455: South Harris

OS Explorer map 455, South Harris: Taransay – I have visited this map area before starting this blog, and I own the map. Visited for this post 29th December 2017.

This post continues directly from the previous one, with the Dearest Progenitors and I coming to Harris on the ferry from Skye. Our destination was the little holiday cottage that my family have in the village of Miabhag on Harris. [1] We arrived at the cottage on mercifully snow-free roads just before 4pm, at which time it was not quite dark yet. We went in, flopped onto the sofas for a while, and eventually made and ate the aforementioned chicken curry for dinner before going to bed.

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The view from the cottage to the mountains of North Harris in the morning.

Waking up the next day, we could see that although there was no snow on the ground where we were, there was plenty up in the hills. (We later learnt that it had indeed snowed right down to sea level a few days before, an extremely rare occurrence on the island.)

We’d decided not to go to Stornoway to do our shopping (it’s an hour’s drive) and so we went to Leverburgh at the south end of South Harris instead. We went to the shop there and bought food for the rest of our stay. Our vague plans for going for a little walk or something were not realised due to the rain and wind.

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There were some very large waves!

From Leverburgh we went past the cottage and instead came up to Tarbert, where we had lunch in the bar of the Hotel Hebrides while Mother Dearest did some online banking, since, unlike at our cottage, there is not only internet but also phone signal there. There was a football match going on while we were there, so the bar was extremely loud with shouty locals, but the food was very pleasant. After lunch, I posted a few postcards that I’d written on the ferry, and we went back to the cottage.

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It’s not only the human locals that use the bus shelters on Harris!

That evening we went out for dinner at the restaurant on Scalpay, a smaller island connected by a bridge to North Harris (but still on the South Harris map). I had had to book the restaurant a few weeks ago via Facebook messaging, since they were closed at the time and not picking up the phone. It was as ever very pleasant; last time I was there the chef brought us out an extra dessert because he was experimenting and wanted to know whether it was good!

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Father Dearest and I at the restaurant.

The next day we wanted to go out for a walk. Initially we were thinking of trying the walk to the eagle observatory on North Harris (which is at the other Miabhag), since Father Dearest had done that before when here with two of my cousins, but Mother Dearest and I had never been. However the weather forecast didn’t look promising, so instead we drove down the eastern coast of South Harris on the so-called Golden Road to Finsbay/Fionnsbagh. The reason for this was that we had recently learnt that seals can often be seen in the bay, although we had no idea whether they were there in winter. (Do seals migrate?) In any case, we went there, parked up, and did a bit of walking around the bay.

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We didn’t see any seals, so presumably their presence is seasonal (or we just weren’t very observant). Nevertheless, it was pleasant.

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Me with one of the islands’ many many abandoned blackhouses.

Mother Dearest saw some vintage tractors by a make whose name I forget, but which were notable to being similar to one that my grandfather bought to send back to his family in Punjab in Mother Dearest’s youth; for this reason she photographed it and sent a picture to various relatives. There was also another abandoned house that was, alas, inhabited by a partially-decayed sheep carcass. I picked up some shells from the beach to add to the little collection on one of the windowsills on the cottage – we already had plenty of limpety mussels, cockles and things, but I found an empty crab shell, which was new.

That evening, we assembled pizzas from pizza bases, sauce, and toppings (spinach, cheese, red onion, onion chutney, and more cheese).

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More importantly, however, that evening was notable for being New Year’s Eve! For that reason we stayed up until midnight as is conventional.

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Our not-particularly-inspired New Year selfie

Today, is our last full day at the cottage as we’ll be leaving to travel home on the morning ferry tomorrow. (We’ll stay tomorrow night at a B&B in Cumbria before reaching home the next day. The day after that, of course, I’ll be coming back to Scotland with Cambridge people!) Our brief excursion from the cottage today took us into the North Harris map, so for details see the next post!

Previous Visits

I’ve been to Harris a lot of times since we got our house here in winter 2015 (this is the eighth time, I believe). I’d been to the Western Isles three times before then, but in summer 2014 with my school friends we only did the Uists and Benbecula, and the year before with my parents and cousin, we only drove through Harris without stopping, on the way from Lewis to get the ferry from Leverburgh.

The third of these previous occasions was my first time on Harris, when I came with Father Dearest in summer 2015 when we were looking at houses, the trip which resulted in our buying our current cottage. This cottage was in fact the first of the seven or so we looked at on that trip. We flew into Stornoway, picked up a hire car and then went to the estate agents, where they just gave us the house keys and kicked us off to let ourselves in for our viewing. We then, of course, went and looked at the place, and liked it.

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Father Dearest inspecting the side of the cottage.

Our next viewing was on Lewis, but after that we returned to Harris and stayed the night and had dinner in Ardhasaig before getting the ferry off to Skye the next morning. (It was delayed for several hours, I recall, during which time we went to the Harris Tweed shop.)


Now, I’m not going to go through every time I’ve ever been to Harris; that would be far too much effort. Therefore, here are a few disconnected photos of various things I’ve done on South Harris, with my mumblings attached.

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Here you see Father Dearest sitting in the cottage in December 2015, when we’d only just bought it. Aside from the beds that we’d ordered beforehand, we didn’t have any furniture except what we’d brought with us in the car from England. Over the next few days we did a lot of furniture shopping, and by the end of the week the place looked significantly less sparse than this!

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Here, of course, is the cottage itself and its wider surroundings, the latter two taken on a trip when we brought our camera drone up.


These pictures are from this summer, when I came up with my school friends Cabbage and Joystick. The first three pictures are from a walk we did up the big ridge behind the cottage; from the top of it one could see both sides of South Harris at once, both the rocky east side (the second photo), where we could see our cottage; and the more lush, sandy, grassy western side (the first photo), where we could see down to Luskentyre Beach/Tràigh Losgaintir. (Looking at the map, I see that the peak we got to was called Uabhal Mòr.)

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This is Luskentyre Beach somewhat closer up.


And here you see Father Dearest and I on an occasion when we walked to the lighthouse on Scalpay. It was a clear day, so one could see both Skye and the Scottish mainland!


[1] Well, the cottage is in Miabhag South, as there is another Miabhag on North Harris. The tale of our acquiring the cottage is told in the previous post.

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