Tarbert, United Kingdom
Well today has been interesting. Yesterday I was impressed by the wild picturesqueness of Lewis, only to have that completely ripped up and stamped upon by Harris. The place is just impossibly pretty, especially with the endless sunshine that we’re seeing so far this week.
Today’s plan was to check out Tarbert, the principal town of Harris located about 40 miles south of Stornoway, and also visit a recently-opened Harris Tweed shop a bit further south from there. Well the drive to Tarbert was easy enough – fast roads again with only a slight slow down for some roadworks which we had to negotiate in convoy behind a ‘pace vehicle’. The only thing that separates the ‘islands’ of Lewis and Harris is a range of high hills, so it wasn’t long before we were dropping down the other side. Perhaps because they don’t have so many articulated trucks, the Hebridean roads sometimes take a very literal approach to crossing hills, going straight up and down at some impressive angles rather than winding back and forth along the count ours like they do on the mainland.
Tarbert turns out to be very small indeed. The ferry for Uig on Skye departs from here (and indeed, it’s the shortest ferry crossing you can do to get to the top two islands in the Outer Hebrides). The harbour is quite small, and the gear for loading cars on to the full-sized ro-ro ferry that crosses from here to Skye is impressively large in the setting. We looked round Tarbet and partook of a pot of tea and we were under way again by 11:30. The road on from Tarbert narrows dramatically – a proper island road, single-track with passing places. Just an handful of miles and we were turning off on to an even smaller and windier road to Drinishader and the Harris Tweed shop located in an old school.
Drinishader was a nice little hamlet and the shop was really well organised and run. We ended up buying perhaps a little more than planned, but hey, we’re not here every day. Rather than head back the way I had come, I completed the loop of the little road back to the main road. That was fun because it was so tiny and twisty and impossibly picturesque. There are lots and lots of little houses and communities out here. I am not sure what everyone does for a living, but the place where they live is beautiful.
Back at the main north-south road, only half the day was done, so we kept going south to check out what looked like a very large beach on the map. Not long after, descending out the hills… holy molly, that’s a beach and a half. It was a place called Tràigh Losgaintir leading out to the Sound of Taransay (Taransay is the island used in the TV series “Castaway”, which we have to blame for Ben Fogle). The tide was out and there were miles and miles of white sand and not a soul in sight. I stopped for some pictures alongside a Swedish couple (or at least their Volvo number plates read ‘S’). “Wow”, we both said.
There was no reason not to keep going south, so we did, and reached the bottom of the island at Leverburgh in time for a late lunch. This is where we’ll catch the ferry again tomorrow, and indeed we saw the ferry come in. A much smaller ferry this time, it holds just a couple of dozen vehicles and takes only an hour to cross the Sound of Harris. Once the cargo had cleared, we turned our nose north behind them and retraced our steps on the 2 hour drive back to Stornoway in time for tea.