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. Owner John, along with late partner Harvey, 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. Since acquiring Lickisto Blackhouse a few years ago, they slowly converted the place – the croft John lives 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.
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 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 John 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.
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.
Tents, campervans, dogs – yes. Caravans, big groups – no.
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.
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.
Mar –Oct (but by arrangement you can stay any time of the year).
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