Saturday, 4 February 2006

Hills in Lewis

<![CDATA[ The Long Island, which comprises Lewis and Harris, has two distinct halves. The part that is referred to as Lewis consists of mainly low, undulating hills with bogland in between. The boundary line stretches up Loch Seaforth to just south of Ath Linne, thence northwest to Kinloch Resort. Nonetheless, there are some conspicuous prominences in Lewis.

The hilliest part of the island is Eishken, which I have not really visited, due to the remoteness of the district. On public transport, you can only go as far as the roadend at Balallan, then it's at least 4 miles to Kinloch Seaforth. The area to the north, South Lochs, is well known to me, as I've tramped around the hills between Loch Seaforth / Loch Ouirn and Loch Erisort many a time in the previous winter (2004/2005).
Mullach Mhalasgair at Loch Sgiobacleit just east of Seaforth Head
South Lochs is perfect walking country, if you know how to handle the boglands. Mullach Mhalasgair rises to about 600 feet above sealevel, and offers a magnificent vantage point on a clear day. To the west, at Balallan, stands the pyramidal cone of Roineabhal, 700 feet, which is an easy ascent, apart from a brief scramble immediately below the summit.
Roineabhal from Balallan
Behind Roineabhal, to the north, lies a myriad of lochs and small hills. One hill, Trealabhal is completely surrounded by waterTrealabhal, cannot be approached unless you have a boat. Even going round the back of Roineabhal is a tricky enterprise, as it is supremely boggy. I have tried to cross from Balallan to Achamor, but had to turn back when one of the causeways I needed to cross was submerged.
The submerged causeway
I have been told that the deer, which roam the island, cross Loch Seaforth from Eishken, and head north towards Ness. Many an accident has occurred on the A858 Leurbost - Garynahine road involving a deer. And they do serious damage to your vehicle, if not yourself. I have written in a previous post about Eitsal, the hill just outside Achmore, so I'll just post the image. You can walk up easily from the main road at Achmore, to its summit at 700 feet. Achmore lies at 350, so half the altitude is already covered.
Eitsal from the Pentland Road
My image in the post about Safety in the hills from Eitsal looked north towards the Pentland Road. This is actually one of the more scenic routes in the island, looking out over the Harris hills to the south, and passing below Stacaseal. The Barvas Hills stand only a few miles to the north of this road, and are a challenge for the walker.
Barvas Hills from Leurbost
North of Stacaseal, near Shawbost, stands the lone double sentinel of Beinn Bragar. I went up it in late March, when there was snow on the ground. It facilitated my descent from the hill, in that I could slide down on my bottom. Like you do, very professional. Not. Walking from Stacaseal to Beinn Bragar is a serious bogslog, which I've not yet attempted.
Beinn Bragar from Beinn Mholach (Barvas Hills)
Heading north again, the next hill of any size is Muirneag. It's usually approached from Tolsta or Back, but requires great care. One man was going to walk from Back to Ness along the Gress River, and never arrived. His body was not found until SIX months later. I once walked to the hill from Tolsta, which was a serious exercise in jumping rather than walking. The return requires the use of a compass, as everything looks the same, whichever direction you look. The bearing is 110 degrees.
Muirneag from Diridean (Tolsta)
Our good old freight ferry is called Muirneag, and didn't we have some fun with it last November. This videoclip shows what she had to endure... (Click on the videoclip link). ]]>

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