Saturday, 5 June 2010

Berneray to Harris

7.15 Ferry from Berneray to Harris

Nb in the ferry building there was a flyer for nature trail from Lochmaddy, which we said we might do but didn’t have time this time, a trail where sea eagles and golden eagles are “regularly seen”.  Put that on the “unfinished business” list!
Back to the ferry journey.  One of the highlights of the trip.  A gem of a sail.  About a hour long of picking our way between tight cardinal buoys, marking hazards to the north and south-  uninhabited islands and little rocky outcrops.  Turquoise sea, which on a brighter day would have looked brilliant, today reflecting the grey of the sky.  Again a misty, dull day, so now is the time to apologise, in advance of Ian seeing the video, for about 20mins of grey, misty views across grey, rocky coastline.  In spite of all that it was a wonderful little trip and one I’d love to make again. About a hundred uninhabited islands some with grey seals, which I think I could hear wailing in the distance at dusk, walking on the shore at Berneray.
Arrived Levensburgh, on Harris, formerly An t’Ob, but renamed after Lord Levershulme of Unilever, who tried to build this town up into a thriving leisure fishing destination,but died before it was completed and his dream was abandoned.  First impressions of Harris- what I imagine a North Atlantic Nova-Scotian fishing port would be like- big grey hills rising up and towering over a few little hamlets.
We drove around the sweeping sandy bays, beautiful and pristine, with not a soul on them- some of the most beautiful beaches we seen.  At 9am we were in the Tourist Info Office, with Runrig playing in the background.  It seems that the band come from N Uist, and many of their songs are about fishing trips into the mighty Atlantic.  I’ll enjoy listening to them all over again, and we’ve booked to see them for about the fifth time at Sheffield City Hall in December.  They visit before Xmas biennially, and it’s always a great night, with everyone getting on their feet with the opening bars of their first song!
Before we drove on to the camp site, I called at the Harris Tweed wholesalers by the port.  There is a good shop, which sells ready-made jackets, hats etc and opposite a big warehouse with literally hundreds and thousands of different tweeds.  An extremely lovely lady, who I’ve nicknamed Katie Morag’s mum, and I think the tourist info guide called her Kate, sold me several metres of beautiful Harris tweed, to make a skirt or a jacket or who knows! 60” wide at £25 per metre and narrower at £12.50 p.m. and a generous bag of patchwork pieces for £10. Her daughter weaves the tweed at Plocropol, and I promised myself a visit.
We parked up at the ambitiously named Minch View Touring Park.  There’s actually only room for 6 vans at a push and the facilities are a bit basic, but that said, the owner was extremely friendly.  We’ve found this on all the islands.  Everyone passing you on the road, pedestrian and driver alike, waves to you.  This Hebridean Islands are known as the place of “Mille Ceud Failte” /of a thousand welcomes, and they live up to this claim.
Later that day we cycled on the “Golden Road” between Tarbert and Grosebay, actually from Drimnishader, where we were camped onto Grosebay.  Ian cycled much further around the whole of South Harris, about 40mls, climbing steadily up the impressive hills behind Tarbert.  I visited Katie Morag at Plocropol, and pretty little bay.  She has a delightful view from her weaving shed window.  She lives in the house next door.  I glimpsed spools of yarns, but Katie Morag apologised for being closed today, and it goes without saying, tomorrow, Sunday.  Later that evening we met Katie Morag’s two black Labradors, whilst on a walk between Drimnishader and Plocropol.  She was taking them for a swim in the lochan opposite, but when they caught sight of us some way up the road, one of them came dashing towards us up the single track road, wagging her tail and lying on her back to have her tummy tickled.  Not a bit frightened of being on the road, or of us as strangers.
On my cycle route I also called in at Grosebay tweed shop.  Slightly more upmarket than the one at the port, and ,as I suspected, this may have been reflected in the prices. Beautifully tailored jackets at about £265.  It would have to be a very special occasion!  Maybe I should start saving now ready for when we come back again!
Our campsite is one of only two on Harris, with wild camping possible at Hushnish on the coast.  Lovely views of the Minch, with the occasional Caledonian Macbrayne ferry plowing in and out. From the last ferry of the day, I could hear bagpipes playing in the distance. Very romantic.
No phone reception. Real feeling of peace and isolation.  Fjord-like inlets and lochans.  But still no sun since Oban!

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