Scalpay and the Isle of Harris

South to Scalpay

I was really enjoying road tripping around the north of the Western Isles on Lewis. Great people, incredible locations and breathtaking landscapes. Now I wanted to begin heading south. From the more undulating, boggy, peaty moorland of Lewis, down to the island of Scalpay. This would take me through the very different landscape which the Isle of Harris is renowned for. Travelling through the raw and wild landscape on the way south, you can easily see why the Outer Hebrides is an inspiration for creatives and artists. The colours and textures of the environment are pretty inspiring!

Landscape changes between Lewis and Harris
Landscape changes between Lewis and Harris

Mountains on the horizon

As I travelled south, you could soon see the Lewis/Harris division. Here there were mountains on the horizon. As an outsider, it would be easy to think that the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris were in fact two separate landmasses. Rookie mistake, they are not! The change in topography acts as the border region. I guess back in time, this would have been a pretty formidable divide to try and travel over. So maybe local communities developed independently in each region?

Mountains on the horizon of Harris
Mountains on the horizon of Harris

Speaking with one local, they explained that the divide between Lewis and Harris could even be detected in the different dialects of the Gaelic language spoken in each region. They thought Lewis had a slight Scandinavian/Norwegian sound to it, whilst in Harris, more an Irish sound? My ear wasn’t that sharp or attuned enough to pick up such differences, so I just took their word for it!

Heading to the island of Scalpay
Heading to the island of Scalpay

The small island of Scalpay is just off the southeast coast of northern Harris. Scalpay is another of the smaller, but inhabited islands, that go to make up the Western Isles. It was fun to go island hopping again. Again, no ferry in this instance, the island was reached by bridge.

Lovely lighthouse

One of the things I wanted to see was the Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the eastern side of the island. The Lighthouse was established in 1789 by Thomas Smith and is one of the first four lighthouses to be built in Scotland! It was a great walkout over to see the lighthouse and the views on arrival didn’t disappoint!

Eilean Glas Lighthouse on Scalpay
Eilean Glas Lighthouse on Scalpay

What weather?

However, as I was getting nearer to the lighthouse, over to my left I could see that there was a pretty intense looking set of clouds heading this way. If ever a photo gave an up to date weather forecast, this was it! It really was a tale of two weather fronts. Sunny on the right, stormy rainy on the left! A few minutes after I arrived at the lighthouse, so did the rain!

both sides to the weather in one picture
both sides to the weather in one picture

Fortunately, the lighthouse outbuildings had a small gift shop and tearoom that I could take shelter in. The lady who ran it was equally lovely and interesting. She made me very welcome. Having worked there for 35+ plus years, she had some fascinating insights and information to share about the building and its history. Really was a great place to visit, highly recommended.

Storms coming…
Storms coming…

Change is good

Storms come, storms go. So it was with this one. In what appeared to be a bit of a break or change in the weather, I said farewell and made my way back to the bus. As the famous saying goes…

‘If you don’t like the weather now, just wait a few minutes.’
– Mark Twain

This especially resonates in Scotland! It seemed like it might be a changeable kind of day weather-wise, still, you can’t really complain when you get to see and stay in amazing places like this!

A tranquil spot to see out the night on Scalpay
A tranquil spot to see out the night on Scalpay

Sunny start

Well, yesterdays rainstorm seems to have passed for now. Today the sun makes a welcome return. So up early to make the most of it and have a look around Scalpay before crossing back over the bridge back to Harris.

Scalpay harbour
Scalpay harbour

Still, that didn’t stop me from getting distracted by the different sights all around whilst driving back. Like this amazing cottage with its bright rusty patinaed corrugated metal roof.

Cottage with rusty metal roof
Cottage with rusty metal roof

Luskentyre and Seilebost

Probably the most famous beaches on the Isle of Harris with their incredibly distinctive curvaceous shape and colours. As such they are incredibly popular. I suspect I won’t be having these beaches to myself today! I had been spoilt up until this point. Anything more than a couple of sheep for company, or maybe one other camper, and it would begin to feel a bit crowded!

Luskentyre beach great for an afternoon walk
Luskentyre beach great for an afternoon walk

It wasn’t long after I got there that unfortunately, the weather began to change again, so unfortunately I didn’t get to see it at its best. Mind you it did produce a nice rainbow. Normally this is something to stop and marvel at. However, I have now literally lost count of the number of rainbows I have seen on this trip. More rainbows than at an annual Pixie, Fairy and Unicorn festival!

Rainbow over Luskentyre beach
Rainbow over Luskentyre beach

Despite the weather, I can always make a brew and take shelter in the camper until things clear. It also gave me time to think about where I wanted to go next. Initially, I was thinking of stopping nearby to Luskentyre, but having got there, it felt just a bit too crowded for my taste. I’m enjoying finding spaces that I can have largely to myself. Just me my camper and I.

Ferry time

So I thought I would push on and find somewhere else to stay for the night on Harris. Typically, not long after the sun came back out again! That just the late afternoon drive even nicer. Whilst having the tea break I decided there was lots more to see on the Isle of Harris, but for now, the next stage of my road trip was going to involve another ferry!

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