Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

A spot of island hopping Part 4: going deeper into Harris hill country

27th September 2008

Wednesday, August 13th:

After spending a long and largely sunny weekend visiting folk in Éire (I did manage to get up to the top of a hill so that there might more on that later), it is time to pick up the next instalment of that Hebridean trip report. The start to that Wednesday was to be just as idyllic as the weather that we had been enjoying all week. Having had a good satisfying hike the day before meant that I was far from being in “rushing-about” mode. That walk hadn’t just allowed me to enjoy some wonderful countryside in good weather but it also planted in me an idea for another walk: Àird a’ Mhulaidh to Miabhaig and Ard Asaig (anglicised to Ardvourlie, Meavaig and Ardhasaig, respectively).

So, it was a case of embarking on another bus journey, this time taking me from Tarbert to Àird a’ Mhulaidh, and I was set to start my trek though the heart of some expansive hill country. In contrast to the clear blue skies over Tarbert, the hills near Àird a’ Mhulaidh had gone and accumulated nearly enough clouds to block out the sun for a goodly portion of the time. It is true to say that it get through at times but I had to leave the larger remnants of blue sky after me as I left Loch Shìphoirt (in English: Loch Seaforth); the sea loch in question remained well lit by the sun for as long as I had a view of it on looking behind me.

Mullach a' Ruisg, Àird a' Mhulaidh, Harris, Scotland

Conditions remained dry with the sun poking out to stop me in my tracks for a spot of photography and I had a good track underfoot all the way to Bealach na hUamha. The gradient was gentle too up to the bealach, but my legs were in for more testing action as I dropped down to ford Abhainn Langadail and climbed back out again, along the lower slopes of Stuabhal. After the bealach the track had by now become a path, but this was largely clear apart from a boggy stretch on the western banks of Abhainn Langadail. On the descent, there were ample opportunities to peer at Loch Langabhat (there are a few of these in the Western Isles, apparently) to the north and Harris’ hilly heartlands to the south.

Rapaire, Harris, Scotland

The sky grew steadily darker as I made my ascent to the saddle between Rapaire and Stuabhal, but things did brighten up again while I had a rest on that bealach. It afforded me one last glimpse of Loch Shìphoirt in the distance, which had been growing smaller all the way to Bealach na hUamha before I lost it on dropping into the glen for that river crossing. To the west, a myriad of rocky hills lay gleaming in bright sunshine. Stuabhal looked reachable from the saddle but I had enough on my plate and left it for another day.

After an ascent, it was time to descend again. Clouds hid the sun away while a certain dampness began to pervade the air as I made my way down to Loch Chleistir. Waterproofs were needed, but the rain wasn’t too unpleasant at all. It was only to be a light shower and I was to meet a few of those before I reached Miabhaig. From Loch Chleistir, I rounded Creag Chleisitir to drop into Gleann Stuladail to meet a vehicle track near Loch Bhoisimid where some folk were out fishing. A modicum of height was gained after I had past Lochan an Fheoir. The muggy atmosphere meant that my waterproofs remained off as much as possible and it was ideal for midges whose attentions meant that I kept moving as much as I could. The blunt nose of Sron Scourst loomed ahead and I was up by its flank and attendant loch soon enough.

Oireabhal & Sròn Scourst, Gleann Mhiabhaig, Harris, Scotland

By now, I was well along Gleann Mhiabhaig and progress was being restrained. There was a good reason: the sun was out while the showers stayed away, so the ever widening vistas were made to look as well as they ought to appear. There was to be one last light rain shower before I got to the B887 and none disturbed me after that. In fact, the evening was to be of the type that keeps on drawing back me to Scotland time after time.

Once on tarmac again, I took a small break before setting off for Ard Asaig. I had it in mind to catch the last bus from there back to Tarbert, but that plan got scuppered by a certain tardiness induced by my surroundings. Rushing about on an idyllic evening like what I had would have been silly anyway; it’s so much better to take your time when everything is looking its best. My walk might have been longer but I wouldn’t have wanted to be indoors when things were as good as they were.

Loch a' Siar, Harris, Scotland

My trek didn’t take me past the collection of houses that is Miabhaig because I would have been needing to head towards Huisinis to pass them and it was a diversion that I was not unhappy not to make, even if it might have revealed new sights to me. In any event, I wasn’t to be disappointed by the views over Loch Mhiabhaig together with those, both along and across Loch a’ Siar (West Loch Tarbert to some), that I did see. They kept me entertained to the point that any displeasure from road walking was the last thing on my mind. I might have begun to tire on the final approach to Tarbert, but the fact that the evening wasn’t running out of steam easily kept me going until I reached where I was staying. I could have been forgiven for staying out a little longer than I did but I had my fill. Sometimes, it’s best to be grateful rather than greedy.


  • Martin Rye says:

    Those islands are so enticing. So many places to visit and see. Also I have added you to my blog roll.

  • John says:

    Martin, nice to have you along and thanks for the link. Yes, many parts of Scotland are enticing but its islands really do it for me with their combination of rocky hills and indented coastlines, especially when the sun is out to enliven sky, sea and land.

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