How to Get There - Lewis and Harris

After an already long day and stunning day on the NC 500 after my Orkney crossing, I arrived to a shining Ullapool. The flowering trees were in full bloom, the sun glistened off each white building in town and the mountains showed themselves gently reaching toward the sky. I visited Ullapool last fall on a shorter visit to the NC 500 and it was a dreary extra Scottish day and Ullapool barely made a dent in my memory, but this time, it was a completely different place. It felt so much more alive. Probably not least because there were actually people around and things were open this time in addition to the incredible weather.

From Ullapool the ferry ride clocks in around 2.5 hours to Stornoway via the CalMac ferries. I was surprised to find that this car ferry had a hanging second floor for some cars. The person driving on in front of me clearly did not want to be on that level and could be heard giving the ferry gentleman a hard time as we drove on, eventually they relented and drove up. (Pro-tip - get all your things together that you will want for the crossing before you drive onto the boat. They squeeze you in there and it will be hard to be opening the truck/boot and doors, especially on this second level. I saw so many people scrambling while I simply grabbed my prepared bag, locked my car and went up to the decks to find a seat. You have plenty of time to prepare yourself between checking your car in and waiting to drive onto the vessel.)

The journey was beautiful because the weather was so good. You could see the entire coast of the Northwest Highlands as we pulled away across the straits. It was breathtaking. The ferry was fully equipped with food and lots of seating options. Make sure you look around before camping out. It is also not uncommon to see people sleeping on seats and benches all around, there is so much seating. For part of the crossing you can’t see land so it is a good time to catch some zzz’s or reading or some other quiet activity. Most people seemed to use the journey as a quiet time.

The ferry lets you right off in the center of Stornoway and disembarking took a while since I was on the second car level but it is all incredibly well run and pretty efficient.

The journey back to Ullapool was very much the same except I was on the main level with my vehicle and there were less people on the early (7AM) ferry. (In early May there are only two crossings a day but it does increase slightly in the summer months) It did hail in the middle of the crossing on the way back which amused me more than it probably should have. It was a clear sunny day by the time I arrived back in Ullapool harbor but by the time I stopped in to grab some snacks and Tesco and left town it was torrentially down pouring. Gotta love that Scottish weather.


  • ·         Book in advance if at all possible, especially if traveling with a vehicle. It will make your life 100 percent easier. They have a list there with names on it and it works smoothly if you do a bit of pre-planning. And honestly, if you are making the effort to get to this area of the country, chances are it isn’t on a whim, so pre-book, especially in the summer months. Even if you only pre-book getting to the island it is worth it, you can always leave the return open ended.

  • ·         You can also travel to Lewis & Harris from the Isle of Skye if you happen to be down that way instead of Ullapool. The ferry ride is shorter but it drops you off in South Harris instead of East Lewis. Both routes are traveled by CalMac.

  • ·         Book directly with the ferry companies and not a booking agent, you will save money

  • ·         Even if you book a return date, the tickets are dated for a year from then just in case you change your mind. But double check when you check your car in if your plans have changed since they keep a list of names for each crossing.

  • ·         If you are prone to motion sickness, the best place to hang out is the center of the boat behind the ship desk/office.

  • ·         If traveling with a car, the car deck will be locked during the whole journey. Pack what you will need from your car for the ferry ride in advance.

Ferry Costs – CalMac (May 2018)

Adult – £19.00 (Roundtrip – “Return”)

Car (Small Size) - £101.90 (Roundtrip – “Return”)