North Harris, Scalpay and a hike up Harris’s highest mountain
North Harris is a land of rugged mountains and at the end of the 12 miles of single track road lies a stunningly beautiful beach – Hushinish. The whole area around here is fantastic.There are few houses beyond the old whaling station at Bunavoneader so it all feels very peaceful and remote( not that Harris ever feels anything but!) The road mostly sits high above the sea though sweeps down in one or two places to some truly spectacular spots.This area is also where to access the start point for hiking up The Clisham, Harris’s highest mountain at just over 2,000 feet.It is the starting point too for various high level walks onto other North Harris mountains, all of which offer stunning views.
A cafe stop….
I can never pass by the little Art Cafe ‘Hebscape’ (lots of artists work in the Outer Hebrides) just 5 mins drive beyond Tarbert. It’s a great place to fuel up with some tea and wonderful home made cake or scones or oatcakes and cheese, before setting off to this wild corner of the island
Before the big climb up to the top of the mountain pass which is the access route between Harris and Lewis, the road swings to the left and begins winding its way out to Hushinish. On a clear day, the seascape is just wonderful as the road dips and dives through Scotland in all its rock-studded wild grandeur. Not high, these island hills – The Clisham, the highest point in the Outer Isles is only just over 2,000 feet – but they make up in ruggedness and colour and shape, what they lack in height.I’ve often mused on the fact that some of the finest photos I’ve seen of mountains in the higher regions of the world, have been the last few thousand feet, where shapes crystallise and high lakes provide a wonderful foreground to shapely peaks. I often think driving through Scotland is a bit like that all the time, given the interplay of steep mountains and lochs and the sea.
The Eagle Hide
The North Harris Eagle Hide has parking and an information board.It’s not a wildly exciting walk, maybe half an hour to the hide where we have watched a pair of golden eagles circling above their nest site though from quite a distance away.Harris has some of Europe’s highest concentrations of nesting eagles and they can be seen all over the island, as can sea eagles.
Next stop is the lovely castle of Abhuinnsuidhe (pron. avin – soo -yi) where it’s worth parking just before the castle to take a walk down by the salmon river and the sea loch. The castle is in private hands but the road goes straight past its front door. There is a small shop beside it which sometimes sells estate venison (honesty box).In May the wild rhododendrons in this area are quite a sight.(I know they’re an invasive weed and need controlled/pulled out but the colour contrast is gorgeous.)
Onwards for the final few miles admiring the mountains dominating the right hand side and then road sweeps down to lovely Hushinish beach. There is a high point where it is worth stopping to get a photo of this fine scene.
Camping and caravanning is tightly controlled here now, thankfully.There is a small formal site in order to stop motorhomes driving over the fragile machair landscape which in summer is fragrant with wildflowers.Park here and walk around the wider area for an hour or two just to appreciate this gorgeous place.We had a BBQ on the beach a few years back, tucked into a rocky hollow to escape the wind (a regular feature of the Hebrides but with the benefit of reducing problems with midges) Glorious.
There is a walk from here over to a remote beach , Crabhadail, using a footpath which has some steep drops (one reason I haven’t done it yet!)
Opposite Hushinish is the uninhabited island of Scarp and across the sea to the north , South West Lewis.
Taking the other road out of Tarbert to the island of Scalpay (connected by bridge) is another trip through superb Harris landscapes.However, I don’t think overall that it’s a must see part of Harris if time is short and given what else exists.
On a fine bright November day we walked out to the Lighthouse on Scalpay, a wonderful walk on a good track though as we made it a circular walk, the rougher track coming back along the coast was pretty boggy in places.
A ‘there and back’ on the good track would be easiest of all.The Shiant Isles and Skye are well seen on this walk.
Climbing The Clisham
A straightforward if soggy and at times steep hike up to the summit of Harris’s highest mountain. The views are outstanding over mountains, lochs, islands and ocean.Pick a decent day for it!