A bit of a grey old day here on the east coast of Harris with a morning low mist over the hills. We turned left today for a change – I must say that I think I’ve got used to these narrow roads overhanging the bays and inlets. Perhaps it’s just that I’m not allowing my imagination to run away with me (our brakes might fail or the steering suddenly go etc etc). It’s a pity it’s so misty though – it changes the colour of everything. We did get our first sighting of a Grey Heron on Harris.
We decided to chance the so-called ‘Golden Road’ which winds around the coast above Flodabay and, of course, has more death-defying roads to cope with, but that’s nothing to us now… Folk lore has it that the road is so-called because of the money it cost to build in the 1920s – that wouldn’t surprise us. Apparently, before the road was built, those living on this side of the island used to walk across the hills and moors to the west coast to bury their dead – the ground was too stony on the east side!
Marsh Marigolds grow in the wetter areas:
We passed a cemetery for old cars, vans and buses. Peter particularly liked the handy inspection pit.
An unusual area of greenery is this mostly tree-less landscape and a typical road.
It was a long way round but eventually we approached Tarbert with the bridge linking Harris to Scalpay in the distance.
We stopped in the carpark where we could access the internet and put on yesterday’s blog post and then drove down to the old pier where there are a couple of picnic tables and a view across the loch to a small settlement overlooking Tarbert’s western loch.
We turned off the main road for the Eagle Observatory and it turned out to be one of the scariest yet. A minibus taking pupils home from the brand new secondary school at Tarbert overtook us when we stopped briefly and I wondered how those kids had adapted to hurtling around the bends and up the impossibly steep narrow roads. The bus didn’t go at our sedate and careful speed. Just a way of life in the islands I guess.
We passed the old whaling station at Bunabhainneadar, where remains one of the old boiling towers – now designated an ancient monument. The Norwegians founded it in the early 20th century and whales were brought here, after being harpooned in the Atlantic, for processing. Lord Leverhulme took it on in the 20s but, like a few of his ideas, it foundered. It was re-opened in the early 50s, again by some Norwegians, but only lasted a few years before the company went into liquidation.
Turning a corner after the tower, we suddenly came on an unlikely sight – an artificial grass tennis court beside the road!
Throughout this trip I have harped on about the sharp inclines away from the roads but so far not been successful in taking a photo to emphasise what I mean. This one is my best effort but still doesn’t show just how high the road is in comparison with the loch beneath. The turn at the top was the worst we have encountered and, believe you me, it was even scarier on the way down!
We eventually came to the small carpark for the Observatory but by this time the light was fairly dim and Peter didn’t fancy running the gauntlet of the large bull on the hillock beside the pathway through the mountains! He and his wives looked like lions guarding the path! We parked for a while and hoped that luck would be on our side and an eagle would appear, but no such luck.
It wouldn’t be our blog unless it contained a sheep. This one looked decidedly sheepish about being photographed half-dressed!
Giving up on Golden Eagles, we retraced our steps and drove back to Flodabay via the west coast beaches, stopping first at the tiny fish and chip shop in Tarbert where we bought some haddock and chips to eat beside the coast.
Not bad but not as good as the fish and chips from the weekly mobile shop in Barra.
We were bemoaning the lack of interesting birds on Harris when we spotted something we hadn’t seen before at all – a pair of Red-Necked Divers on a small loch near Finsbay.
Then, as we reached Finsbay, we saw a male Red Breasted Merganser (although in the distance) and round the corner, a female who was much closer.
But the piece de resistance had to be the seals. Up until now, all the seals we had seen had been asleep and dead to the world. But obviously this time (about 7.30pm) was their activity time. They weren’t exactly lively, you understand, but definitely awake and looking interested.
When we got back to the campsite we saw we had new neighbours – a couple of young girls in a caravan! How they managed to tow it up the hill we have no idea. They will have it all to themselves tomorrow when we leave.
Some lovely landscapes and yet more interesting and new bird spotting – the Red-Necked Divers look very snooty! There is something about watching seals that just seems to lift the spirits.
I know what you mean about the Red-Necked Divers! It was lovely to see the seals awake and they have such melancholic expressions. This lot seem to spend much of their time on this little island but I suppose they must go off fishing some time.
Sue Mann said:
Continues to enthrall me with text and pictures!
Thanks Sue – glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂
becca galbraith said:
Oh I love the seals….and the auburn cattle and the half fleeced sheep! x
The sheep looked so put out too! x
Seeing the bull reminded me that we always used to come across a bull in a field whenever we went for a walk when we were young! I love the seals.
That picture of the road put into perspective how high it was and it looked scarily thin to me.