Day 39,40 Exploring Harris and Lewis

Day 39 Harris’ Beaches

Today was to be a fine day for an extended trip the length of Lewis and Harris. While they are referred to as 2 islands, they are indeed only one. Many rumors abound as to why. The one I like best is the the Clan Macleod, Cheiftans of this island had a split and they in turn split the territory in half as well. There is no doubt that Harris is by far the more mountainous and remote feeling of the island, so while only one island, there is very definitely two different feelings between Lewis and Harris.

After breakfast and making our lunches, we headed straight towards the small port town of Tarbert. This is where we’ll be boarding our ferry to the Isle of Skye in 2 days time. Once on the east coast of the island, we then cut again over to the west side and drove down the length of “South Harris” taking in all the scenery and incredible beaches.

The landscape as we crossed Lewis is very stark. Pretty much all peat bogs across these moors.
Here we found some peat that was freshly cut.
As we neared Tarbert, you could see the dramatic change in the landscape.
Here you can see Harris’ most famous beach, Luskentyre. Just look at the Mediterranean blue of the ocean here!
As we travel south along the coast we made a number of stops to admire the magnificent power of the ocean.
Scarista Beach north side
Scarista Beach south side
We soon hit the southern tip of the island. From here we could either take a secondary single track up the other side, or go back the way we came and find a perfect picnic spot on the beach.

Once at the southern tip of Harris, we took time to explore St Clement’s Church in the small hamlet of Rodel. This medieval church dates from 1520 and ran for about 40 years before the reformation shut it down. It was revived some 250 years later by Macleod. It is widely regarded as the finest pre reformation church in the Outer Hebrides and was influenced by the architecture of Iona Abbey off Mull.

St Clement’s Church. Set on a hillside, this is the burial site of Alasdair Macleod, the eighth chief of the Macleod clan who had the church built.
Alasdair Macleod’s tomb. The intricate carvings are a testament to his status
Here are stone carvings which were burial stones for high ranking Macleods. The swords indicated strength and power.
A crucifix stone carving dating back to the 15th century.

After a lovely walk around this peaceful space, it was time to head back up the coast to look for a spot to have our lunch.

Our trip north would once again wind around rocky outcroppings, peak bogs and beaches before hitting the mountains once again.
We parked the car and walked along to dunes until we could find a sheltered spot with a view!
And the view was indeed special! As a matter of perspective for the waves look at the left hand side of the photo at the couple. the waves coming in are 2-3 metres in height!
As we crossed the southern highlands you can see how bleak and unforgiving these moors can be.

It had been a full day of exploring so we headed home for some R and R before our supper. We are in such a lovely remote spot here in Borve, it’s a shame not to spend some quality time in this very pastoral setting.

The little river beside our Riverside Cottage! I didn’t have the heart to show our hosts a picture of the St Lawrence!

Tomorrow we are off to Stornaway to explore the town and take a leisurely pace in a lovely port town. Until Then.

Finally stayed up late enough to catch the sun as it was setting over the Atlantic.

Day 40, Stornaway and exploring Riverside Cottage surrounds.

We took our time this morning getting up and going. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and Scottish local smoked salmon before Gwen and Glenn and I headed into Stornaway.

Our first stop was to the Lews Castle, which was used as a school and now is a museum and event centre. We went into the castle and saw the large and gracious rooms, very bright and airy feeling. Unfortunately, the museum was closed…I was looking forward to seeing the few (6) Lewis Chessmen that they have here on loan from the British Museum. Alas, I’ll have to put up with photos and replica chess sets being sold in the shops!

Lews Castle
A replica set of the Lewis Chessmen. The originals, carved from ivory, date back to the 12th century and brought over to Lewis. The story goes that they were discovered in sand dunes close to Uig and the discoverer sold them for 30 GBP which in turn paid for his debts during the clearances. The British museum later bought 82 pieces for about a pound each! In 2019, a piece was found in a private collection and sold at auction for $735,000 GBP. Time to get back to the sand dunes and try to find the remaining 6 or 8 pieces!!!

We next headed in the town proper to go and see some Harris Tweed and other things local!

Glenn and Gwen heading down the street to the Whisky Shop.
A small sample of what can be found there!
Along the quay running into Stornaway.

After our exploring was done, we had a lovely lunch at a local restaurant and then headed back to the house in Borve.

Sign on the pub wall… we dedicate this to Gwen!!
Along the way we stopped at a much rougher stone cairn / circle at Steinacleit. It was a commanding spot by the people who settled here.
From the stone circle, the peat bogs seemed to stretch on forever inland!

Once back at the house, Gwen and I went off to explore the coastal walk again. The waves were really putting on a show for us today!

Looking south along the coast from where we are in Borve.
We never tired of watching the waves dance. Again, these were huge swells!
These sheep were curious as we walked north along the coast. They would all watch us, and then when we got too close, they would run further. At one point we thought they might jump off the cliff!! We decided to turn back at that point!

Back at the house, it was time for a little R and R, and packing. Tomorrow we head over to Skye for the next leg of our adventure. Hope you can join us there! Until then.

Categories: Hiking in Iceland and the UK

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