Harris, Lewis, Taransay, Scarp and the Flannans
Harris and Lewis The Sound of Harris lies north west of Skye. The island of Harris, with its villages of Tarbert and Leverburgh, is connected to Lewis by road. Lewis contains many interesting ancient monuments including a prehistoric stone circle at Callanish (some 4,000 years old) and a well-preserved broch at Doune Carloway. Stornoway is the busy capital town on Lewis and directly west of here is Loch Roag and the island of Great Bernera (where Hannah lived as a child). Around 20,000 people live on Lewis, Harris and Great Bernera. Much of the wildlife on these islands is terrorised by mink who are notoriously difficult to eradicate. From the Butt of Lewis, at the very north of the island, it is 200 miles of open sea to the Faeroes with just Sula Sgeir and North Rona in between.
Taransay and Scarp The little island of Scarp, to the west of Lewis, was inhabited until 1971. The deserted houses have an eerie feel although the island has beautiful sandy beaches and sea eagles. The 2004 film “Rocket Post”, which showed the true story of attempts to use rockets to send post from Scarp to nearby Harris, was actually filmed on Taransay which is rather inhospitable and somewhat further south. Taransay is the largest Hebridean island lacking a permanent population and is famous for hosting the BBC “Castaways” series…and, yes, we saw the “pod” houses, but little now remains of the community that once enthralled a nation.
The Flannan Isles also known as the Seven Hunters are small island group 20 miles west of Lewis (West Loch Roag). The islands are a Site of Scientific Interest and are unihabited with the last residents (light keepers) departing with the automation of the lighthouse in 1971. They are the location of the enduring mystery which occurred in December 1900, when all three light keepers vanished without trace. Read Flannan Isle by Wilfred Wilson Gibson…. Wonderful!
With riots of flowers and fauna, there are colonies of nesting seabirds, including puffins, fulmars, petrels and a gannetry on Roairem (a small stac to the west). The seas surrounding the islands are always rich in marine life. Minke, basking sharks and a variety of dolphins have regularly been seen by us in the near vicinity.
DID YOU KNOW?
Atlantic puffins have penguin-like colouring but they sport a colourful beak that has led some to dub them the "sea parrot". The beak fades to a drab grey during the winter and blooms with colour again in the spring.