Posted by: christinelaennec | April 16, 2016

Church, and a drive out to Huisinis

The second of my three days on Harris was rainy.  Not as rainy as it might have been – you can get soaked in a few minutes in a real downpour – but gently rainy most of the day.  However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself.  I decided to go to the Episcopal church, which is about 5 miles out of Tarbert.  From the road, you see the sign but wonder where it could be:

The road to the Episcopal church, on the way from Tarbert to the West Side of Harris.

The road to the Episcopal church, on the way from Tarbert to the West Side of Harris.

At the top of the drive, there is the most unusual sight of a grove of trees, surrounding a small wooden building:

The entrance of the Episcopal church on the Isle of Harris.

The entrance of the Episcopal church on the Isle of Harris.

Inside, the church is small but very appealing.  The wooden building and the trees surrounding the church (and the rain!) reminded me so much of Oregon.  They were delighted to have a visitor, and welcomed me warmly.  I enjoyed the service very much, especially as we all came to stand in a circle to receive Communion.  After the service, trays with tea, coffee and biscuits were brought in, and the folks I sat next to were very kind to me.  People clock my American accent pretty quickly, but then are often surprised, if they ask, to find out that I’ve been going to Harris nearly every year for 20 years now.

Inside the Episcopal Church, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Inside the Episcopal Church, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

After church I drove back into Tarbert, and went to the Hotel Hebrides for a welcome coffee.  (Hotels are the only commercial establishments that are usually open on Sundays on Harris.  You can read my thoughts about keeping the Sabbath on Harris here, if you’re interested.)

There I changed from my Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes into my Sunday-go-climb-up-a-hill clothes.  I’d decided to drive out to a very remote village, Huisinis.  (Pronounced:  HOO-shin-nish.)

I hadn’t been there since we went with Our Son the summer of 1996, just after he came to us.  I remembered the road as being rather terrifying, but it didn’t seem too bad at all this time.  I concluded that in the intervening two decades, I must have become much more used to driving on Harris.  From the main road to Stornoway, it’s a mere 14 miles to Huisinis.  But it takes an hour.  Perhaps you can see why:

Driving to Huisinis:  West Loch Tarbert.  April 2016.

Driving to Huisinis: West Loch Tarbert. April 2016.

From the road to Huisini: I believe that is Taransay.  April 2016.

From the road to Huisinis. April 2016.

I am the interloper!

I am the interloper!

From the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

From the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

The cleft in the hills ahead is Glen Miavaig, where the eagle observatory is - which I will post about next time.  On the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

The cleft in the hills ahead is Glen Meavaig, where the eagle observatory is – which I will post about next time. On the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

Then you come to a surprising thing:

The road to Huisinis takes you through a gate.

The road to Huisinis takes you through a gate.

To your left is a very impressive waterfall, and once through the gate, to your right is another surprising sight:

Private gardens, Amhuinnsuidhe, Isle of Harris.

Private gardens, Amhuinnsuidhe, Isle of Harris.

I can only imagine the labour that must have been involved to create the gardens from the rocky moonscape of this part of Harris!  You follow the road around a bend, and see:

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

The road takes you right bang in front of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle.  (Pronounced:  AH-vin-SOO-yah.  ‘Amhuinn’ means river and ‘suidhe’ means sitting / site / situation.)  This is the headquarters of the Amhuinnsuidhe Estate, which I believe owns most of the land that the road passes through.  Fishing and shooting parties stay at the hotel, but apparently you don’t have to be a fisher or a hunter to do so (check out their website here).

Past the castle, you go through another large gate, and pass terraced houses where the estate workers live.

Amhuinnsuidhe estate cottages - and shop!

Amhuinnsuidhe estate cottages – and shop!

Driving carefully along, I was very intrigued to find a sign saying “Shop Open” – a glaring exception to Sunday closing.  The shop is called The Stables, for obvious reasons:

Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

The place seemed very quiet, and then I saw this sign:

Sign at the Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

Sign at the Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

There was another sign stating:  “In the case of an emergency, or if you wish to purchase our own label whisky…”  I wondered how often those two events coincided!  The cooling cabinet was full of salmon and venison from the Estate.

This is the view of the castle from near the shop:

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, April 2016.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, April 2016.

I drove along some more:

The road to Huisinis, continued...

The road to Huisinis, continued…

Until I turned a corner and was looking down into the village of Huisinis:

Huisinis village, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Huisinis village, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

As you see, it is a very small hamlet!  Behind the narrow point of land that you see above with a beach on one side, there is the Isle of Scarp.  I decided to walk across to the pier where the boat to Scarp used to leave.

The road through the machair, Huisinis, Isle of Harris.

The road through the machair, Huisinis, Isle of Harris.

If you have ever wondered what “machair” is, this is a good cross-section to show you:  very sandy soil, which supports grass and in the summertime a profusion of wildflowers.  And, all year round, a good number of rabbits!  The machair (pron. MA-char – ‘ch’ as in ‘loch’)  is a very precious environment, and there are signs up asking people not to drive on it or damage it.

Sheep, machair, sea, hills.

Sheep, machair, sea, hills.

The pier behind Huisinis, with the Isle of Scarp beyond.

The pier behind Huisinis, with the Isle of Scarp beyond.

After a short walk, you reach the pier where in former times the boat would sail to the Isle of Scarp.  Scarp was inhabited until the 1970s.  Apparently in the 1940s there was a population of 100, but within a few decades there were too few people to sustain a community there.  Scarp is famous for attempts to deliver mail there via rocket – there’s a film called “The Rocket Post” about it.

"Steer me"

“Steer me”

Houses on Scarp, empty now.

Houses on Scarp, empty now.

After admiring the crystal clear water at the pier, I walked back across to the beach in front of the village.  I remembered Our Son kicking his football – despite our warnings – into the sea, and how it was quickly carried away.  He was enraged!

Huisinish beach, April 2016.

Huisinish beach, April 2016.

On this day, the drizzle was steady and there was only me, and later on a man and his collie.  The collie dropped a tennis ball in front of me and stared fixedly at it – the man nodded that I could throw it for him.

Huisinis beach, April 2016.

Huisinis beach, April 2016.

I found some shells:

Shells, Huisinis beach, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Shells, Huisinis beach, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

By then it was about 3:30 or so and I said goodbye to Huisinis until another time, and set off for another adventure.  But I will tell you about that in my next post!

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Responses

  1. Merci à vous de nous faire partager ainsi votre beau voyage et la paix qu’il porte avec lui. J’ai beaucoup aimé dans votre dernier post votre réflexion sur le fait de pouvoir lire ou tricoter en sachant que rien ne viendra vous déranger. C’est un sentiment rare et merveilleux. Il faut non seulement être seule mais avoir aussi réussi à écarter tout souci de son esprit…ce qui est encore plus difficile ! J’espère que le retour n’est pas trop dur et que vous pouvez encore bénéficier des bienfaits de votre séjour ! Amitiés.

    • Merci, Annie. Les jours depuis ma retraite ont été bien difficiles, en effet, mais les bienfaits d’avoir échappé durent!

  2. Such a heart warming post full of your love for a beautiful Island and its people, I really enjoyed the wonderful tour that you took us on. I dream of one day living there, time will tell…

  3. How wonderful, Christine, I feel I’ve been transported by this post. As soon as I set eyes on that last picture I could smell the fresh salty sea air. Bliss.

  4. I’m really enjoying your holiday journal, Christine! I’m looking forward to your next entry. xxx

  5. I’m loving the stories of your travels!

  6. I feel like I was driving along with you! So beautiful and such a quaint little church. Looking forward to our next leg of the journey ♥

  7. Your shots of Huisinis beach look very much like Stanley where I was this weekend. Yet to get a post on about it. Unfortunately no castles here 🙂 xx

  8. Thank you all for coming along with me! I’m glad you enjoyed this little jaunt. There’s more to follow…

  9. Hello Christine, I, too am enjoying your posts about your wonderful trip. I loved seeing the icon on the altar at the beautiful, little church. And the scenery of the island is so unique. I am excited to read your next post. Have a great day. Hugs, Pat

  10. In our busy world full of people it is rather startling to find ourselves as interlopers from time to time, isn’t it 🙂 xx

  11. Okay, so if I read you right that was a shop that was open but on Sundays it is an “honesty shop”? I love it!!! So glad you found a warm and welcoming congregation to join. And it does look like Oregon in those photos!


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