Numerous rocky islands and hidden rocks make the ferry ride from Berneray to Harris quite the obstacle course. It is, apparently, Scotland’s most torturous ferry route. The ferry was swinging round left, right, left, right all over the place to get to Leverburgh on the other side. Once again it was mercifully calm making for an enjoyable hour long early evening crossing.
Harris and Lewis are, in fact, two parts of one island – the division something to do with a falling out in the MacLeod clan back in the day. Leaving the ferry terminal we struck out towards the west side of South Harris to spend the night overlooking a sandy beach and to watch the sun sink below the horizon.
The first thing that’s immediately obvious about Harris in comparison to the islands we have visited so far is that it is very hilly with more than thirty peaks above 1000ft. And we could see them too which was a bonus. The weather on our first foray onto the island was kind enough to allow me to do a thirty mile circular route on the bike to take in east, west and south Harris. And what a fabulous ride it was too in bright sunshine with just a light breeze. The up and down east coast road gives fantastic views of all the sea water lochs and freshwater lochans and there are plenty of artists studios dotted along the route to waylay you.
With golden sandy beaches to my left and rolling mountain peaks to my right the west coast scenery is superb with some interesting quirky looking holiday lets.
We spent the evening parked up at one of the camping spots provided by the West Harris Trust overlooking the beach at Luskentyre. £5 for the night paid either by paypal or you can send a cheque or cash to them.
What more could you want to end a perfect day? A cracking view sitting outside on one of the benches.
After a couple of days on Harris it was on to Lewis. It started off well with afternoon sunshine accompanying us on the drive across the peat bog landscape to Stornaway. By the time we arrived in Stornaway, the largest town on the island, the rain had started. We weren’t feeling the love for Stornaway in the rain so after a quick pitstop to fill up with LPG, do the weekly shop at Tesco and eat take-away fish and chips we headed further north.
In windy, grey, rainy weather Lewis is, we felt, a tad grim. The endless barren peat bog with nothing much to break it up other than housing strung out along the main road wasn’t doing much for our morale. We did have a nice walk though around the headland at the Butt of Lewis, the northern tip of the island. It was misty but miracle of miracles there was no wind. Considering it has been mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records for being the windiest place in the UK I guess we were extremely lucky.
I know when I started on this trip to Scotland I said I wouldn’t moan about the weather. But….. ..more rain followed. The west side of the island, though, did provide a few distractions on a rainy day. We stumbled across a Moor Sheiling built in 2017.
Most crofters had their own sheiling (5-7 miles from home) where some family members, typically mother, grandmother or aunt with the younger children would migrate to from May until July taking their cattle with them for summer grazing. A simple dwelling with earth floor, peat fire and bed.
Geàrrannan Black House Village, a cluster of nine restored thatched crofters houses, gives an insight into what blackhouse village life was like.
The second house has been restored to its condition at the time it was abandoned.
Of the nine black houses, one is a Youth Hostel, another four offer self catering accommodation and the others are an interpretation centre, museum, cafe and finally…….loos!
There is definitely more to see on Lewis particularly on the western side around Uig but not enough time and too much rain put paid to that. We were supposed to be doing a complete tour of Scotland on this trip but time is running out as we’ve spent three weeks on the Western Isles already.
After a bike ride from Tarbert to the island of Scalpay, connected to Harris by a single track bridge, it was time to get the ferry across the minch to Skye.
Bidh mi ‘gad fhaicinn!