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Otters, the helpful receptionist with a wide smile informed us, are usually spotted on incoming tides.Rushing to a nearby vantage point, we hunkered down in anticipation.The western coastline here is graced with glittering white-shell-sand beaches, fringed by oversized dunes and machair, a thick carpet of colourful flowers found on the northwestern coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

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In contrast to the lunar-style landscape of its barren eastern coastline, Harris's west coast has more white sandy beaches.

We spent a few hours cooking lunch and relaxing on Huisinis beach – reached along a winding 15-mile narrow road – watching its soft sand being washed by encroaching waves.

The gentle breeze began to cool as the sun dipped towards the horizon.

The soporific sound of rollers breaking across the powder-white sand heightened the sense of tranquillity; even distant murmurs as my bucket-wielding children paddled and combed the beach for shells failed to disturb the peace.

The Outer Hebrides are an ornithologist's utopia, as we discovered on meeting Jamie, an RSPB warden at the Balranald Nature Reserve, just off North Uist's main road.

More than 20 pairs of golden eagles and around five pairs of sea eagles nest on North and South Uist, while regular visitors include corncrakes.Scarp-bound and packed with letters, it exploded on take-off, scattering its contents.Although the scientist's second attempt was more successful, the project was swiftly abandoned.While the children jumped between rock pools, I spent a moment studying a seemingly inconsequential little isle which nearly played its part in revolutionising the postal service.In 1934, Gerhard Zucker, later prominent in Germany's V2 missile programme, tested a novel way of sending mail to remote locations – via rocket.I could easily have been on an exotic Caribbean beach, but this was much closer to home: Clachan Sands on North Uist, one of 200 islands forming the Outer Hebrides.

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