Posted by: christinelaennec | April 21, 2016

From Harris to North Uist, for the afternoon

The third and last day of my time on Harris dawned very promisingly indeed:

View of the North Harbour, Isle of Scalpay, April 2016.

View of the North Harbour, Isle of Scalpay, April 2016.

My plan for the day was to drive to the south end of Harris, and take the ferry across the Sound of Harris to meet up with some dear friends.

So I set off to the beautiful West Side.  Each time I’ve visited recently, this road has been further improved:

Driving across to the West Side of Harris. April 2016.

Driving across to the West Side of Harris. April 2016.

The tide in the estuary was out, and the sheep were grazing on the marshy islands.  I don’t know what plants grow there, as it is covered with the sea twice a day.  I know sea thrift blossoms in places like this in early summer:

Sheep grazing on the salt-water wetlands near Seilebost, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Sheep grazing on the salt-water wetlands near Seilebost, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

I have stopped at the below viewpoint many times in the past twenty years, but this time I understood it just a bit differently.  Do you see the sharp point of Sròn Scourt on the horizon?  I had never known that peak before my hike the previous day to the eagle observatory. As one reader commented, that peak features in many of Willie Fulton‘s paintings – including, I now realise, one that hangs in our dining room.

I really like knowing the names of hills I see on the horizon.  In fact, just before this trip I had invested in an Ordinance Survey map of Glasgow, to help me identify and understand what I am seeing off in the distance.  Curiously, the taxi driver who took me to the station as I began my journey told me the name of one such hill; later that day a lady I was sitting next to on the bus volunteered the name of one of the hills we passed.  Hmm!

That view again! Looking across to Luskentyre from Seilebost. April 2016.

That view again! Looking across to Luskentyre from Seilebost. April 2016.

As I say the tide was low.  The water was beautifully calm and I loved watching the colours change and shift before my eyes.  This is one of the great pleasures of the landscape of Harris.

Beautiful colours in the water. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

Beautiful colours in the water. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

I didn’t have time to go down onto Traigh Iar, one of my and our favourite beaches, but I enjoyed it from the lay-by above:

Traigh Iar, Nisabost, with Luskentyre in the distance. April 2016.

Traigh Iar, Nisabost, with Luskentyre in the distance. April 2016.

Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Soon I was in Leverburgh, waiting for the ferry.  I was lucky insofar as the ferry times were due to be disrupted the next day, because of tidal shifts.  The day I went across, the ferry was bang on time both ways.  It was a beautiful day!

MV Loch Portan coming towards Leverburgh. April 2016.

MV Loch Portain coming towards Leverburgh. April 2016.

I watched an oystercatcher busily pecking away on the stones near the slipway.  She didn’t seem to be the least bit bothered when the ferry approached and the ramp came right down next to where she was.   Waiting for the ferry with me was a man who was going home after an early trip across to Harris to do some work.  When he asked what my journey involved, and I mentioned my friends, naturally enough he knew them.

On board the Loch Portain, heading for Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

On board the Loch Portain, heading for Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

The crossing takes an hour.  I knitted and read very happily.

Nearing Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

Nearing Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

It was incredibly calm, except when the birds on the water took flight at the approach of the ferry:

Seabirds put to flight by the approaching ferry.

Seabirds put to flight by the approaching ferry.

Is there any better sight than friends coming to meet you?

My friends walking to meet me off the boat.

My friends walking down to the pier to meet me off the boat.

The funniest thing was that, as I and the man walked up the ramp, both of us greeting my friends, there was a film crew filming!  We joked, There was no need to make such a fuss over our arrival!

My friends, who have appeared on several of my Isle of Harris blog posts over the years, whisked me off on a tour of the West side of North Uist.  We had a delicious lunch at the Claddach Kirkibost community centre.  This is in a former school, and contains a café, a shop, a library, and a nursery (among other things).  It was a lovely place:

Pretty stained-glass window in the Claddach Kirkibost cafe. April 2016.

Pretty stained-glass window in the Claddach Kirkibost cafe. April 2016.

As you see, there were fresh flowers at the tables, picked no doubt from the garden just outside.  The water was sparkling on that beautiful day:

A delicious lunch with a beautiful view. Claddach Kirkibost centre, North Uist, April 2015.

A delicious lunch with a beautiful view. Claddach Kirkibost centre, North Uist, April 2015.

It was wonderful to see my friends again, and have a catch-up.  They first hosted me in 1994, when I was learning Gaelic, and they taught me so much – not only a new language, but their compassionate and relaxed attitude towards life.  We have looked to them for guidance and example as we’ve raised our children.  In fact, they still give us huge support as we traverse these years of the Dafter’s illness.

On our drive from the ferry, I had seen many fields of black sheep.  My friends told me that they were Hebridean sheep, and that a man they knew had worked hard to keep the breed going.  Obviously his efforts were not in vain, because there were so many of them!  I was intrigued to see wool from the Hebridean sheep for sale in the shop at Claddach Kirkibost.  I didn’t actually buy any while we were there, because I needed to think out what I wanted and how I would use it.  However, once back in Glasgow, I was able to find a suitable project and order four skeins of wool from the woman who rears the sheep and spins the wool on Berneray:

Wool spun from sheep on Berneray, North Uist. "Storm Grey" aran, from the Birlinn Yarn Company.

Wool spun from sheep on Berneray, North Uist. “Storm Grey” aran, from the Birlinn Yarn Company.

I will certainly let you know what I eventually make with the wool.  It looks like Harris Tweed wool but is far softer.  I have knit with Harris Tweed wool (see Michael’s jumper here – he wears it a lot!) so I am very keen to see how this knits up.  I love the fact that this wool comes from such a special breed of sheep, whom I saw in the fields on my visit.

After lunch, my friends drove me to Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy.  There was a very poignant travelling exhibit of five chairs from Passchendaele and a huge book listing all the names of people in the British Isles who lost their lives in World War One – many of them in battles fought a hundred years ago this year.  The names are all printed on the left-hand page, and on the right-hand page people in the various communities the book visits are invited to write their memories and stories of the people listed.  There were photocopied photographs pasted in, and personal testimonies about those who lost their lives so long ago.

We walked out to where a large concrete fish was covered with glass and shells:

Mosaic fish at Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy, North Uist. April 2016.

Mosaic fish at Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy, North Uist. April 2016.

And all too soon it was time to head back to the ferry.  I felt very sorry to say goodbye.  All during our visit we had talked about people whom I had known who had gone on, and the younger generation whom I knew when they were in P1 all those years ago and who now have their own families.  I had a huge sense of nostalgia – how precious each moment and season is – and at the same time, of continuity.  Underneath it all, love, community and family continues, albeit with problems, losses and occasional fractures.  While we waited for the ferry, a young man came up to embrace them – someone their son had gone to school with.  His own children were waiting in the car:  a living illustration of what we had been thinking and talking about!

On my way back the weather was very changeable.  Here you can see the rain, but also sun still shining in the distance:

Heading back to Harris.

Heading back to Harris.

After a picnic tea in my little hire car, I drove back up the West Side.  I couldn’t resist taking photos of this young calf and its mother:

A calf and its mother having a nuzzle. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

A calf and its mother having a nuzzle. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

More signs of continuity and change at the same time!

In my next post I will share my last evening on Harris – for this visit anyway.  Thank you for all your comments, for reading, and for coming along with me!

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Responses

  1. Great photos!

  2. You have inspired me to visit the Isles.

  3. I love the way you write about your visit, I’m sure you went home very relaxed, and refreshed.

  4. Merci pour ces belles photos !

  5. Loved the pictures of North Uist. My grandfather was born at Hosta, Lochmaddy, North Uist. It’s been years since I’ve been there as I live in BC, Canada.

  6. I enjoyed your sweet visit, Christine. Thanks for sharing it! The mama and calf are precious, and I’m sure the beautiful gray yarn is begging to be made into something special to remind you of this wonderful place and time 🙂 xx

  7. I enjoyed this post. Not only are the photos captivating, but the relationship you have with your friends is one to be cherished. To have someone around while raising your children for guidance and example is a treasure indeed. I think I would have enjoyed seeing the book in the traveling exhibit and all that was written. It seems like that sort of thing doesn’t happen much anymore. I like a compassionate, relaxed attitude toward life. I’m glad the shepherd is raising Hebridean sheep and keeping the breed going. I’ve heard of that breed before, have not knitted with the wool, but have heard it is very nice. Looking forward to seeing what you will make with it, and to your last evening on Harris. 🙂 Enjoy your day!♥

  8. Magnificent photos, Christine, you make me long to revisit this area. I enjoyed every word of your post and look forward to the next one.

  9. Those photos are all just so stunningly beautiful. Being there in person to see that surely is such a soul-filler — no wonder you are drawn back year after year!

  10. What a wonderful afternoon in very many ways. Those beaches are stunning – and you were lucky to have a calm day for your ferry crossing. ‘Like a mill pond’, as my seafaring ancestors would have described it.
    How poignant the travelling exhibition from the first world war. I went to a lecture at the French Institute in Edinburgh last week on the Battle of Verdun, which was to the French what Passchendaele and the Somme were to the British. The lecture explained the current revision in the view of the French soldier at Verdun – from hero to victim – as more and more letters from the poilus come to light. (The lecturer spoke for 1 hour and 45 minutes with no notes – quite a feat. And a feat for my rusty French)

  11. What an enjoyable trip, Christine. I’ll be every one of us who read your post would now like to visit. Smiled about the filming crew meeting you, and your response about not making a fuss. And how nice to meet your friends and enjoy lunch.

  12. Thank you everyone for your comments and kind words.

    The book and chairs commemorating WWI was extremely moving. If any of you get a chance to see it, I would grab the chance. It’s wonderful that someone has put time and no doubt money into this project.

    Margaret, I’m glad if my posts can bring you closer to the land of your forebears. When you see how hard it is to make a living from the land on the Hebrides, you can understand that much better why there was such a lot of immigration (and it might be argued, still is).

    Anne, yes such friends are definitely to be treasured!

    LInda, chapeau! Your French must be very good, I would have found that very hard work.

  13. What a beautiful place! The Hebrides are at the very top of my wishlist of places to visit and I hope to see it for myself someday. Your photos are so evocative, capturing it perfectly.

  14. Oh how very beautiful!!

  15. Very beautiful impressions of Harris! Now I’m even more looking forward to our visit next spring- 🙂
    Best regards,
    Dina

    • Dina Harris is a great place to go, for so many reasons. The scenery, the culture, the people… I am very behind in posting about our August holiday there, but if you click on the Isle of Harris tag, you will find many previous posts about the place from the past six years.

      • I’ll, thank you! We are going stay at Scalpay for the first two nights and I really enjoy going through your posts. 🙂


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