The lonely sea and the sky …

The first four images were taken on the return from Eilean Glas along the Out End Road. Unlike MacCaig we were not “greeted all the way”, just a hearty hello from one dog walker – he had an English accent.  In the afternoon we drove the road from Tarbert to Leverburgh, following a circular route around South Harris.

Dream home ... Tied up... One of the two ... The road to ... Towards Luskentyre ...

There are only two images from the southern tour; the storm that was gathering over Taransay and Luskentyre broke over Scarista, Leverburgh and the circular road north back to Tarbert.  This only served to instill a desperate urge to return.  South Harris is the most spectacular of the small islands and there is more to see, not least the sandy graveyard at Luskentyre:

She was buckets
and water flouncing into them.
She was winds pouring wetly
round house-ends.
She was brown eggs, black skirts
and a keeper of threepennybits
in a teapot.

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
By the time I had learned
a little, she lay
silenced in the absolute black
of a sandy grave
at Luskentyre. But I hear her still, welcoming me
with a seagull’s voice
across a hundred yards
of peatscrapes and lazybeds
and getting angry, getting angry
with so many questions

Norman MacCaig – an extract from his poem Aunt Julia, March 1967.

Then it was north again and the twelve mile road out from near Ardasaigh to Hushinish.

The beach at ...The beach at ...The beach at ...The beach at ...The beach at ...Slipway ...

In this last image, a house on the small island of Scarp is just visible, top left.

In 1934, the island was the location for the launch of Scotland’s first mail rocket.  On July 28th the islanders gathered on the eastern shore of Scarp to witness events. Gerhard Zucker, the inventor of the system, pressed the launch button, there was an explosion, a flash of flame and when the dust settled, all that remained was a shattered launch pad and scattered smouldering letters that never left the island.

A second launch was attempted at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle some weeks later.  This was equally unsuccessful so the islanders of Scarp never got their superfast broadband connection to the mainland.  At one time there were thirty two families living on the island and now there are none – if Zucker had succeeded maybe things would have worked out differently.

A film loosely based on these events was released in 2006.  Directed by Stephen Whittaker and starring Ulrich Thomsen, Shauna Macdonald, Kevin McKidd and Patrick Malahide, the film was given a limited release in Scotland.

Rocket Post-film poster




  1. easyweimaraner · April 30, 2016

    that was interesting! and I would love to live there… the mama too… to get the mail via rocket is the better way than with the snail of La Poste :o)

    • northumbrianlight · April 30, 2016

      Me too but the good lady is still not persuaded 😦 Some nice synchronicity – our postman, Bruno, is French and a very fine chap. There can’t be that many French posties in the UK and probably no others in Northumberland.

      • Tigermoth · April 30, 2016

        we have a French postie(lady) in Cramlington, Northumberland!

      • northumbrianlight · April 30, 2016

        That will teach me to make sweeping assumptions 😉

  2. michaelwatsonvt · April 30, 2016

    Wow! I so want to visit!

    • northumbrianlight · April 30, 2016

      I recommend it, you would not be disappointed, such a magical place. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Su Leslie · April 30, 2016

    Such beautiful images. And I do love the MacCaig poem. 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · April 30, 2016

      It is a wonderful poem Su, probably my favourite of many. I do MacCaig a dis-service by omitting the first part – here it is:

      Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
      very loud and very fast.
      I could not answer her —
      I could not understand her.

      She wore men’s boots
      when she wore any.
      — I can see her strong foot,
      stained with peat,
      paddling with the treadle of the spinningwheel
      while her right hand drew yarn
      marvellously out of the air.

      Hers was the only house
      where I’ve lain at night
      in the absolute darkness
      of a box bed, listening to
      crickets being friendly.

      • Su Leslie · May 1, 2016

        “While her right hand drew yarn marvellously out of the air.” What a wonderful line. I only discovered MacCaig recently, through “Memorial.”

  4. Tish Farrell · April 30, 2016

    Our imaginations have lately been tending northwards. These beautiful vistas may well spur us on. Especially love the first shot – red corrugated iron. Delicious!

    • northumbrianlight · April 30, 2016

      I hope so Tish, you will not be disappointed (assuming the weather is kind). Golf in the Wild describes the perfect mainland route north – sorry I couldn’t resist that 🙂

  5. Pit · April 30, 2016

    What a gorgeous scenery. And such interesting information. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. Cate Franklyn · April 30, 2016

    Ohhhh, what beauty. Thank you so much for taking me there.

    • northumbrianlight · April 30, 2016

      A fabulous place Cate – hopefully I will take you back again before too long.

  7. sustainabilitea · April 30, 2016

    My heart aches with the beauty of your photos and that of the poem. Thanks for adding to my Saturday morning.


  8. elisa ruland · April 30, 2016

    The natural scenery is so beautiful, and I truly enjoy the vivid colors in your photographs. The poem is lovely, and perfect for this series. Thank you for sharing!

  9. restlessjo · April 30, 2016

    It’s like another world isn’t it? A very lovely one.

    • northumbrianlight · May 1, 2016

      It is, Jo – almost paradise – I think paradise should be a little warmer though 😉

      • restlessjo · May 1, 2016

        There’s always a catch Robin x

  10. Maureen Sudlow · April 30, 2016

    outstanding photography

  11. LaVagabonde · May 1, 2016

    I am so enjoying your journey in this faraway land. This is a place of true escape. Love the vibrant colors, especially in the first photo. I can imagine that many months are shrouded in gray up there. Looking forward to seeing/reading more!

    • northumbrianlight · May 1, 2016

      Thanks Julie, I am enjoying the virtual return journey too. There are more images but none quite so good as on Harris, our favourite island. The very best of the many days.

  12. Gillean · May 1, 2016

    Don’t tell too many folks about how wonderful it is because then ‘the wonderful emptiness of the place’ will no longer apply!

    • northumbrianlight · May 1, 2016

      From now on I won’t say where the images were taken :-). Just received The Rocket Post from Amazon – I will let you know if it is any good.

  13. Leya · May 1, 2016

    Thank you for posting these incredibly beautiful sceneries. I’d love to go…someday. I will return to your poetry and photos…and my dreamy longing for solitude and serenity.

    • northumbrianlight · May 2, 2016

      Thanks Leya, I recommend it although I am not sure how it would seem in a storm force gale and lashing rain – a frequent occurrence I fear.

      • Leya · May 2, 2016

        You were lucky then!

  14. 2far2shout · May 2, 2016

    wonderfully evocative photos

  15. Pingback: Aunt Julia | northumbrian : light
  16. Karen Thorburn · July 3, 2016

    Seeing your photographs of Harris brought a wee tear to my eye. It’s my favourite place in the whole world – such a peaceful and stunningly beautiful island. It’s been four years since I was last over but I can still so clearly picture every hamlet on the Golden Road and the vast expanses of the beaches on the west side.

    • northumbrianlight · July 4, 2016

      Sounds like you need to get back there and soon, Karen. That is certainly our intention 🙂

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