The west coast of Harris has some of the most ruggedly beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in the British Isles; white shell-sand beaches give way to turquoise seas and distant views of craggy mountains. It is perhaps no bad thing that the weather here is cool and changeable and the summer months often made hellish by the West Highland midge. Without these discouragements the island would undoubtedly be covered in hideous high-rise hotels, the beaches smothered in sun worshippers and the bays full of jet skis. As it is we will have this wonderful place largely to ourselves.
The beaches of western Harris – Tràigh Sheilebost, Losgaintir and Tràigh Scarista and others – will undoubtedly provide many of the photographic highlights of this tour. Clach Mhic Leoid (McLeod’s Stone) stands alone above Nisabost looking out toward the low silhouette of Taransay. The wide strands of white sand look wonderful at any time of day but are particularly photogenic around sunset, with low light illuminating the dunes and coloured cloud reflections passing across the wet sand. These are quiet places today but they once teemed with activity. Beautiful though the landscape is it conceals a turbulent human history. Crofting communities once thrived along this western shore but the tenants were forcibly evicted in the 18th and 19th centuries,
Leaving behind the good grazing amongst the “machair” land behind the strand, the crofters had to move to the barren, rocky landscape on the east coast of the island. Here soils were too thin to grow their meagre crops and they resorted to moving soil by wheelbarrow to build enough depth. Tiny little fishing communities now straggle along the “Golden Road” (so named because it cost so much to build that it might as well have been paved with gold…) and offer many opportunities for image making.
Further east still is the small island community of Scalpaigh, now joined to the mainland by an elegant modern bridge. The busy harbours filled with fishing boats will no doubt attract our attention but we will press on to walk the Heritage Trail to Scalpaigh’s remote lighthouse facing across the wild waters of the Minch toward Skye.
South of the western beaches, the crofting community of Northton rambles along the skyline above an intriguing area of salt marsh, ripe with possibilities for detail and pattern studies. Further on we come to the ancient settlement of Rodel and its delightful church.
Whilst in the Outer Hebrides it would be churlish not to travel further north to Lewis and visit the standing stones at Calanis. Local legend says that it is impossible to count the twisted gneiss monoliths of the 5,000 year-old Neolithic monument. Every attempt produces a different answer! Without doubt this is the most spectacularly sited prehistoric monument in western Europe and a wonderful subject for late evening photography. We may also detour to Uig (where the Lewis Chessmen were found around 1831)
The tour will be based in the comfortable Isle of Harris Hotel in Tarbert, the capital of Harris. May often provides the most settled and driest weather of the year and we should be there before the dreaded midges emerge.
What to say about David Ward? He is hugely talented, gave generously of his time, was very funny, and an absolute pleasure to be with. We learned almost as much about non-photography as we did photography, and had huge fun! He really made our week.
We had an amazing time. Harris and Lewis are fantastic places, our group gelled really well. Didn't want to come home!
Really enjoyed the tour. David was a great tour leader both on the photographic front and on a personal level.