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Ardroil beach is on the western side of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, a one-hour drive from Stornoway. The beach is often called Uig Sands or Uig beach.
This is the beach on Isle of Lewis where tide times matter the most so plan your visit for low tide when the whole of Uig bay is one large area of white sand. With the Uig hills in the background the scenery is some of the best you can get anywhere in Scotland.
Uig is also famous for the chessmen found on the beach in 1831.
The 78-piece chess set is made from walrus tusk and was found buried in the sand. It is believed to have been carved in Norway sometime in the 12th Century.
In 2019 a piece of the chess set was found in a draw in Edinburgh and sold for nearly £1m.
Apparently a few pieces are still believed to be buried in the sand so keep your eyes peeled while walking on the beach.
To learn more about the history of the chessmen visit Uig Museum or Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway where part of the chess set is on display.
Whilst in Stornoway also check out the beaches in Stornoway.
Ardroil Beach Map
How to Access Ardroil Beach and Where to Park
At low tide it is possible to get onto Ardroil beach at several different locations.
The easiest can be found by following the signs for “Ardroil beach” down to the right about halfway through the spread-out settlement of Uig. This road leads down to a car park with toilets by the Ardroil Sands campsite. From the car park it is a short walk over the dunes to the beach.
The what 3 word for the parking by Ardriol Sands campsite is await.denser.bagpipes
Other good areas to access the beach at low tide are:
- Below Uig Sands Restaurant
- By Timsgarry cemetery
- The peninsula by Carnish beach
- At Crowlista
Can You Swim at Ardroil Beach?
When the tide is in you can swim at Ardroil beach but it is very shallow.
The beach is more protected than many other beaches on Lewis due to the headlands at Crowlista and Carnish so you are less likely to get large waves.
Walking is the most popular activity and Ardroil beach is dog friendly.
In addition to swimming, Uig bay is suitable for kayaking and kite surfing. Equipment hire can be arranged locally. Ask for details at your hotel or rental cottage.
In the summer months boat trips can be booked with Seatrek to beaches and deserted island which are only accessible boat.
Close to the Crowlista viewpoint is the Bruton stream (where the water from Uig sands drains into Uig bay) which provides the rare opportunity to catch salmon in salt water.
In other estuary pools such as the one by Boronish Bridge you can find sea trout. For more detailed information on fishing opportunities in the area read this guide produced by Uig Lodge.
Also visiting Harris? The island has a few beaches to rival Ardroil beach. Look at the photos in this post on beaches in Harris to see if you agree.
1. Walking on the Beach
Walking on one of the beaches such as Ardroil or Seilebost in Harris at low tide is a unique experience not to be missed.
By starting your walk at Crowlista or Carnish (which is further out in the bay) remember that the tide will reach here first. When the tide turns the water comes in quickly because the bay is so shallow so make sure you leave enough time to get back to your starting point.
Tide Level: Around low tide
Parking: As described above or for each viewpoint below
2. On the Way to Carnish Beach
A small wooden sign saying “beach” points onto a small path between two houses. It does not look the start of a path but it is.
Walk the first hundred metres out towards Carnish beach and turn around. The top of the mountains is normally covered in cloud but that just adds to the atmosphere and dramatic scenery.
Tide Level: Best at low tide
Parking: At the end of the road past Carnish there is room for a couple of cars to park. If it is full park in the bay by Beach Bay cottage
The what 3 word for the parking is comedians.landlady.manage
3. At Crowlista (Cradhlasstadh)
To get the photo shown above or at the top of this post drive to Crowlista.
At the last sharp right turn a gate opens to the fields and water’s edge.
Tide Level: When it is sunny visit 1-2 hours before or after low tide to get the turquoise water colours which the Outer Hebrides is so famous for.
If it is cloudy go at low tide
Parking: By the gate mentioned above there is room to park two or three cars. This is a popular fishing spot so it can be difficult to park
The what 3 word for the parking is hamper.hazy.warblers
4. From Uig Sands Restaurant
Uig Sands Restaurant is worth a visit both for the food and the views. Make sure you try the smoked salmon from their own smoke house.
For the best chances of getting a window seat book an early table for lunch.
At this time if you haven’t been allocated a window seat ask politely if it is possible to have one. They are much more likely to be able to accommodate you early on than during dinner time.
For more information on the restaurant and opening times read the Restaurants section below.
Tide Level: Go when you can get a booking, the views will be spectacular regardless of the tide level
Parking: Parking is available in the restaurant car park
Book a stay at Uig Sands Rooms next door
5. Climb to the Top of Suaineabhal
Most days the Uig hills are covered in cloud.
Even if it is clear when you start your climb you never know what the weather will be like when you reach the top – in this part of the world the weather changes quickly.
The path to the top is not well defined, so you should be confident in finding the route based on the landscape around you or by using an app on your phone such as maps.me.
For a detailed description of the hike, as well as several others in the area, buy the Cicerone Harris and Lewis guide.
Tide Level: When the tide is out the beach is more visible but the most important consideration is to do the hike on a day when you can see something from the top
Parking: The path starts close to Carishader where it is possible to park along the road
The what 3 word for the parking is gymnasium.crispier.sweetener
Buy the Cicerone Guide to Walking on Harris and Lewis
Other Things to Do in the Area
Some of the most interesting things to see and do on Lewis are around Uig, but there are so many other sites to make sure you don’t miss. The Calanis Stones and Uig Chessmen are just two of the 46 things to do described in this post.
1. Abhainn Dearg Distillery
This small whisky distillery in Uig is a perfect rainy-day activity.
It was established in 2008 and the first single malt was released in 2011.
With the small-scale production and authentic feel a tour here will be very different to any tour you might have done at one of the larger more commercial operations.
Tours lasts one hour and must be pre-booked. The is cost £10 per person which includes one tasting. Visit their website to book a tour.
- Mon – Sat – 11am-1pm and 2-4pm
- Sun – Closed
- Mon – Fri 11am-1pm and 2-4pm
- Sat – Sun – Closed
2. Uig Museum
At the Uig Community Centre in Timsgarry a group of volunteers run the local museum which describes island life over thousands of years. Exhibits include information about the chessmen, the vikings and life in Uig during more modern times.
Admission is £2 per adult with no charge for children.
Summer months (April to October)
- Tue – Sat – 12-4pm
- Sun – Mon – Closed
Winter months (November to March)
3. Lewis Chessman Statue
Driving down to Ardroil beach and campsite you will see a large wooden statue of a king chess piece on your left. It marks the general area where the chess pieces were found.
4. Carnish Beach
One of the viewpoints above is on the way to Carnish beach and it is worth walking the few hundred metres extra to get to the beach.
It is a pretty bay on the outside of one of the headlands of Uig bay. If it was in another location it would get many more visitors but being here it is overshadowed by Ardroil beach close by.
The good thing is that few people make it out here so you are likely to have the beach to yourself.
5. Aird Uig
At the end of the headland in Aird Uig is a disused RAF station. It is possible to see eagles and whales from here although you need to be incredibly lucky!
Restaurants and Cafes in Uig
Uig Community Centre Café – Uig
Next door to Uig Museum is a community centre café serving homemade lunches, cakes and hot drinks. Community cafes are a great way to support the locals so make sure you stop by!
It is also the only option listed here that is open during the winter months. Opening times are listed below but they sometimes change so have a look at the Uig Cafe Facebook page for the latest updates.
Summer months (April to October)
- Wed – Sat 12-4pm
- Sun – Tue Closed
Winter months (November to March)
- Fri – Sat 1-4pm
- Sun – Thu Closed
Uig Sands Restaurant – Uig
Uig Sands is a family run restaurant which focuses on fresh local produce and fish. It is the one restaurant not to miss whilst visiting Isle of Lewis – both for the food and the views.
The restaurant serves a 3-course fixed price menu that costs £65 per person or £25 for children aged 13 and under. Bookings can be made here and it is essential to reserve in advance.
The restaurant is closed from the end of October until some time in March every year. To find out exactly when it re-opens, sign up to the e-mail list on their website.
Summer months (March to October)
- Wed – Sat from 4pm
- Sun – Tue Closed
Winter months (November to March)
The Edge – Aird Uig
A 25-minute drive from Uig beach, in Aird Uig, is the small café The Edge. During the day it sells homemade cakes and lunches but it is also open for one pre-booked sitting for dinner at 6.15.
Seating is on shared tables in a cosy room which is decorated a bit like someone’s living room. During the day, if the weather allows, sit at one of the tables or pods in the garden which provides views out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The café is normally closed between November and March but exactly when it closes and opens each year depends can vary. Check the The Edge Cafe Facebook page for the latest information.
Summer months (March to November)
- Sun – 12-4pm
- Mon – Thu – 11-4pm
- Sat – Closed
Shops – Uig
The nearest shop to Ardroil beach is at the Uig petrol station. The range of groceries is limited so for more variety you will have to go to Tesco or Co-op in Stornoway.
There are no other shops in Uig.
Uig (Lewis) Accommodation
Cottages can book out over a year in advance. Hotels on the other hand often have availability at shorter notice. For stays of less than 5 days hotels are the only option.
Hotels near Uig Sands
- Uig Sands Rooms – Uig – The hotel has 4 luxurious rooms with private outdoor balconies and large windows looking out over Uig sands. There is no minimum night stay. Click here to check prices and availability
- Heb Pods – Uig – A budget option is staying in one of the two pods out at Crowlista. The views out over the beach are spectacular. Unfortunately the pods have a no dogs policy. Click here to check prices and availability
Cottages have a minimum stay of 5 to 7 nights. Some of the best cottages in the area are:
- Beach Bay Cottage – Uig – a two-bedroom luxury cottage for up to 4 people. The living room has 180 degree views out over Uig sands. Click here to check prices and availability.
- Airebroc House – Crowlista – a more budget friendly option with views over the bay. It has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms so is perfect for larger groups. Click here to check prices and availability.
In a beautiful location close to the car park for the beach is Ardroil Sands campsite. It is open for caravans and tents and operates on an honesty box system.
Toilets, showers and a water point is available.
How to Get There
The drive from Stornoway takes one hour with the last 30-minutes being on a single lane road.
A car provides significantly more freedom than taking public transport so I highly recommend to rent a car.
Bus schedules are generally aimed at school children. As a result there are no buses on Sunday’s and a limited service during school holidays.
The bus journey from Stornoway takes 1.5 hours and stops at Ardroil, Crowlista and Aird Uig. The route is W4 and is called Stornoway to Uig. Check the latest timetables before travelling.
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