The Isle of Harris - Where My Soul is Home and My Heart is Happy



Sigh. Another holiday in Scotland is over (a few weeks already, it took me a while to get to this blog post).
It's been a long time since I last wrote a blog post, even though I had planned to do that more often, but, there you go. This last vacation in Scotland, however, brought a lot of good things for me to the emotional surface, so I thought I'd write a bit about it.
I don't know if most of you know this, but the dude and I go to Scotland twice a year if we can. It's where all our savings go. It's not the most practical thing to spend your savings on every year, but we are firm believers in the saying "The only thing in this world that you can buy with money, that truly makes you richer, is travel".
We just love Scotland so much, we have to go there if our finances allow it. And I feel very blessed and fortunate to be able to do this. I gladly wait longer for other things in life so that our souls can come home in Scotland twice a year.

We have been going on holiday in Scotland every year for seven years in a row now. In that time I have fallen more in love with the Highlands, the West coast and the Scottish Inner and Outer Hebrides with each time I was there.

The valley of Glen Coe is a magical place where we drive through on our first holiday day every time. Just like we always get our calming but simultaneously exhilarating glimpse of Ben and Glen Nevis outside of Fort William on our first day as well.
 



Starry Skies above the Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge, taken September 2015
 


From the beginning we fell in love with the Isle of Skye. No place I had ever seen enchanted me the way the Misty Isle did. Its landscape so diverse, the sea always nearby, so many routes to hike (one of our absolute favourites is the Quiraing), so many little back roads to explore, such lovely people, such fun quirky shops (if you’re ever there, go to the Handspinner Having Fun in Broadford!!), and last but not least, it is seafood heaven! We dream of the succulent scallops, mussles and langoustines of the Sea Breezes in Portree and the Oyster Shed near Talisker all the time when we’re not there.
 




The Quiraing on the Trotternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye, at sunset, taken September 2016

 


Skye isn't called the Misty Isle for nothing! We have our nice, atmospheric morning mists, but fog sure doesn't do something this cool in Holland! Taken May 2016



And then we decided to check out the Isle of Harris and Lewis last year. While scouring the internet for a B&B, we quickly discovered there’s another little island attached to Harris with a little bridge, called Isle of Scalpay, so we booked with Chirsty from Highcroft B&B and set off in May.
Now, as much as we love the Isle of Skye, nothing could have prepared us for how we would feel once we got to Harris! We arrived in almost the worst weather you could have, buckets of rain falling down, mist that made sure you couldn’t see more than the nearest hillside and a temperature that would be more suitable for February than May. But we hadn’t been on the road longer than a quarter of an hour (after having visited the Harris Tweed shop, hee!) and the dude already looked over at me from behind the wheel of the car and said “Well, we’ll definitely have to come back here next time we’re in Scotland”. Even though we couldn’t see much yet, we were already completely captivated.

Me with my Harris Tweed loot during our first Harris trip, taken May 2015


In the next days we got sucked in more and more completely by the gloriousness that is the Isle of Harris, by how wonderfully sweet our B&B host Chirsty was, how absolutely mouth watering the seafood at the North Harbour Bistro on Scalpay, how gorgeous the Harris mountains, how captivating the Calanais (or Callanish) Standing Stones (on the Isle of Lewis, which is attached to the Isle of Harris), how enchanting the sparkling Golden Road of South Harris (also called The Bays) and above all, how absolutely overwhelmingly stunning the West Harris beaches were, even in dull weather, but especially in sunny weather.
 


One of the Isle of Scalpay's many gorgeous little bays. The house at the top on the right is our B&B, Highcroft, run by the lovely Chirsty. Taken May 2016 close to sunset


Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, taken at sunset May 2015



One of the many breathtaking bay inlets of the Golden Road on the South side of the Isle of Harris, taken September 2016


I can honestly not find the words to describe how it feels for me to be on Harris. I have never felt such calm, utter happiness and pure bliss in my heart and soul as I do when I’m there. When I look out over the blue waters there, my heart feels like it's swelling with happiness, and it often almost brings tears to my eyes. I sometimes seriously wonder if I know the place from another life, it just feels so familiar to my heart and I felt so immediately at home there.
I also sometimes wonder if, had we come to Harris right during our first time visiting Scotland, it would have felt the same. As it happened, we had been visiting Scotland for a few years already and had quite a few places within the country to compare Harris to. Probably objectively, although gorgeous, dreamy and rugged, it certainly isn’t strictly more crazy impressive overall than other parts of the Highlands and Islands. The mountains of Glen Coe and Skye for instance definitely are way more vast and rugged than the ones on Harris. But it doesn’t feel the same. There is that Scottish Highland magic almost everywhere we’ve been in Scotland so far, but Harris seems to have an extra sort of special magic all its own.

This year we had to go back to Harris and our experiences there were, if possible, even better than last year. We had one exceptionally good vacation in May. We had sunshine for ten days straight! During the whole vacation, we only had some cloud cover over half the bay in Oban on our second day, and one teeny shower, and two hours of cloud cover over the hills of South Uist on our fifth day. Other than that, sparkly sunshine the whole time! We got to do and see so much, it was amazing! I was exhausted when we got home, but in a good way!

We even had a chance to get the ferry from Leverburgh in the South of Harris over to the Uists and we drove all the way down to Eriskay.

 


Some salt marshes and blue waters as far as the eye can see on the Isle of North Uist, taken May 2016
 


As for unique landscape features, let me tell you, there is nothing like the waters and beaches of the Outer Hebrides (or Western Isles as they’re often called as well). The sands are so pristine and shimmery golden white and the water is so blue and turquoise you might imagine yourself somewhere exotic instead of in Northern Europe. But the fact that these beaches are actually not somewhere warm and exotic but in the mystic, slumbering beasts that are the islands and mountains of this rugged Celtic land, makes it all the more magical for me.



Seilebost beach, which is actually still Luskentyre beach, after a long long curve in the road, the beach follows you all the way here , taken May 2016 

 


Luskentyre beach on West Harris is a wonder all on its own. It takes a while to comprehend how huge it is. It says in all the travel guides that it’s the biggest and most spectacular of the Harris beaches, but that doesn’t mean much to you until you’ve been there. You drive to the most used access point, which is the beginning of the beach, to get to the beach on foot and putter around a bit (or a lot, time gets away from you really easily on Harris) and then get back in the car for some more driving down the West coast and after maybe driving by it two or three times during high and low tide, you begin to realise how far Luskentyre actually stretches and that it follows you for miles and that after two long, long bends in the road, the beach you’re now seeing is actually still the same Luskentyre sands. (see photo above of Seilebost beach, you can see the spot where the beach juts out just below the mountains on the horizon. It seems like it stops there, but it actually just curves back behind the dunes)

I bet you could spend a whole day walking Luskentyre and barely have time to pause much. I’ve never tried it, we've gone for little walks several times, but we’ve sadly never had the time yet to walk the whole beach.
 



Walking along the beginning of Luskentyre beach on a typically Scottish weather day, dramatic clouds and windy one hour, completely clear skies and sun the next, taken September 2016

 



Just in case it wasn’t completely clear yet, the beach side, the West of Harris (which is called West Harris, but to be a bit more clear it’s the West side of the South side of Harris), is my absolute favourite place to be. The Seilebost part of Luskentyre beach and the Nisabost beach (or West Beach as Chirsty calls it) are my favourites and the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
I so would love to some day own a cottage overlooking one of these and be able to walk there whenever I want. A girl can dream, right!

When our holiday to Scotland in September this year came along, we were not as fortunate with the weather as we were in May. But that isn’t very surprising as I don’t think ten straight days of sunshine across the entire West of Scotland in May (or September) is a super regular occurrence. The weather was typically Scottish in that we had great sunshine and dramatic cloudy skies in between showers and some days that were gray and misty. But it was a wonderful vacation nonetheless.
It was our visit to Harris again however, that was my most amazingly magical experience in Scotland yet. A complete book concept came to me in just three days time!
I know that might not sound super impressive, but it is very special to me. Why?
Well, confession time: even though I have wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember knowing what stories are, I hadn’t finished a story in over twenty years. Life and studies and work got in the way and I didn’t keep up with my writing, except for occasional bouts here and there, for about twenty years.
Now, as some of you know, I have been working on a book concept for more than half a year now, but the story doesn’t follow the conventional body of beginning-middle-climax-ending. I love the story of that book, but it’s a bit unusual in its form.
This new story that came to me while on the way to Harris, formed itself in my mind’s eye with a beginning, a middle, a climax and an ending in three days. I am just now working on actually putting it into words on my creaky tiny laptop from my university days.
And it all came to me while on my way to Harris on the Uig (Skye) to Tarbert ferry and kept unfolding during the following days on Harris and the conclusion to the story presented itself on my last night there.
What’s the story, you ask? (I’m flattering myself just imagining maybe three of you reading this and thinking, well, I want to know what it is now!) Well, I’ll tell you, and also what triggered it.
While on the way to Harris on the ferry we always sit outside on deck if the weather is anything but a huge jerk. At first we walk around taking pics, peering through our binoculars and generally actively taking in our surroundings. After a while the ferry completely hits open sea and the view is more waves, water, sea foam, the occasional humpy disturbance in the water you hope is a whale, and maritime birds. By that time we sit down and I kind of get in this dreamy state just watching the waves churn and bubble away from the boat.
During that dreamy staring where I constantly think, man, the colours and texture of those waves churning away are so pretty, I all of a sudden got to fantasizing how I would try to replicate that colour and texture with my clay. Which automatically made me think of a sculpted painting to go with those waves, and I saw a pirate girl on her ship. I spent a few seconds happily anticipating working on this sculpted painting. And I barely had time to think I should write this idea down, when in the sea in my head a mermaid suddenly popped up.
Now this mermaid had already been in existence in my head for a while, as a super rudimentary story concept, which I figured I’d go back to in a few years if I had the time. But now she seemed to have decided that she had found her companion to make her story complete and she decided she wanted to meet this pirate girl and join her on her adventures.
By now, my stomach was getting tingly because I sensed something good was coming.
I told my dude I had to write this idea down in my notebook, which coincidentally (or was it??) I had brought with me on vacation for the first time ever. But of course, my notebook was in the car that was below deck on the ferry and I couldn’t go there during the crossing. So I stayed seated and mulled my idea over some more.
Over the next few days I made sure to constantly have my notebook with me wherever I went and more details and more plot points kept coming to me. Until I hit the point on my last evening on Harris where I knew I almost had a complete story except for the climax, the actual WHY of the story. By now, I was so possessed with the story, I wasn’t content (which I usually am) to just wait a bit more until the Why of it all presented itself to me.
So, I did something I have never done before. I started writing possible Whys down. Anything, the most ridiculous things, I just wrote it down. I knew as soon as I started writing any of them, that they wouldn’t work. They were too grim, or too weird, or too convoluted, or too boring, or too grown up for a children’s book. I crossed them all out as soon as I finished writing them. Until the last one I wrote down, and I knew I had it. It was very simple, but it fit perfectly. I’m not going to tell you what it is, don’t want to spoil the ending! Even though I realise I’m setting myself up for a huge hubris-sy downfall if it ever gets published, by saying it fit perfectly, but to me it feels as a perfect fit.

So now, I just need to actually write out the story, which I’ve been doing and am still doing, because even though the story is finished in my head, that doesn’t mean my writing is perfect in one go without needing revisions, ha.

Long story short, I think the Isle of Harris might actually be a literal magical place! It is for me anyway, and I can’t wait to go back, hopefully next year! And who knows where my little pirate girl and mermaid will be in their development. But I'll always know they, and I, owe their existence to the the privilige I have had over these past two years, of being able to travel to the Isle of Harris.

*** All photos in this post were taken by my dude! ***

 

Comments

Someone have told me few

Someone have told me few things about the valley of Glen Coe and it's a really magical place. I love to know more about that and the australian-writings service can help me to improve my understanding about that beautiful valley. I like this article and these pictures are also very much inspiring and stunning.

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