Sunday, 18 December 2005

Geography and History - 2

<![CDATA[ Lewis / Harris is one of those curious places where the distances between two places are not what a cursory glance at the map might suggest they are. Did I mention yesterday that it's 40 miles by road from Tolsta to Skigersta?

I was reminded of another example two weeks ago when the Rocket Post movie was shown in An Lanntair, in Stornoway. This story is set in Scarp (although the movie was shot on Taransay), which lies just off the coast at Huisinis, in North Harris. If you want to go there, you'll have to go there by private transport. Nobody lives on Scarp these days. When I visited Huisinish, back in late April, it was alive to the sound of bleating sheep. The slipway is there for going to Scarp, but like Taransay, the island is deserted. At Huisinish, you can go for a lovely walk to Cravadale and even Kinloch Resort if you're feeling energetic. That is, if you're not suffering from vertigo. When looking north, you'll see Mealista Island, scene of the Great Sheep Robbery of 2003, when 60 of the resident flock of 117 were rustled off. Mealista itself, in Uig, is only 7 miles as the fish swims from Huisinish.

Huisinish Slipway, with Scarp to the left
The view north to Mealista Island (on horizon) and Uig
Cleft along the Cravadale Path. Not suffering from vertigo?

Driving from one to the other is a matter of a mere 70 miles. Yes, seventy. 14 to the junction at Bun Abhainn Eadar, then it's 27 to Leurbost, 8 to Garynahine and 26 to Mealista. That's the end of the road. Go any further and you either need that boat, or strong hiking boots to walk round the corner to Hamnaway. The district of Uig has been the scene of many clearances and removals. According to one local source, quite a few people were shunted across Loch Roag to the West Side, between Carloway and Shawbost. Going back to the road journey, take your time on the B887 from Bun Abhainn Eadar to Huisinish. It's only 14 miles, but should take at least 40 minutes, as it's rated as the worst road in Scotland. One person of my acquaintance nearly had a heart attack by the time he reached Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, 9 miles in. Blind corners, blind summits, grit on the road, not to mention other drivers...

A few lines ago, I did mention Taransay, scene of the infamous Castaway 2000 project. Someone asked me about it the other day, and referred to it as Outcast 2000. After stifling a huge guffaw, I patiently explained that yon project was actually a travesty of the Western Isles, and the only good it ever did was raising the profile from a tourist's point of view. The scenery from there is gorgeous, with the backdrop of the Harris mountains. Otherwise, it was an absolute non-community. What do you expect, people aren't prepared to put their backs into something that they know is going to end in 12 months' time. Last week, I went on the BBC's website and found a clip from that program, which contained a lot of screaming and shouting. All the pods, that the participants lived in, have been removed from Taransay. One is sitting along the road in Luskentyre, but when I was there in April, it looked uninhabited and rundown.

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