Sound of Harris review: stylish self-catering on a Scottish island

Embrace the rugged landscape outdoors, or admire the chic retro design inside

Lucy Gillmore
Monday 23 May 2016 12:32 BST
Living room in the Big House
Living room in the Big House

On a former croft, clinging to a clifftop on the wind-whipped southern tip of the Isle of Harris, stands a starkly modern property.

A design-conscious couple from the north of England, university professor Rob, and Carol, who has a background in textiles, started with a shed where the builders, shipped up from North Uist, further down this far-flung Outer Hebridean island chain, could bed down.

The spruce-clad building with its corrugated steel roof sat so seamlessly in the landscape, however, that they abandoned their original plan for the main house (a typical one-and-a-half-storey Scottish croft house) and used it as a prototype. The result: sustainable shed-chic.

Sound of Harris
Sound of Harris

Harris’s raw, rugged and largely treeless landscape is littered with award-winning Hobbit houses, the all-too-ubiquitous pebbledash bungalows and traditional croft houses. The Sound of Harris’s single-storey structure not only adds the kind of architectural interest increasingly prevalent on neighbouring Skye, but makes sense, as hurricane-strength winds hurl machine-gun fire spray at the triple-glazed, floor-to-ceiling windows. Inside, you can hunker down in front of the contemporary wood-burner, gazing out at the incensed sea in comfort.

The original shed, meanwhile, is now home to a state-of-the-art loom, where the couple’s other fledgling business, Borrisdale Tweed, will start life. This is Harris, after all.

The rooms

The long, low-slung property is split into two separate one-bed apartments: the Big House and the Other House. The open-plan living spaces have a mid-century design theme. The couple lovingly curated the interiors, scouring charity shops for vintage china and auctions and eBay to find Ercol, Uniflex and G-plan furniture, which they’ve restored and reupholstered. Other British brands and designers include RW Toothill, Elliots of Newbury and Guy Rogers.

The walls are hung with historic maps of Harris alongside Seventies geometric wallpaper designs, hand-painted in gouache by Rob’s dad, Derek, who was once head of wall-coverings for Crown.

The colour scheme of golds and greys mirrors the surrounding landscape, the bespoke tweeds in burnt cinnamon (for the curtains and cushions) woven by Donald John (DJ) MacKay at Luskentyre Beach who has also created tweed for Nike and Chanel.

The sleek, high-spec kitchen, complete with black Smeg fridge, has a vaulted ceiling and opens on to the living area. There’s a flat-screen TV, DVD library and shelves crammed with books, but you’ll be drawn to the wraparound windows framing views over the Sound, which separates the Minch from the Atlantic. Stargazing through the state-of-the-art telescope, you might even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights.

Bedroom in the Big House
Bedroom in the Big House

The king-size bed is retro in design, with tapering legs, and comes topped with crisp white linen and mustard handmade Harris Tweed throws. Both houses have deep, square Japanese-style tubs for that post-wild, windblown walk soak, as well as monsoon showers.

Out and about

A gate from the garden leads on to the clifftop for hikes over to Renish Point’s coves or, if you’re feeling energetic, a schlep to the top of Roineabal. From the cliffs you can often spot dolphins and grey seals bobbing in the waves. Harris is also prime beachcombing territory. Its stretches of white sand, lapped by aquamarine sea, include Luskentyre Beach overlooking the island of Taransay, where Ben Fogle first found fame on the island-based TV reality show Castaway.

The Golden Road, meanwhile, threading through the villages of the east coast is a picture-perfect mini-roadtrip. Galleries for a pitstop include Mission House Studio (01859 530 227) in Finsbay and Hebrides Art ( where you can also tuck into tea and homemade cakes.

A nearby beach
A nearby beach (Sound of Harris)

Food and drink

In the fridge there’s a bottle of bubbly, along with all the basics (freshly baked bread, butter, milk and eggs, tea and coffee). Eating out is not a highlight in the Outer Hebrides, unlike gastronomic hotspot Skye. The raw ingredients are there, a fact recognised by the tourist board’s new Hebridean Food Trail, which launched in March, but not the chefs.

That’s the advantage of self-catering, of course, especially with seafood on your doorstep. Rob will lend you a rod and take you fishing for pollock. The sea here is also a great spot to catch mackerel, to grill on the barbecue, while Murdo, a few doors down, dives for scallops.

Nearby farm shop Croft 36 ( in Northton is a lifeline for locals and holidaymakers alike. Steve and Julie Olley do a bumper business in home-baking along with home-cooked takeaway meals from fish curry (£10) to crab ravioli (£4) and rabbit stew and dumplings (£10). A good spot for a lunch of homemade soup and oatcakes (£5) is the new state-of-the-art Isle of Harris Distillery’s cosy cafe ( which opened in Tarbert last October. And of course you can stock up on the gin, featuring eight local botanicals including sugar kelp.

The essentials

8a Borrisdale, Isle of Harris, HS5 3UE ( Nightly rental in The Big House from £168, minimum stay three nights.

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