On the Wildside

Luskentyre Bay.
Luskentyre Bay.

On our visit to the Isle of Harris in early June it was our intention to take a trip to St Kilda but unfortunately the weather wasn’t in our favour.

We were not disheartened as there’s plenty to do and see on Harris. The weather was a wee bit dull but we felt like a good walk so we set off from beautiful Luskentyre Bay to climb Beinn Dubh and Beinn Luskentyre to gain good views of this most photographed beach on Harris.

It was pathless, through rough heathery, very rocky terrain to gain the ridge which was much more pleasant and the views were indeed stunning. We could see the Island of Taransay to the west, the Uist hills to the south over the bay and to the north The Clisham was hidden in cloud. The peep-peep call of the Golden Plover followed us all the way back down the hill.

A lovely track was soon found leading to the road, passing a long line of bright yellow marsh marigolds making their way to the seashore beside a burn.

On the way back to the car, passing hedges of fuchsia, the roadside, like a planned rockery, was awash with the colours of bog asphodel, yellow and purple vetch, flag iris, buttercup and orchid. Ready for refreshments we called in to the Bays Tearoom where we enjoyed the company of the two kitchen ladies who we heard chatting in gaelic when we entered.

Next day we had a lovely walk out to the lighthouse on the Isle of Scalpay where the sound of the curlew kept us company. We had very clear views over to the Shiant Islands which was the following day’s destination. A noisy wren with its ‘tell-tale tilt of the tail’ startled us on our return from this pretty walk along the coastline.

The weather was just perfect for our early start to the Shiant Islands which took about an hour on a very calm sea. As we approached the impressive columnar basalt cliffs the sky was dark with puffin, gannet, fulmar, kittiwake, guillemot and numerous gulls. Razorbill and shag were spotted in the water nearby. What a breathtaking feast of seabirds!

We climbed out of the boat into a dinghy which took us ashore and we slithered and slipped our way over the rocks to the beach on House Island. The uninhabited Shiants, belonging to the Nicolson family, are a small group of islands between Skye and Lewis. The main islands are Eilean an Tighe (House Island), joined to Garbh Eilean (Rough Island) by a pebbly isthmus, and Eilean Mhuire (Mary’s Isle) which is the most fertile.

We spent a wonderful three hours on this remote situation in the Minch and climbed to the highest point on the island for lunch where we were buzzed by several great skua. We were grateful to be wearing sunhats which was a small protection from these massive birds. Sadly, much too soon, our boat returned to take us back to Tarbert.