No insanely early start today, for once!  

I got the sleeper to Fort William yesterday, setting of from Euston on Tuesday night. We were three in the compartment in a way as I shared with an elderly Welsh man who had his wife's ashes with them, on a mission to scatter them in Morven. 

View Tarbert To Arivruaich in a larger map

And then the bus to Uig on Skye and ferry to Tarbert. The bus passed high above Loch Garry giving me views over the forestry I struggled through last time out and the bridge I finally made it to to get to Incholaggan and I try to snatch a photo through the wet coach window.

We were late because of a lorry turned over after the Skye Bridge and idiotic coach tour drivers pootling along and refusing to let our bus driver pass them. But he did his best and the ferry waited for us to get there.

And a fine passage it was. Sunshine and little wind. Quite like the last time though much colder.

Because of last time I knew to get the schoolbus to the end of the road, picking up Molly and Sam, my friends’ kids, before we walked the last bit over a steep little hump.

And in the morning we get the same bus back, Molly and Sam sheltering from a fierce wee shower but I am too slow. The bus drops them off at school before taking me to the ferry, to start my walk from the place I got to a few weeks ago.

The sky is heavy and it is still raining fairly hard as I go up the hill and head out of the village on the Scalpay Road, but the cloud is broken and it might turn out OK.

I soon leave Tarbert behind and pass Urgha. There is a weird sound which takes me a moment to place but then I realise it is the drumming of a snipe a moment before seeing the bird fly above me.

Before long I come to a track leading down to Laxdale Lochs
I have walked this route before, many years ago, but came the other way, down from the North instead of North to South.  The rain has stopped and the track is good going.

I have the feeling that I am going uphill too but this must be an illusion as the lochs run into one another and the path stays at the side of the water until near the end of the loch system.

Then it does climb, but the gradient is not brutal.

 The sun keeps coming out and going back in as I make my way up to the lip of a blind glen.  Before I get there, though, I look back. 

The views down the Laxdale Lochs are fine as I can now see Trotternish on Skye off in the distance,

 and as I look the Tarbert Ferry passes by. It is a long way away and is only really clear through binoculars or the maximum zoom of my camera. 

I remember the higher part of this track as very wet and boggy and it has been raining almost every day since I went back south,  but it is not too bad. Clearly the track has been improved since my last visit.

The Clisham is in view now. The biggest hill on Harris and Lewis. 

The biggest hill in the Outer Hebrides, in fact.  And it is my favourite mountain. The one I have climbed most from all sorts of directions. Unfortunately, the Clisham is also one of those hills that don’t like to show off their beauty.  You really have to walk the ridge to appreciate it and, especially from the East it looks far less interesting than it really is, especially when the top is covered with clouds.

I reach the Rhenigadale Road. 

When I last did this walk it was just the road to Maraig and there was none at all to Rhenigadale, the last village on the island that had no road to it, only a rough track on this side and en even rougher one from Tarbert.  I can see Maraig on Loch Seaforth down below and look out for Flossy, who is working on the salmon cages or something over this way today, but there is no sign of him, or the fish farm from here.

Another shower hits me just after I reach the main, Tarbert-Stornoway road.  There is a bus shelter and I think about going back to it but decide not to bother and the shower soon passes anyway.

I set off with good views of Toddun, a shapely little mountain that rises above Rhenigadale, off to the East. 

I do not have to walk far along the main road.  As I turn off onto the Harris Walkway a movement catches my eye. Rabbits, but almost black ones, living around a small hut that services the telecommunications tower.

There is a small flock of rock doves too, hanging out by a larger gang of herring gulls, like younger kids trying to be friends with the big boys. 

Rock doves are the wild ancestors of the feral pigeons that you see in most cities, but unlike the feral pigeons they are not that common and not at all tame, and it always gives me a thrill to see them.

The path is a bit wet in places. I pass a little lochan which is studded with flowers which I think are water lobelia. There are some water lilies too.

A seat has been vandalised but I think the culprit here was probably the wind in winter rather than any human hooligans.

As the path descends I get views of the rock face behind Scaladale, but I have to watch my feet for the most part because the track is terrible. 

And then I see the road again, snaking north towards Stornoway.

As I descend the path gets worse, the rain has taken the path of least resistance and turned it into a water course.   I am surprised at this.  There was so much fanfare about this little track that I had expected it to be better maintained. 

In fact becomes even more boggy and my feet are wet by the time I get back to the road. 

Here there are three separate bits of paraphernalia to celebrate the track I have just come down.  A sort of fake well affair to commemorate the opening of the walkway by Cameron Macneish,  a sign promoting a dozen or so organisations and commercial sponsors and another little plaque that I cannot be bothered to read.

It is way beyond ludicrous.  I have never seen so much bullshit interpretation and self-congratulatory guff for a mile and a half of pathway,  let alone one that , apparently, no one has bothered to maintain once the ceremonies were completed.  It is so ridiculous that I almost like it.

But it is the road for me now.  I walk past some resurfacing vehicles.  No one might bother to maintain the pathway but you could not accuse them of neglecting the road, this one is only a few years old.

And past the Scaladale outdoors centre.  We stayed there on a mountaineering club meet some years back and it was very comfortable, but I see a huge new building that looks as if it must be for boats or something like that. There are no canoes outside any more for one thing.

Shortly after Scaladale I come to Bowglass, which gives me a little thrill as I know it is the last village in Harris.

Of course this makes no sense.  Harris and Lewis are the same island and no one seems to know why it is mandatory to pretend that they are two different ones.   It is not as if they are separated by a narrow neck of land, the border runs across the widest part of the island. And it might make some sense if it ran along the watershed of the North Harris Hills, as one theory is that, in days when the sea was the main highway the mountains made such a barrier that they may as well have been separate islands.

The problem with that theory is the route that I just walked.  It is only a hundred meters or so up from the head of the Laxdale Lochs to the shoulder of the Clisham and the track down to Scaladale.  And then there is Bowglass.  Bowglass and Scaladale are on the wrong side of the mountains to be Harris.  And there are no significant hills between them and the mass of Lewis.
So it makes no geographical sense. The answer must be political, perhaps in the dominion of different clans.  But then why would the Macleods of Harris own a couple of little villages that ought, by geographical sense, to be in Lewis and must have been pretty well impossible to defend...?   So on the mystery goes.

And on I go, passing the sign announcing that I am in Lewis, and that there are not many significant boundaries left for me to cross on this walk.
I do see a working boat in the distance but it doesn’t look like Flossy.

And shortly afterwards, as the road rises, I get the best view down Loch Seaforth.  I sailed into this loch once, from Plockton, many  years ago and the boat was anchored at Scaladle.  I remember that trip as I plod on up the road.

 I carry on down the road, passing several dead rock pipits that seem to have been car victims.  The road is not busy at all but all this road improvement has made it fast and I have to keep my wits about me as it is easy to drift off in the longeurs between cars, lorries and the camper van menace.

And a little later to a sign announcing that I have reached Aline Community Woodland.
There is a loch to my left and power lines which is a pity as it would be scenic, even if the pine plantation is alien, without them.

What astounds me is that the power country in a fit of health and safety madness have ensured that any scenic beauty is destroyed by putting bright red and yellow signs under every single pylon and place that you might fish beneath the lines.  A couple of signs I could see the sense in but there are dozens of them,  and though small compared to the pylons they are so garish that they, if anything, even more intrusive.

On the plus side there is an old road between the loch and the new road and I take to that for a spell.

I am getting hungry now and decide to stop when I get to the loch with the boardwalks, which I know because my young nephew has shown me round it on previous visits.

The road is so quiet by the time I reach the loch that I cannot be bothered to walk round the boardwalk in search of a picnic spot. There is some nice springy turf by the side of the road and I sit there and get my sandwiches out.

A couple of ducks swim over to me and bustle about below my feet. But I have no intention of sharing my dinner. 

The ducks are insistent though. A few moments later I realise that they have got up onto the bank and are approaching me with a determination that I have not seen since the Dent chickens. I wave a walking pole in their direction and they waddle off, muttering in duck.

But a few moments later one appears from the other side, as if it thinks I might be more tolerant if it hassles me from the north instead of the south.  I wave the stick again and it finally gives up.
On I go, passing  what was the toilets.  This walkway was also given a lot of hoo-ha but the facilities are not just closed the toilets have had a beam nailed across the door. 

It seems sad and a bit strange.  The Aline Community Woodland website  looks hopeful and ambitious, but if they cannot even keep the toilets open by the existing walkway, you have to wonder how likely things like underwater cameras really are?

As I emerge from the woods there is the long straight bit of road. This is very fast indeed and I am not looking forward to it, but there is a parallel old road. 

Unfortunately this is over a barbed wire fence.
Again this is frustrating. All that stuff at the bottom of the Harris Walkway, and yet exactly how hard would it be to put a stile in here so that walkers could use an existing old road? A little work and cyclists could use it too and not have to dice with death on the fastest stretch of the Tarbert/Stornoway road.

Fortunately I have with me the Hebridian walker's secret weapon, a length of foam pipe lagging.  I last used this technique at Haltwhistle, but there I just had a couple of little sections. This time I have brought a long piece as I was expecting to have to use it.

It gets me over with no damage to me or the fence.

That sheep are idiotic is not news, I know. But I now come across some of the daftest I have met in a while.  Three sheep and a young lamb are on the road in front of me. They keep running down the road in panic, and the lamb gets left behind each time.

There is nothing to stop them going off to the left or to the right, but they keep doggedly to the old road, ensuring that I keep following them. Have their survival instincts been bred out of them deliberately,I wonder?
Eventually I come to an old bridge and they do divert off to the right.  When I get to the bridge I realise why, there is a fence across it. But no barbed wire so no need to get the lagging out this time.

I leave the old road prematurely as it turns out. There is a gate and I make use of it but there turns out to be another one further down.  

I have been passing blooms of birdsfoot trefoil for a while. Like the Gorse last time out at Uig, it seems to be particularly spectacular this season.

Finally I see the sign for Arivruaich  (well, actually the sign for Airidh a Bhruaich,with Arivruaich in smaller letters beneath) .  I get barked at passing the first house, but it is perfunctory,  the old dog not bothering to get up from the doorstep , to see me on my way.

The next house has a couple of dogs and they are more excitable,  but I am past them soon enough.

It has been sunny in spells for quite a while now but as I go into the village a ferocious squall hits me and it starts to hail.  Before I have time to react I am quite wet and then it is gone and the sun is shining again.

The hills over to the East are those of Pairc where I have never yet walked and one is known as “The Silver Lady” as it is said to resemble a reclining woman.   From here you can really see it, her nose protruding into the sky.

I walk as far as the bus stop where there is a memorial to Bonny Prince Charlie, or rather to the islanders who helped him escape.

I have about an hour to wait for the bus and decide I might as well try hitching.  For a laugh I try one of the camper vans with their ample space, but of course they blankly ignore me.
There is no hurry and there is a bus due later so I am not hitching very seriously, just putting my thumb out now and then if a car looks likely. 

But soon one stops. The driver is going to Tarbert, which is perfect.  We chat and it turns out that he works for Marine Harvest too.  Do you know Flossy? I ask him. Naturally he does as he lives in Tarbert and works for the same firm.  My walk amuses him no end and he gives me a greeting to give to Flossie (from Neil who works at Loch Shell, if I remember correctly).

By the time we are approaching Tarbert he offers to take me up to Flossy’s and I am a bit tempted as it is too late for the school bus. But he has been yawning and is clearly tired so I tell him to just drop me at the junction at the bottom of the Caw (a sharp little hill exiting Tarbert to the south).

Just as he stops to let me out, a van is coming out of Tarbert and they exchange greetings.  I look again and realise that it is Flossy, so I get straight out of my lift car and into Flossy’s van, it is just as if we had coordinated it.

Soon I am back up at Tracy and Flossy’s and he shows me the progress on the Red House. 
The mixture of sunshine and showers makes for some fantastic light so I take some photos of the views off to the West ,

north towards Tarbert  (with Flynn instructed to pose)

and South towards Skye.

A very satisfactory day, in all, except for the fact that I got fooled by all these shower clouds and have managed to get sunburned.


  1. Anonymous said...

    "a fierce wee shower" think you can talk Scottish now that you're a property-owner there?

    Loevly photos, as always.



Copyright 2006| Blogger Templates by GeckoandFly modified and converted to Blogger Beta by Blogcrowds.
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.