Our second day on Harris was planned well in advance around a visit to the North Harris Eagle Observatory. I have seen a golden eagle once before, up on the north coast of Scotland, but this particular site has a resident pair and sightings are frequent, so with fingers firmly crossed, off we set.
On the way, I spotted something worthy of a longer view – the biggest salmon farm I’ve yet seen
I couldn’t fit them all in one photo, but there were 12 rings in all, with someone busily attending to them on a little boat.
A bit further up the coast, along a single track road, we pulled over into the car park for the eagle observatory. At that time, we were the only car there. It’s a 3 and a quarter mile walk up to the observatory, on a fairly flat, prepared track, so off we set, binoculars in hand.
Ideal eagle territory
And here we are!
That’s Brian searching the sky for our elusive friends
Realising this might not be a quick experience, we settled down to wait. Inside the hide is lots of information on what one might see, but aside from being a bit chilly, it was a glorious day, so we sat outside on benches, breathed in the fabulously clean air, an soaked up the solitude and quiet.
A family with three small boys appeared a little later, the adults hung with various binoculars and cameras, but after about ten minutes the children became restless, and scanning the skies revealed nothing, so the poor adults gave way to the pressure of bored children and took their brood back down the track.
Hearing a stag roar not too far away got me studying the crag on the right of this picture, and a magnificent red stag with a huge set of antlers revealed himself standing near to the top. For a while he posed, roaring occasionally, as October is the start of the rutting season and he was obviously keen to attract the small herd of does that appeared a while later. Unfortunately I don’t possess a telephoto lens, so no pictures as they were too far away, but it was simply lovely just watching and listening to this wonderful display.
Next, a Japanese couple appeared, armed with cameras but not binoculars. They stayed for about 5 minutes then ambled away, too much left on their agenda for the day to linger for long.
Eventually another English couple arrived. We’d been there for about 30 minutes by then, not too long really, when one of the newcomers pointed to a ridge over on the left. Binoculars raised, we scanned the clouds. Far above, so far as to be little more than dots to the naked eye, a bird had launched off the crag.
At first I doubted we were seeing an eagle. This bird was flapping heavily, almost clumsily. It was joined by a second, and together they flapped their way slowly upward. Then bingo! They caught a thermal, spread their wings wide and soared.
Yes! They were golden eagles!
This pic is courtesy of visitouterhebrides.co.uk, as they were way too far away for us to photograph, but the experience was truly magical. We tracked them for about 20 minutes until they vanished behind cloud and we could finally lower our aching arms.
What an experience!
After walking back to the car, we continued along the dead end road, eager to see what else this beautiful island had to offer.
We passed an inhabited castle but decided to take photos on the return journey. The road terminates at a tiny village called Hushinish, with another glorious beach.
This beach boasted an unmanned visitor centre, with changing rooms for those hardy souls keen to swim in the pristine ocean – and we found some!
We expressed our admiration for their hardiness, and were told with much laughter it was a family dare. Rather them than me!
Turning around, we set off back towards civilisation, such as it is on Harris. Along the road, these were a few photo-worthy sights that caught my eye: a herd of highland cows on the hillside…
A couple of beautiful waterfalls…
and let’s not forget the sheep…
before returning to the castle we passed earlier – the road passes right through this archway
View through the archway
They’ve turned one of their old stables into a little shop selling local produce. It was a help-yourself-and-leave-money-in-the-honesty-box, overlooked by an anachronistic CCTV camera!
And turning the other way from where I was standing to take this pic, this glorious sight…
I wonder who owns this peat bog? Surely too small for the castle…
And what about the sheep? They do have owners, but it must be hellish trying to gather them all up at shearing time