05-Jul-2002 -- Despite being far out to sea on a distant island, this was the easiest visit to date. Ok it was a long days walk, but I was on the island to walk up hills, and guess whats between two neighbouring and fine hills, Tiogra Mor and Huiseabhal Mor?
Unlike the previous visitors I did have the time to climb Tiogra Mor, and I can thoroughly recommend the exercise, it’s a fine view point and an elegant peak. So what if its only 679m above the surrounding turquoise ocean. Besides Tiogra was why I was here.
The confluence is situated at 370m altitude in a corrie between Tiogra and its neighbouring hill of Ceartabhal (Click here for topo) A corrie is the Scots word for a glacial bowl on a mountain, it is derived from the Gaelic word for cauldron. 12000 years ago this would have been under ice. Now they usually contain small lakes or lochans. The terrain here is very rough, overlying the 2.8bn year old gneiss is a lot of peat and water, and visitors can expect to have dirty and wet legs at the end of the day. In contrast the gneiss forms huge slabs and these give fast easy going up the less steep slopes. Some outcrops give excellent rock climbing.
There were three of us on the trip. Myself and Frances were to walk up the easy way, direct to the corrie while Chris armed with another GPS would take a more sporting route up a slabby ridge on to Tiogra. Leaving the car by a fish farm, we had hoped to find a path up Glen Leosaid, but all we found was a particularly foul bog. However a few hundred metres further up the glen a superb pony path did materialise, a relic from the golden age of deer stalking. This path took us to the lip of the corrie where an easy kilometre of bogtrotting brought us to the lochan and the 100m zone.
The dance was fun in the bog, but the spot appeared to be on a dry peat bank. The usual compass point photos were futile as the view in all but the sunlit south were rocky slopes. The southern view was of an island studded sea. I raided the hill and met Chris on the summit, he made his visit on the descent. Frances guarded the confluence , awaiting my return. A breeze kept off the dreaded midges, the Scottish version of the noseeum, truly an evil beast. Less unpleasant beasties in the neighbourhood included common sandpipers, sea eagles, golden plover and a lot of red deer and mountain hares.
The return was via the neighbouring hill of Huiseabhal Mor. From here wide views included the corrie, numerous nearby islands and the distant St Kilda group. These far flung peaks are a submerged mountain range. A remnant of tertiary volcanic action some of the islands are little more than 350m high sea stacks, the ultimate challenge to the Scottish hill bagger. Up to 1930 the main island was inhabited, the islanders living off the vast sea bird colonies on the stacks but were evacuated to the mainland 20 years before the helicopter would have saved their community. Now it is a military camp and a World Heritage site, protected by 45miles of ocean. Maybe Captain Peter will document it one day, Its height makes it visible from 58N 08W . Directly below Huiseabhal is one of my favourite beaches, Crabhadail. It is very enjoyable to drink tea, with one of Harris' famed white beaches 450m below your feet. Folk were down there enjoying a wilderness camp.
You can buy this confluence! The estate that contains all these hills and the hunting lodge of Abhainn Suidhe Castle is now on the market. The people of Harris are trying to buy it, returning the land to the people and using it for economic gain, not just as a private hunting reserve. They will face some stiff competition, as the fishing here is some of the best in the world, and there are some deep pockets after this estate.
Harris and Lewis are not separate islands, but names given to either end of the same island, which is nameless in English. The island is the 4th largest in the archipelago after Great Britain, Ireland and Skye. The local language Gaelic is related to Irish, but is heavily influenced by Norse. The Western Isles were part of Norway until the 13th Century and the place names are akin to Icelandic names, only written in the Gaelic alphabet. The land is infertile, being acid bog and rock, and the sea is important to the economy. Most people live on the coast, the interior being a boggy wilderness, with mountains in the south.
The beaches, wildlife and very friendly people make the Western Isles a great place for a holiday, especially as few others make the crossing. If you see anyone else on the beach its crowded. Shame the water is so cold.
|Tiogra Mor||Chockra More
|Amhainn Suidhe||Avon Soueee