Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides


Designer: Rural House

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“Sensitive modern design in the rugged Hebridian landscape, surrounded by sea lochs, sheltered coves and miles of white beaches”

Inspired by the modern vernacular of the Scottish Highlands, these two fantastic timber-framed homes occupy a breathtaking position on the northern coastline of the Isle of Harris. Designed and built by Rural House in 2017, and shortlisted for Scottish Home of the Year 2021, the interior living spaces of over 3,470 sq ft are spectacularly light, orientated towards the far-reaching views of the sea and sea lochs. Within easy reach of the island’s spectacular white sandy beaches and the ferry port at Tarbert. The smaller cottage is currently used as self catering holiday home.

The Designers

Based on the Isle of Skye, Rural House is a collaboration between the architects Rural Design and designer and builder James Macqueen.

The award-winning practice Rural Design was founded in 2003 by Alan Dickson and Gill Smith, initially working from a home studio looking across the Outer Hebrides. They are committed to creating work that is modern and progressive, tempered by a love of place, traditions, and materials. Theirs is an architectural language that fuses simplicity with richness, clarity with depth, and elegance with robustness.

Environmental Performance

Sustainability, energy efficiency and low environmental impact were integral to the design of the houses. Whole-house heat recovery ventilation and an air-source heat pump contribute to excellent eco-credentials, while double glazing, set into high-performance timber frames, ensures exceptional insulation levels throughout – relevant to both houses. 

The Tour

Responding intuitively to the uniqueness of the site, the southerly orientation optimises the far-reaching views while inviting an excellent quality of natural light throughout the day. Natural materials were selected for durability and strength, both inside and out, with soft, silvery Scottish larch cladding blending seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.

The quiet location is approached by a well-surfaced road that connects easily to Tarbert, with a large garage and driveway providing parking for several vehicles.

Entry to the main house is from the easterly side, leading through to a bright hallway connecting to the main living and dining area and to the kitchen. Dictated by the dramatic views, this room is incredibly light, with pitched ceilings bringing height and volume and sliding glazed doors opening the entire space to the terrace. A log-burning stove is a welcoming centrepiece during the colder months.

Arranged in an open-plan layout, the modern kitchen lies on the westerly aspect and is well-designed for those who like to cook. There are three Neff ovens, a Neff induction hob and a long central island, with appliances and storage set into clean lines of bespoke cabinetry. A large utility space lies separately to one side.

There are three bedrooms, one of which lies on the ground floor with its accompanying shower room. Two further bedrooms can be found upstairs, each with beautifully finished en suite bathrooms (one with a bathtub, the other with a shower), an excellent provision of built-in cabinetry and exceptional views from every aspect.

The smaller of the two houses extends to just under 1,240 sq ft over two storeys and has operated as a highly successful holiday let in recent years. Entry is through a porchway and small utility space. Arranged in an open plan, the ground floor has a natural flow between living, dining and kitchen areas, with sliding glass doors framing the views and opening onto the terrace in warmer months. There is also a ground floor shower room and cloakroom. Upstairs, there are two double bedrooms as well as a family bathroom with a bathtub.

Outside Space

Extending to around half of an acre, the gardens blend harmoniously with the natural backdrop of the surrounding landscape. Decked terraces provide various spots to eat outside and take in the ever-changing panoramic views across the horizon, the vast star-studded skies. A greenhouse, or polycrub, is set to one side of the main house, providing space for growing vegetables.

The Area

Lying off the west coast of Scotland, Harris and Lewis form the main island in the Outer Hebrides. The dramatic landscape is defined by its incredible mountain ranges (including Clisham, the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides at 799 m) grassy machair, clear sea lochs, sheltered coves, and stretches of exceptional white sandy beaches.

Historically known for its fishing industry, Harris, though sparsely populated, is characterised by its friendly community spirit and active Gaelic culture. The Isle of Harris Distillery is a major attraction and there are several art galleries, including the Mission House Studio, and a newly opened taproom, brewery, bottleshop, restaurant, and deli, the Isle of Harris Brewery. There are several shops in Tarbert for groceries in addition to a newsagent, hardware store and a bus station, with regular services connecting across the island. The two hotels in Tarbert also serve food and there are a number of independent cafes.

Miles of white sandy beaches extend the west coast of the south of Harris; the most well known is Luskentyre beach. There are extensive walking and cycling routes across the island, alongside coasteering, kayaking, gorge walking, climbing and abseiling.

Caledonian MacBrayne operates direct ferry services from Uig on the Isle of Skye to Tarbert in one hour and 40 minutes crossing, or alternatively, Ullapool to Stornoway, a two-and-a-half hour crossing and 45-minute drive. Stornoway Airport is around 42 miles to the north, with regular connections from here to Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Council Tax Band: E

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.

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