Isle Of Harris,Scotland
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The island of Harris is found in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. Quite remote, and a good 5 or 6 hours by road from Glasgow to Uig, on the far end of Skye, where it is another 2 hours by ferry. Being remote it has kept a lot of it's cultural idenity, and is one of the few places in Scotland where English is not the native language, most locals will speak Gaelic.
Spent many long summer holidays, over the years , going to stay with my Gran here.
Great place as a kid to run free, and safe, in the hills, but by late teens early 20's held little appeal as it was to quiet and I had seen it so many times.
Older and wiser, having travelled to see sites around Europe , found it fantastic when I went back after a few years and began to appreciate it all over again.
Some stunning scenery and, when the weather holds ,it has some fantastic beaches to spend a day. The beach at Luskentyre has featured in some Travel Review Top 10 votes for the best beach in the world, and it is about 4 miles long but pretty desolate and quiet. Part of the dramatic scenery is the way the mountains come right down to the beach and the sea.
The Sabbath, on a Sunday, is still quite strictly observed,meaning there are no ferry sailings (though there is at least one flight out of Stornoway airport). Shops( and pubs) remain closed, though hotels are open for meals for tourists.
Tarbert is the main village on the island, and is where the ferry from Skye sails to. Here you will find most of the shops, a couple of hotels and the tourist information. Shops tend to be general stores,and a bit pricey compared to the mainland, and most locals will travel through to Stornoway to do their weekly shopping at one of the supermarkets there.It is about 36 miles from the airport in Stornoway on the Isle Of Lewis, and from here there is a 3 hour sailing to Ullapool on the mainland in Wester Ross . Ullapool is about 55 miles west of Inverness.
From Leverburgh you can sail to St. Kilda (see seperate blog) and to North Uist.
Has a few paths that are good for walking, and one decent size hill,The Clisham, worth climbing. Plenty of small lochs for fishing and for the wealthier and for those inclined you an go hunting at Amhuinnsuidhe .
The island is probably most famous throughout the world for tweed. Harris Tweed has an orb trademark and is still pretty much a cottage industry. Many islanders combine weaving and crofting to make a living and in many villages you will find someone who has a loom in a shed at the end of the house. A lot of them are quite happy to show you what is involved in making the cloth.
Quite a lot of people will visit using Caledonian MacBrayne's island hopper ferry ticket , where you can get the boat from Ullapool to Stornoway and drive down the Western Isles to Barra, or do it in reverse.
There is a regular, if infrequent, local bus service, though usually you will find buses meet the ferries in both Tarbert and Stornoway.
Mostly though I reckon most visitors will go there to get away from the hustle and bustle and to enjoy the leisurely pace of life there. One of my favourite memories of there is waking up one morning in my aunts house in Stockinish,about 8 miles south of Tarbert, and hearing total silence broken only by the sound of the waves lapping on the shore.
Today ( 19/07/09) the ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne broke with centuries of tradition and the first scheduled sailing on a Sunday from Stornoway to Ullapool sailed at 3pm,with the boat, the 'Isle Of Lewis' sailing back into Stornoway at 9pm. A lot of didvision among local people on the pros and cons of a scheduled Sunday service, but personally I see it as yet another erosion on the traditional way of life on the islands :-(