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
unanswered.

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

 

 

Scalpay

Following his defeat at Culloden on the 16th April 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his companions headed north, attempting to cross from Skye to Eriskay at the southern tip of South Uist.  His boat was blown off course, landing at Eilean Glas on Scalpay on 30th April where he stayed for four days at the farmhouse of tacksman, Donald Campbell.

Campbell’s farmhouse was demolished in the 1870s and a larger dwelling built on the foundations. The house was at one time a shop, later a manse, and is now home to the Two Harbours guest house, our lodgings for two nights in April. This is the view that the Bonnie Prince would have seen from the farmhouse bedroom window; I suspect not much changed since 1746 – if I were him, I would have stayed longer:

The view from Two Harbours

The day after we arrived we did the Prince’s walk in reverse, taking the Out End road to Kennavay and then the rough track across open moorland to Eilean Glas. In doing so, we were also following in the tracks of Norman MacCaig – these lines from his poem Return to Scalpay:

… We walk the Out End road (no need to invoke
That troublemaker, Memory, she’s everywhere)
To Laggandoan, greeted all the way –
My city eyeballs prickle; it’s hard to bear
With such affection and such gaiety.

Scalpay revisited? – more than Scalpay. I
Have no defence,
For half my thought and half my blood is Scalpay …

His mother, Joan née MacLeod (1879–1959), was born on Scalpay.

This is a wild and glorious landscape and I will publish it’s more attractive side later but Eilean Glas is a sad place – abandoned and forlorn, only the lighthouse tower is pristine, in stark contrast to the surrounding structures.  There is evidence of various failed endeavours, whilst a sign on one window declares, optimistically, the buildings are in the process of renovation:

Abandoned luncheonette... The games room ... Supply valve... The tanks at ...Ancient monument ...To the lighthouse ...

I have been off WordPress for some time so apologies for the many posts I have missed.