ToLT Day 5: Harris

This day started extremely early. More precisely, we had to get up at 3.30 a.m. in order to catch the ferry to Harris. Like, Harris. Like, the Outer Hebrides! We came to the ferry at exactly 4:45 and took to sea at 5:30 – when I made a fatal mistake, as I have to admit. Shame on me! This was a desaster! The sky was extremely cloudy and what did I do? I left my camera in the car. I LEFT MY CAMERA IN THE CAR!!!!! Can you believe it? So of course the inevitable happened: it was the sunrise of a lifetime. I mean it. I have never seen anything as amazing before. It started with an orange shimmer over the range of mountains that is Lewis. After a while it became a glow and it got bigger and bigger, sending its rays over the sea and the skies, through clouds while the mist was rising from the valleys. Words cannot describe this picture, so I’ll stop here.
I actually tried to get back to the car to get my camera out, but the doors were already locked. I will regret this forever. Every photographer waits for a moment like this. And we all know: a picture not taken is lost forever. But there it is. A real life lesson. So we sat in first row seats for this gorgeous sunrise and drank it all in. Dogs are allowed on deck, by the way. They do recommend to leave them in the car. I would not recommend that, to be honest. There is a lot of commotion down there. Car sirens going off at just about every second. I left Sammy there at first but then came back to get him (just in time, by the way). It was so loud, lights flashing everywhere. No, I rather take my dog with me. You are restricted to certain parts of the ferry, which is, however, not taken too seriously (except in the restaurants, off course).

When the ferry got to Tarbert we all got off and just about everyone turned to the Visitor’s Center. Just so you know: it doesn’t open that early (we arrived at 7:10 am). We had a map, though, so we took the ’scenic route‘, the A 859 right down to the end, where we invented the Harris Roller Coaster. The thing is, there is a circular road, leading back on the south side of the island. Someone warned me beforehand not to take it but to stick to the A859, which ends at Rodel. But we were curious, so at the start of the tour we actually took the Golden Road (so called because there was a debate about wether this road was actually necessary). It was interesting because the landscape is totally different from Skye. It’s a lot wilder, harsher – and then, in between, you find these sandy beaches that could be right out of a catalogue for the Carribean. This contrast is something you have to see for yourself.

There is a chance to fill up on fuel and other essentials in Leverburgh. Also there is another Visitor’s Center (opening at 10 am, too late again) and the Temple Café, which we would have loved to visit, if it weren’t for the fact that it opened at 10.30 am and we didn’t want to sit there waiting for another hour. So instead we stopped by the TallaNaMara between Seilebost and Borve. It looked great and at least we could use the restrooms, but the restaurant was closed due to a wedding the night before. So once again we improvised our breakfast.

From there we went to the Horgabost Campsite to park the car and visited the beach from there. It was amazing. Even though it was raining and actually very windy, the colour of the water was a bright turquoise. It was just beautiful. These beaches (Harris has quite a few, the most famous being Luskentyre) are something special because you wouldn’t dream to find them in this harsh climate and in this rough environment.

Still, when we got back to the car, we were very wet – because we had to take those time exposure shots I’ll show you later on. So after a while we got back to the car and drove on, with just a few photo stops on the way. In the end we decided to spend the rest of the day in Tarbert.

Tarbert is a very small town and – to be truthfull – not that beautiful. BUT this is where you can get your Harris Tweed. Siobhan was actually looking for a Tweed Blazer and planned to buy one here. So we came into the shop and she tried a blue one, when I saw a really beautiful piece. The lower part was ‚dark navy check‘, the lower part ‚charcoal‘ uni. Believe it or not, the model is called ‚Siobhan Ladies‘ and when she tried it, her favourite music was playing. Do I have to say any more? This was fate! Now, of course, the Blazer is with her and she loves it. It’s such a special thing to buy something that comes from the particular land you just explored. From the very sheep you were watching. Especially here, at the north-western edge to Europe (kind of).  I loved the Harris Tweed Shop, because I love wool, I love tweed, I love what you can do with it all. I got me a beautifull pillow, I can’t wait to put it on my couch at home.

Also we stopped by The Harris Distillery, where they make Gin. They do plan to distill whisky there, but, as we all know, that takes time. So, to get by financially, they offer this gin. I had to drive, otherwise I would have loved to try it. Gin is the only strong alcohol I drink once in a while and it looked very interesting. Actually, I also was completely distracted, because the real highlight at the distillery’s visitor’s center was a book. Something I have never seen before and that touched me deeply. It’s called ‚Harris Tweed. A Journey to the Heart of the Hebrides‘. It’s a huge book by one Ian Lawson. The beauty of his photography touched me so deeply that even Siobhan started crying. You just have to take a look at those pictures. Each and everyone of them conveys a deep love for beauty, nature, the landscape, the animals and the people who live there. I have never seen anything like it. Those pictures for me, from this day on, are the greatest source of inspiration. I hope that one day I can afford this book. It’s already the bible to me.

Well, soon the day in the Outer Hebrides ended and we had to get back on the ferry. There we found something we were looking for: beginner’s guides to Gaelic and dictionaries. Siobhan and me both love this language, which is (so it seems) so intricate and special – and which is still spoken out here. Like the saftey announcements, they come in English and Gaelic. So now we can try to get to know it.

The day ended at the Uig Hotel with a nice meal and then we got back to our pod. Tomorrow’s a new day with a lot more to see and do. We have to catch up on some sleep 😉

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