A Seafood-Fuelled Guide To The Isle Of Lewis With Restaurateurs Dickon And Elly Green
Discover the dramatically beautiful island one bowl of Hebridean seafood chowder or moules marinière at a time, with tips on where to eat, drink and stay from the couple behind restaurant-with-rooms Uig Sands
22 March, 2023
Few people open their curtains to a view as spectacular as the one that greets Dickon and Elly Green each morning - a shimmering, shape-shifting sweep of the Atlantic that so inspired author Arthur Ransome on visits to the Isle of Lewis in 1945 and 1946 that he made it the setting for the final book in his Swallows and Amazons series. His accommodation? Uig Lodge, a windswept, whitewashed, gabled house built in 1876 by the island's then-owner Sir James Matheson, which, since 1981, the Green family has been renting out to parties looking for a remote, home-from-home Hebridean hideaway. The lodge also has its own smokehouse, which hand-produces award-winning smoked salmon destined for shops, hotels and a raft of Michelin-starred kitchens across the UK. In 2019, the couple - who have four children, Arthur, twins Kitty and Marsaili and baby Wilbur - opened a contemporary 40-seater restaurant, Uig Sands. Designed by the Glasgow-based Dualchas Architects, it offers a hyperlocal seasonal menu and, thanks to its beach-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows, front-row seats to the famously fiery local sunsets. Four luxury on-site apartments are new for 2023.
Uig Lodge, left, and Dickon and Elly Green.
The largest island of the Outer Hebrides, Lewis is home to an ancient culture - as evidenced by its stone circles and the ending of "bost" on place names, a throwback to its Viking past - but its tight-knit community is not afraid to embrace change, with the likes of monkfish souvlaki, Indonesian coffee and experimental cocktails increasingly cropping up on menus alongside traditional stalwarts such as venison and whisky. Dickon and Elly tell us where to go to taste the best of it.
A gastronomic tour of the Isle of Lewis
When's the best time to visit the island?
April, May, June and September are our favourite months. The days are long and usually dry and the beaches at their most beautiful.
Where should we stay?
We've just completed four rooms overlooking Uig Sands beach and the bay, a stone's throw from the restaurant. Each is en-suite and has a small kitchen, super-king bed, underfloor heating, freestanding bath, log burner and private outdoor patio with seating. If it's a big multi-gen trip you're planning, we have Uig Lodge, which sleeps up to 17 and is let exclusively on a self-catering basis. During certain weeks, the services of a ghillie and fishing are included in the rent.
Uig Sands beach | Photo credit: Paolo Chiabrando (left) and Mark Dickson (right)
Must-try local dishes/delicacies?
Hand-dived scallops; local mussels; Uig Sands' Hebridean seafood chowder.
Where should we head to get a feel for island life?
Uig, of course, but then we're biased. You could also take a drive to the red-brick lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, the island's northernmost point; have lunch at The Breakwater restaurant in Port of Ness; follow the Harris Tweed Trail, making stops at weavers and shops along the way to learn the history of the unique Scottish cloth; and take a walk through the grounds of the Victorian-era Lews Castle, which is home to a great new museum, too.
Describe a perfect Lewis day
Start with an early walk and a swim in the sea - it's very cold but it certainly wakes you up - then pack a picnic lunch and go to one of the many beautiful beaches on the island. In the afternoon, hike up a hill if feeling energetic or, if not, laze by a loch - there are loads to choose from.
The Harris Tweed Trail | Photo Credit: Lewis Mackenzie (left)
It's Saturday night on Lewis… Where should we head?
Head to Stornoway and, if in the mood for seafood, to Harbour Kitchen or The Boatshed Restaurant, or for burgers, pizza, monkfish souvlaki, plus a big range of kombucha, craft beers and cocktails, to The Fank.
Where should we go for a long, lazy brunch?
Grab a seat in Stornoway's Artizan, an art gallery, gift shop and coffee house with tables made from reclaimed wood and a legendary ginger and rhubarb cake, or, also in town, The Hub Café, where the breakfast menu has Scottish favourites like tattie [potato] scones, Lorne sausage, black pudding and haggis alongside plant-based dishes and gluten-free bread.
What about coffee on Monday morning?
Kopi Java in Stornoway. It's run by husband-and-wife William and Alana Poernomo. William's from Java and they serve their own special blend of coffee, or "kopi", as it's known in Indonesia. Or the Woodlands Centre Café, in the grounds of Lews Castle.
What about for a romantic dinner?
Definitely Uig Sands for this one. I'd start with the Hebridean seafood chowder, served with sourdough and seaweed butter, then the hand-dived local scallops with celeriac, broccoli and toasted almond main. Our coconut and lime "doughnuts" with caramelised pineapple, coconut sorbet and popcorn will round things off nicely. The glorious views over Uig Sands are the icing on the cake.
What are some of your favourite independent shops?
Lewis Crofters, which was set up in 1958 to supply the island's smallholders with animal feed, fertilisers and pretty much anything else they might need, and today sells everything from cookware to cosy socks; The Fisherman's Cooperative (King Edward's Wharf, Stornoway), for fishing, sailing and watersports equipment; and the Home Improvement Centre, for everything from power tools to craft materials.
Tell us about a secret spot only locals know about?
The secret cave in Uig!
One thing we shouldn't miss while we're on the island?
The Calanais Standing Stones, an incredible cross-shaped arrangement of stones that dates back to Neolithic times and that was used for ritual practice for at least 2,000 years - and, more recently, as a location for the TV series Call the Midwife. There's a visitor centre, exhibition, shop and café, which sells homemade cakes and biscuits.
Suggestions for day trips?
Take a drive down to Harris, with stops en route at beautiful beaches such as Luskentyre, Huisinis and Horgabost. Visit the medieval St Clement's church at Rodel and drive back along the Golden Road, which was built in the years after the Second World War as a safety measure, following many accidents involving people wading across rivers to get home.
Finally, any special local souvenirs we should take home?
Uig Chessmen, which you can get from Uig Museum - replicas of the Viking chess set discovered here in 1831, made in the 12th century in Norway from the husks of walrus teeth. Also, some Harris Tweed and Harris Gin - the bottles are so beautiful, it's worth taking one home, even when empty.