Early June 2018 - North Uist and Harris
After one night at anchor in Kettle Pool (see More Pictures) we stopped for several days in Lochmaddy where the weather was generally overcast with northerly winds and the odd day of thick fog (see More Pictures). There is a interesting walk around the town and surrounding area which includes passing several "art in the landscape" installations and has great views across the small islands and lochs that make up Lochmaddy. There is still some crofting in the area, and we nervously passed this large bull (right) who seemed happy enough munching grass amongst the drying peat stacks with his cows nearby.
Another motor brought us to East Loch Tarbert on Harris, and after a night at anchor we decided to try out the new marina in Tarbert (below). This is so new that the facilities block has not yet been completed so it was a bit of a trek into the village for showers. The pontoons have a heavy concrete attenuator at the end that is very effective at dampening any incoming waves. We have so far weathered storm "Herbert" and there is another forecast for the next few days.
Not having been here with such easy access to the shore we have found lots to do. The first was naturally the distillery which is at the head of the marina slip, shown on the left of the above image; the below image; and more pictures. The distillery was still under construction when we last visited, and opened in September 2015. The distillery is primarily for whisky, but while that is maturing, they have been very clever and also do a gin distillation. Along with the conventional "botanicals" they have included local sugar kelp to give it a uniqueness, and presented it in very attractive bottles that have a rippelled effect. Our tour started in a small room with comfy chairs upholstered in Harris tweed, here our guide gave us an interesting history of the distillery and their hopes for the whisky, while we had a taste of their "new spirit" with a comparison of a matured malt of undisclosed origin. We then moved to a gallery for the low-down on the gin and more tasting, then on to the heart of the distillery (below). Most is given over to the manufacture of whisky with the tiny gin still hidden away in the corner (below right) to prevent contamination.
We were lucky enough to be in the town for a touring musical that was sponsored by the distillery. This included a complementary G&T before the show, and another during the interval so we had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the excellent flavours as well as the performance!
The central location of the marina makes it easy to use the local buses to get to the further a field locations. We chose a cool cloudy day to climb Clisham, the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides. There are no paths marked on the map and we made the mistake of following the instructions in our walk book rather than the suggestions of the bus driver. This meant we were walking along the banks of a parallel stream to the main route and had an almost pathless assent, but were compensated with many sightings of Golden Plover (left). The cloud level was just above the summit making for dramatic moody views but poor photographs (see more pictures).
Another day we cycled around the east side of south Harris. This area is all rolling hills where the gneiss rock breaks through the heather and rough grass, and punctuated with lochans filled with water lilies, good only for rearing sheep. The single track road (below) twists and twines through the landscape providing a lifeline for the few houses, and with a good road on the west coast there is very little traffic so great fun for cycling. Along the way are several small Harris Tweed outlets which were a good excuse for a breather, though with only a small bicycle bag already full with waterproofs and lunch, we were not tempted to buy any. Though Judith did buy far too much knitting wool from the shops in Tarbert.