook a meal, play Jenga, have a shower or simply slouch on a leather sofa and dream. Pluck a fishing rod from the wall and you can try catching your supper from the loch. And guests are also free to enjoy the fruits (and veg) of the polytunnel – the lemon basil will be perfect should you hook a fish. Down by the sea loch there’s a small landing cove if you want to turn up by boat or if you fancy having a waterside campfire of an evening.
Around the communal table you’re as likely to be rubbing shoulders with cyclists, canoeists and walkers as with people who’ve come by car. And with room for only one camper van and no caravans or motorhomes, you’re not going to be bothered by the sound of engines in the morning. Lickisto is proud to be low impact and small- scale, and this is a responsibility that the owners live and breathe. When John was re-roofing the blackhouse he learned traditional thatching techniques and used local heather to do the job. Take a close look at the wooden bridges and walkways that dot the site – they are made from telegraph poles discarded at the roadside by a telecoms company. It’s creative recycling that benefits everyone and fills your head with ideas for how you could do the same.
When you arrive, John or Harvey is usually on hand to give you a welcoming tour of the site. It’s a seductive introduction and, as you wind down little paths between stands of high rushes, cross tiny bridges and turn unexpected corners to reveal perfect pitches hidden behind brightly flowering bushes, you may be forgiven for thinking Harvey is actually a white rabbit in disguise, leading you into Wonderland.
The resident wildfowl are only too happy to make your acquaintance, and the ducks, in particular, have an engaging habit of wandering up and eyeing you in a way that clearly says, ‘Have you finished with that biscuit?’. You are welcome to have a fire by the shoreline, where John has fashioned a fine seat from an old rowing boat. Stretch your legs out there of an evening, looking out down the slender sea loch and, if you watch closely enough, there’s a good chance you’ll see the local otter making his evening commute back down the loch with his supper in his mouth. That’s what counts as rush hour at Lickisto.
The Owner Says
We stayed here for 5 nights and what a place! We have a 5 man tent with separate porch section and the pitch was plenty big enough, with a few to choose from. The showers were good, plenty of hot water and always clean. The blackhouse was a godsend to get in out of the heat (yes, it was scorching!!!). Sea Eagles, golden Eagles, ravens, cuckoos, and lots of warblers! Just loved it. John and Adrian were very helpful and approachable. Eggs from the chickens were lovely as was the bread provided every day. Harris is a glorious place, already planning our next trip!
We just got back from a 10 day stay at Lickisto Blackhouse. Thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. This isn't your typical camping site with well manicured lawns, etc. This place gives you a "wild" feel to it. There are no rules here - campfires are allowed and you can pitch your tent anywhere since pitches are not pre-allocated. You could get breath taking sceneries from certain pitches.
The Blackhouse was a lifesaver, not from the rain but from the midges! We were allowed to cook in the house which was a big lifesaver as it was impossible to cook out in the open with swamps of midges flying into your face and food. Great place to get to know other campers on site too.
This site isn't particularly suitable if you have a rather large family tent with many young children. Most of the pitches are on a small side. Would fit a 2 to 3 p non-standing height tent perfectly. With the tall hedges bordering most pitches and you'll find them throughout the site, I can imagine some parents would find it hard keeping an eye on their young children as they roam freely as most children would do. However, if you're a solo traveler or a couple or with a group of friends, then this place is ideal - tranquility at its best! John and Adrian were perfect host.
Another thing to note: There isn't any wifi on site and most of us had very patchy GPRS mobile phone signal. We were on Voda, O2 and EE networks. However, a short drive to Tarbert would give you strong 3G network (except for O2, only GPRS on the entire island, I'm afraid).
Am just back from spending 4 days at this campsite with my 2 children. We managed to get the spot right next to the water which was perfect. Could just sit there looking out over the water at the curious seal who would appear every evening. My son went fishing and we had a campfire most nights. I was initially worried about how expensive this campsite was but have come away completely happy and would gladly go back, after staying here we stayed at a campsite in Stornaway which was only a few pound cheaper but was awful, this campsite is a holiday in itself not just a field to sleep in. I feel for us this is as good as a campsite can get. If you like more the wild camping style where you have your own space this site is perfect. Have to say the Blackhouse is the best communal area I've experienced, the smell of the peat fire and the magical homemade bread that kept appearing in the bread tin was just brilliant. My morning shower was not the normal experience of camping where you have to dodge the insects and the shower goes cold after 20 seconds. To shower in a blockhouse was a joy.
The campsite is brilliantly organised, it reminded me of camping in a Steiner Kindergarten garden, winding paths and beautiful planting.
You leave your car outside so no sound of car engines. You carry all your camping stuff with the help of wheel barrows, this does require a bit of effort, next time I plan to pack better to make this easier.
From the campsite it's only a 10 min journey to the beaches - the ones around the Horgabost area are incredible. Tarbert is only 10 mins away as well.
Wish we'd stayed longer :-)
We arrived at the campsite with the intention to stay only 1 night but we loved it so much that we sacrificed our night on Skye to stay here longer. I wouldn't be put off by the review about it not being great for campervans because we had a large motorhome and it was perfect for us. Alright, the hook up isn't down beside the yurts and croft but if it was, the landscape would be ruined, you also get awesome views from being up above everything else.
John was extremely welcoming and helpful, especially when we couldn't keep our fire going in the croft house ha! The croft is stunning and we actually didnt spend a lot of time in our motorhome because we were able to chill out in there with the fire and music, total bliss.
I would recommend this campsite to anyone, the camping facilities are great and the location is superb, we will definitely be back one day.
Not great for campervans
Lovely setting if you're in a tent, the owners have created secluded little pitches with planting, near the facilities and the water. It's a gorgeous if isolated spot but a helluva drive up the east coast from Leverburgh through a stunning landscape. Campervans (only space for 3) are stuck up the top of the site, on a patch of gravel that looks like it used to be the car park and you have to trek down the hill to the loos or the communal blackhouse. The site was completely plagued with midges the night we stayed so we holed up in the van, not so much fun. Chickens are friendly and you could probably pinch some herbs for cooking, or ask nicely.
This campsite is a favourite. A little pricey, but you get what you pay for. I ran the Harris half and then lazed about at the site, drinking champagne and watching seals play around us. Magical.
Despite its price its amazing! We love the wee isolated pitches which provide privacy. So much space available with or without a view. The blackhouse is cosy with its log burning stove and sofas - perfect when youve been camping for the last 3 weeks in the rain! Decent showers! Cant fault many aspects of the site - the chickens that explore your tent (eggs up for offer from the blackhouse, along with the freshly baked bread daily). Staff (Adrian in particular) are great! Good ideas around the site - with the use of the wheelbarrows! Would recommend this site to anyone on Harris!!!
Martin and Laura
A lot of work has gone into creating this place, what an oasis. The boys don't stop, the hens need trained, the otters are under your feet. There are fish just off the rocks in front of my tent, the place, is amazing, rain or shine. Please don't all come at once.
I camped here one night in May 2011 whilst doing a 2 week cycle camp of the Western Isles. A superb site with very friendly owners,a great Blackhouse for a communal evening, and fresh bread and eggs for breakfast. It was slightly damp being a peaty site, but wonderful views and countryside, though the climb up from Tarbert going on to Stornoway the next day was challenging with 20 kgs of kit on the bike! I hope to return in 2014 on my cycle camp of the Outer Hebrides, probably again in May.
After two weeks incredible cycling touring stayed here one night. Just the best lovely people lovely location. Very cool camping we will be back
Incredible! Been camping for years and I’ve honestly never stayed anywhere quite like this before! Everything camping could and should be. At the tent it felt like you were wild camping, we had a stunning view of the lock, couldn’t see or hear anyone. On surfacing and walking through the beautiful wild garden to the black house it turned into luxury camping big time! a georgous open fire, wonderfull people to chill and chat with, free home made bread and fresh eggs, magazines and books. The shower rooms might be ’unisex’ but the size if the ’cubicle’ and the fittings etc combine so you forget your even camping for 20 min and feel like your in a posh city hotel. Absolutely loved this place, would love to return, only down side was that we discovered it by mistake and could only stay 1 night as we had a ferry booked. Best for couples, or adventurous families who’s kids are armed with fishing nets, etc and a sence of real adventure as its the perfect place to run wild and explore the gardens and coast.
Fantastic campsite. Anne and Judy (two ladies of uncertain age in a Mazda Bongo) visited last week, during the ’worst May weather in Scotland for 30 years’. The rain was horizontal and the winds so high that we couldn’t put up the canvas top on the Bongo. John was helpful and welcoming (froze some ice bags for our G&Ts), and the Blackhouse really is the social hub of the site - the only drawback being having to stagger back up the hill in the dark in the wee small hours after imbibing various freely shared beverages! Great bread provided for breakfast. Showers spotless and there was plenty of hot water at all times. The area is spectacularly beautiful (well, what we could see of it when the clouds lifted ...). Will definitely go back - when the weather forecast is for sun for the next 5 days.
We had a lovely three nights at Lickisto and would recommend it to anyone! The welcome and hospitality from John and Harvey as well as Adrian was not only great and genuine but was such a lovely change from the usual grumpy owner it made our stay at a special campsite even more special! The site is on an old crofter which has been transformed into a little green oasis in the lunar landscape of the East coast of Harris. There is a reasonable amount of privacy between tents as actually it takes a little while to wind your way round the little paths between the greenery to find them all! The Isle of Harris is in the Outer Hebrides and so it gets its fair share of wild weather (’mad weather’ as John put it!) so if you’re planning a trip there you shouldn’t be surprised if its a bit squelchy underfoot or you end up sporting the windswept look after the first few days. You really have to be prepared to get wet or bitten as like the rest of Scotland there are midges about during the usual times of year - but then the people who go here aren’t too precious or afraid of a little adversity! As mentioned earlier this is a former croft on an island which is either rock or peat so drainage is a big concern to make sure the ground is suitable for camping, this is why you may find it slopes a little in places and there are little drainage ditches (which have wooden bridges over so you don’t fall down them!). You just have to use a little common sense and take a pair of boots or wellys and a torch for after dark! The Blackhouse however is like a little piece of heaven for any canvas dweller as it gives a warm communal space to cook, wash, sit and just get to know your fellow campers (again not something you normally do at your average campsite!) We spent every evening in the Blackhouse happily chatting to fellow walkers, cyclists, surfers and mountain bikers whilst supping on a glass of wine (or two!) and stoking the fire which made such a difference from sitting in our cold, dark tent! Overall it is the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the site which makes it so wonderful. John and Harvey are really happy welcoming people who would do anything to make your stay comfortable and if you’re lucky like we were, then you’ll have equally chilled and relaxed fellow campers to share the evenings with too! PS The home cooked bread which arrives every morning is really good!
this campsite was number 1 in the cool camping scotland guide, and i have no idea why. our young family (with over 20 years of camping experience of camping) with 2 children aged 4 and 6 had one of the worst family camping experiences we have ever had. 1. the tent pitches were far too small, and the borders of the pitches were thigh deep drainage ditches full of mosquito infested water. after 3 pitch moves to get our tent onto solid ground (it is a reasonable sized 6 man tent), we found a "large" pitch where one of the bedroom pods could straddle a ditch, and if we didn’t use this bedroon pod, we wouldn’t fall into the ditch (from inside the tent). My husband, I, and the children both fell into these ditches on numerous occasions, which was not only revolting, but also incredibly dangerous, and it produced clouds and clouds of mosquitos both inside and outside the tent. 2. despite using deet 50 on the young children, the amount of ditches around every pitch meant that the mosqitos were inescapable, and we were all bitten to pieces. 3. the facilities were inadequate. whilst there were only 3 showers for the entire campsite (unisex for both men and women), the only heated shower was in the blackhouse. this shower/toilet bathroom was built into the one roomed blackhouse, and opened directly onto the kitchen. when i say directly - it was literally next to the sink for washing up, and behind the table for eating at. this meant not only could you hear what fellow campers were doing in the bathroom/toilet whilst you were eating, but also smell what they were doing. 4. there are indeed chickens and ducks free roaming aroung the site to collect eggs from (sounds idyllic, you’ll agree) but in reality the mess and dung that they left around the tent was far from ideal. 5. i have to say that brian, harvey and john were just lovely, and their hospitality was faultless, the other campers that we met made our holiday worthwhile. the sense of freedom at lickisto was immense and the scenery beautiful, however the site and it’s limitations meant that i would strongly discourage families from staying here. It seemed to us to be a wild campers campsite, best for adults with 2-3 man tents, for a couple of nights only. sorry!
I stayed at Lickisto in July 2010 with my six year old son. We received a warm welcome to what is a unique and fun campsite. The blackhouse bothy is a great way to meet other campers whilst the kids chase the resident geese and chickens. Our pitch was in the veggie patch and is recommended if you have a small tent. My only comment is that the site can get a little boggy when it rains so bring yer wellies !