Thursday, September 18, 2014

ISLES OF HARRIS AND LEWIS – IN FOG

I couldn't believe it when I woke this morning. Sun gone and replaced with pea soup fog. I s'pose it was not surprising given the heat yesterday and the much cooler night that followed.

I drove to the ferry on the Isle of Berneray to learn that the first ferry of the day couldn't make it across to Harris. "Be prepared to wait, take much longer than an hour, or to turn round half way across," a crew member told me. As it happened the captain decided to give it a go and left on time with a double load. He must have sweated blood navigating through islets, skerries, and sandbanks, which is known to be difficult enough in good visibility. He made it too, only five minutes late. We saw lots of sea birds – eider ducks, Great Northern Divers (loons to Canadians), shags, and some eagles.

I decided to go the wild and winding route to Tarbert along the southeast shore. The fog made me go slower than usual over this tortuous road. It was narrower and more up and down than I had driven so far. Sheep were all over the road. Harris is so completely different from the Uists. It's rockier and much more hilly. Granite boulders litter the land.

About noon the sun began to break through the gloom and I could see the sea lochs that I was driving around all the way north to Tarbert. I was headed for two Harris Tweed shops out in the wilds. Found them too, but they charged more than twice the price than the bigger centres for the same products.  Found a third at Plocipol that was much better, but didn't have the colour I wanted. They guided me to their big Tarbert store, about five miles further on where we had planned to eat a late lunch.

On the way we saw these lochs with the hint of big mountains to come. They were beautiful in their autumn colours.















I found the perfect Harris Tweed jacket in the colour of heather and bought it, along with a tiny kilt for my granddaughter age two and a half.

Here is a shot taken on one of the roads showing the sign indicating a slight
widening where vehicles can pass. I have Honda Fit, very small. It is the width of this secondary road. You can also see that a driver often cannot see a car coming over the top of the rise until you get there. I was not out of second gear the whole way from Leverburgh where the ferry docks to Tarbert. It can be unnerving when you meet a semi or a tour coach on one of these single-track roads.

After Tarbert driving north to Stornaway, the landscape changes dramatically to huge mountains, glens, and inland lochs. This main road is two lanes and a fast drive. Sometimes the drop on one side was 1000 feet and sheep wandered freely. These sheep are bred for their wool for tweed and are sheared twice a year.

My guest house is on the east of Stornaway by the airport so I decided to avoid the bustling town of 9000 citizens on this referendum day. Braighe House is just before the causeway to the Eye Penisula and has a view of the Scottish mainland and the north of Skye. It is a very upmarket B&B run by a delightful young couple.

The fog suddenly lifted at dusk and I'm hopeful my planned adventure around the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis tomorrow will have clear weather before I fly to Iceland on Saturday morning.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved.