Harris is a beautiful island, with two extraordinarily different coastlines. The home of the world famous HARRIS TWEED, you can’t help but notice that everywhere you go, you can’t avoid sheep!
Naturally, they are pretty human-proof, and car-proof, so you need to remember to give way to them – don’t expect them to get out of your way!
Our first visit after landing on Harris was to St. Clement’s church, considered to be one of the most outstanding of church buildings in the Hebrides, with the original section built in the 13th century.
To quote: ‘The church is remarkable for possessing one of the most ambitious and richly-carved tombs of the period in Scotland, that of Alexander Macleod (known in Gaelic as Alasdair Crotach) said to have been the church’s founder.’
Our next move was to follow the south east coast road, known as the GOLDEN ROAD because of the cost of its construction!
It leads through some of the most inhospitable, rocky terrain imaginable, often described as a ‘lunar landscape’. It was hard to figure out how they managed to build it in the first place, and how people had managed to live out there before it was built.
A little history lesson solved that question. Back at the time of the land clearances in the 18th and 19th century, many who lived off the land were dispossessed by wealthy land owners. On Harris, those evicted did not wish to leave the island, so fled to the inhospitable, rocky side of the island, carving out places to live in little coves accessible (at the time) only by boat.
There was no built up road to access these properties until 1947.
For those of you interested in geology, here is some info about this forbidding landscape:
‘Much of Harris and indeed Lewis is formed on the oldest exposed rock in the world, Lewisian Gneiss. Formed in Ice Ages. This is grey coloured with bands of white and dark minerals contorted by the pressure of the earth. These were formed over 3000 million years ago, The exposed rocks are a result of scouring by the glaciers in the Ice Ages.’
Towards the end of this road some small villages crop up built around the tarmac strip, and here you can find some of the best Harris Tweed showrooms.
On a personal level, I love to look at Harris Tweed, but I don’t like the feel of it, too heavy and scratchy, so although I admired a lot of the beautifully coloured fabrics, I wasn’t tempted to buy any. You can take a look at some here.
Having driven the amazing Golden Road, we then followed the other side of the island to reach our B&B accommodation for the next couple of nights. Please believe me, this IS the same island…
And on this side, we found these ultra-modern turf-roofed eco houses.
These two buildings are available as luxury self-catering holiday accommodation – see more here. Another time I might be tempted…
Just a few hundred yards further on, we found our B&B, the (unpronounceable for me) ‘Pairc an t-Strath’ .
The view from the house is spectacular
There’s a golf course opposite, and a surf beach. Indeed some hardy soul was camped on the side of the road a bit further up in a tent, with surf boards parked outside. I hope he didn’t get too cold – as you can hear, it was still pretty windy at this point.
Once settled in, we took a walk towards the beach in an attempt to locate another of those elusive standing stones.
This Neolithic stone is the last one standing of what is believed to have been a large circle, as this handy notice board suggests – the first signs of attention to tourism!
A beautiful site for this circle, this is the current view
So we finished up the day by admiring this gorgeous view from the B&B, and its road to nowhere…