This post is for Jill of Land of the Big Sky, who loves lighthouses and has dedicated a lot of her time to the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh.
Eilean Glas lighthouse is on the eastern side of the Isle of Scalpay, which itself is on the east side of the Isle of Harris:
Eilean Glas was one of the first four lighthouses to be built in Scotland (Kinnaird Head in Fraserburgh was also one of these). The name Eilean Glas means Grey Isle. According to the plaques, the lamp was first lit on October 10th, 1789. The first lighthouse keeper was Alexander Reid, who stayed for 35 years. How amazing to think that he began his time in this isolated spot when the French Revolution was in full swing, was there during the Napoleonic wars, and into the extravagant period of the Regency. I’m sure Eilean Glas lighthouse has saved many lives over the centuries.
The day I walked to the lighthouse, it was sunny with a cold wind, and hailshowers swiftly coming across from the south. Watching the showers pass reminded me very much of Mairi Hedderwick’s illustrations of the Katie Morag stories. If you know her work, you will be familiar with the sketches of slanting showers, with rainbows mixed in. It was one of those days on the islands:
The start of the walk is along the old peat road. My friend Catriona told me of walking for an hour to get here, working in the peat banks, and walking the hour back home. Like so many island women, her husband worked away during the summer season, so it was often the women who had to cut, stack and carry the peats home. It is hard work. She told me she carried a heavy creel of peats home from here while 8 months pregnant. I think it wasn’t until the 1980s that people began being less dependent on peat for their heating.
I was just enjoying being a tourist.
After about a mile, I could see the long stone dyke (wall) that you have to pass through on your way to the lighthouse. From the end of the old peat road, a new gravelled path has recently been constructed. It is very easy to walk on, though I somewhat miss the bouncy path over the peat beds.
I last did this walk about ten years ago with the family – I remember one of the Dafter’s welly boots split. Before that I remember Our Son galloping around, and our friend T taking turns carrying a very young Dafter. The children have grown up, but this place remains largely unchanged!
At one point, I could see the Shiants very clearly:
These islands lie in the Minch off the east coast of Lewis. They were once inhabited year-round. Adam Nicolson, whose family owns them, has written a very good book about their history called Sea Room.
Once you’re through the boundary wall, the path reverts to its rougher old self, and you pass some very old walled gardens:
From here you can see the small bay where supplies were landed and winched up to the houses. Before the lighthouse was automated in 1978, several lighthouse keepers and their families lived here.
To my left, the east coast of Lewis and beautiful rainbows in the passing showers.
I walked down past the small bay, and up towards the lighthouse buildings.
The views were stunning. To the north, the Shiants were visible but looked far smaller than when seen through the gap further back along the path.
With the showers dancing past, I could see all of the Isle of Skye, from the Trotternish peninsula to the cliffs of Dunvegan. (See my map here.)
Amazingly, none of the showers came to where I was on my walk! I watched the ferry coming across from Uig in Skye, to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.
I was very fortunate to have such great visibility that I could see more than half-way down the chain of islands that is the Outer Hebrides.
I was also very glad the foghorn was not going to be sounding while I was there! It had become quite amazingly still, with hardly any wind while I was at the lighthouse. I sat in the sun and knitted.
I was hoping I might see dolphins, or a Minke whale, or even otters or seals, but I just saw the beautiful water.
The sun was wheeling around towards the west, and it was time to head back. The wind was against me again I was, as always on this trip, hugely grateful for my knitted hat! I stopped at the little beach in the bay below the lighthouse and found some iridescent limpet shells:
I came back through the perimeter wall, along the new path, along the old peat road, and just as I got into the car, the heavens opened. The entire walk is about 5 kilometres or about 3 miles, so not a huge distance. But I felt as if I’d been very far away, and had had a magical experience.