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1 Lickisto, Isle of Harris HS3 3EL
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We say

Ever been to a party where you meet someone and you keep thinking you ought to be talking to your old pals but you’re having so much fun that you spend the whole night happily wittering to your new chum? Lickisto is the campsite equivalent of that magnetic personality.

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.

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★★★★★

Lickisto Blackhouse

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.

★★★★★

life saver

After two weeks incredible cycling touring stayed here one night. Just the best lovely people lovely location. Very cool camping we will be back 

★★★★★

Lickisto Blackhouse

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!

1 of 1 readers found this review useful.

★★★★★

Lickisto Blackhouse

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.

★★★★★

Lickisto Blackhouse

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.

★☆☆☆☆

Lickisto Blackhouse

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!

★★★★★

Lickisto Blackhouse

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 !

Nearby Campsites

Cool Factor

A stunning oasis in the lunar landscape of Harris.

Who's In

Tents, campervans, dogs – yes. Caravans, big groups – no.

On Site

15 pitches, 4 campervan spaces with hook-ups. There are also 2 gorgeous yurts if you really want to enjoy the atmosphere without putting your tent up. You can wake up to sunrise over the loch and fresh bread courtesy of Harvey. ‘Bathroom byres’ with 3 loos, 3 showers and loads of character. Blackhouse where campers can cook, chat and chill. The site is better suited to small or medium-sized tents: large ‘multipods’ could find it difficult to pitch. A polytunnel with home-grown veg and herbs is open for campers. Bring midge repellent. Campfires are allowed on the foreshore.

Off Site

There are several art galleries on the spellbinding East coast of Harris. You’ll see why when you drive along the road. Pick up some genuine Harris Tweed in the shop at Tarbert. Visit the eagle observatory on the road to Huisinish.


If it rains

Well there’s always the peat fire in the blackhouse, but if you want to go offsite, no trip to the Outer Hebrides would be complete without a visit to the Standing Stones at Calanais (Callanish). Although this ring of ancient stones (older than Stonehenge) is out of doors, there’s an impressive visitor centre (01851 621422) with an exhibition and café. The downside is that it’s 40 miles or so north of Lickisto on the Isle of Lewis, so it’s a day trip, but a worthwhile one.

Food & Drink

Soak up some inspiration (and stunning home-baking) at the nearby Skoon Art Café (01859 530268). The Temple Café in Northton (07876 340416) is also worth a stop if you’re exploring the island, making delicious food in as tiny a kitchen as you’ll ever see.

Back in Tarbert there’s the bar at the Hotel Hebrides (01859 502364). It used to be a dive but has been done up to look like a Battersea wine bar.

Open

March–October (but by arrangement you can stay any time of the year).

The Damage

Camping £12 per person, kids half-price, ‘small uns nothin’, Price includes use of Blackhouse, free showers and fresh bread every day (eggs too, when the chooks deliver). Yurts £70 per night (extra person £20, larger kids £10).

Getting There

From Tarbert take the A859 south, heading for Leverburgh. After about 4½ miles turn left at the sign for Roghadal. Follow the single-track road for 2½ miles, cross the bridge and, as you climb the hill, just before the bus stop, turn left. There are small discreet camping signs to help direct you.

Public Transport

The W13 bus runs from Tarbert Pier to Leverburgh, stopping not far from the campsite if you ask for Lickisto.

Tags

Bicycle routes  Campfires permitted  Fishing  Good for kids  Good walks  Remote location  Romantic retreat  Short walk to beach  Waterside location