After leaving Uig a flying visit was made to the village of Earsader, just before Bernera to meet an America via Glasgow friend who moved up last year to take on a croft with his partner. He had a new dog, a handsomely gangly collie cross, more white than black like a border in negative. Bonnie thing. The croft house nestled at the edge of Loch Roag among rocky, green hills and blackhouse ruins, looking out onto a beautiful scene. We discussed the usual crofting matters and took a tour of the area and his plans for trees, polytunnels and livestock. It was exciting to see someone doing what we want to do for real and the potential for their future in this historic spot. The clegs here were pretty hellish though and it was good to get back on the road and away from the biting wee buggers.
The road north, after another left at Garynahine, hugs the western coastline and takes you past the Callanish Stones, Carloway Broch, Norse Mill and the Soaplady’s workshop. As with Abhainn Dearg I missed the sign and turn off and instead went blazing through Breasclete before I realised where I was. Reaching Barvas the road north continued but a quick detour into the Morvern Gallery was called for and a purchase of one of Ruth Odell’s charcoals resulted. And making up for my driveby earlier, a few Hebridean soaps were thrown in too.
Back on the road, Ness soon rolled into view and for the first time in years Eoropie, home of the real family croft, was eschewed in favour of Skigersta where I parked up and set out on a moor tracked walk to the shielings at Cuidhsiader. Some of the araighs there looked better than houses in Glasgow but the ones further on in bright blue and green tin and iron are favourite. Peering in you can see small gas stoves, a battered sofa, fire and maybe a radio, shed-like holiday homes used by generations for summering. Past these, as the track peters out, is the abandoned community of Filiscleiter, where a man called Iain Fiosaich, following a trip to the States, set up and built a church (and his house nearby) perched on an Atlantic promontory. The sand used in the build was carried up by hand from the beach at the foot of the cliffs on which they stand. Here a community formed and worshipped with Iain as lay preacher. The family tree shows he was one of three brothers, originating in Scalpay, whose descendants finally led to this blog being written…
On the return journey Cross Stores provided an armful of marags to bring back to Glasgow where a bunch of foodies awaited having placed orders with me yet again. After that it was time to head for Stornoway to meet a cousin, abandoned by his Skerryvore bound wife, for a few beers and a blether. Good craic. Next day, still in Stornoway, was a visit to my Uncle and Auntie and on arriving the familiar, though now different, clickety-clack of a Harris Tweed loom could be heard from the garage. Sure enough my Uncle was working hard on a new tweed, a beautifully coloured twill, that was due urgently at the mill. On this hot and muggy day I found him in shorts, running shoes and a teeshirt that declared “No Pain, No Gain” pedalling steadily to get the job done on time as his sheepdog looked on balefully. I should have taken a photo and entered it in the Life Of A Gael comp as the picture would have said everything. A strubag and a trawl through a box of family tree documents with my Auntie followed but time was wearing on and I was headed for Harris to camp out again.
Farewells were said and, in sunshine, the hills of Harris were calling.