Harris – the fabric of an island


I’ve just returned from what now seems to be an annual pilgrimage to the Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Harris seems to draw me to it again and again and I’ve just discovered that it has now been over 30 years since my first visit to the island.

Each time, without fail, it takes several days to adjust to its spirit of intense, unbelievable contrasts and uncompromising ruggedness. My reaction to it is always a deeply visceral one – almost, at times, overwhelming. It usually throws me completely off-balance and gives a major jolt – an energising and exhilarating  ‘restore and thorough back-up’ to my system.

I will leave the images to do (most of) the talking.

If you scroll through, you’ll get a sense of the bones and the ‘fabric’ of one of the most extraordinary and magical places on this spinning globe, this island on the northern edge of the Atlantic. (As well as as sense of how/why this island has inspired the weaving of the wonderful Harris Tweed and the more recently renowned Isle of Harris Gin!)
















Next-door to us in Lingerbay, on Harris, and long-ago deserted.

The sense of loss and decay in this place which must once have been a dearly-loved home, was overwhelming, oppressive even, to anyone stumbling upon it today.

While on Harris, we learned of this beautiful Gaelic word: ‘Cianalas’ – kʲiənəLəs – ke-en-alas. I think it must be apt here: “a combination of homesickness, melancholy, and general longing for the place of one’s roots”. There’s a wonderful interpretation of this more-or-less untranslatable word here, on a super blogpost: <https://thecroft.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/cianalas/>














































The former Rodel Hotel, above, which has recently been sold. Many of the islanders we spoke to are hoping it will be retained as a hotel.









Looking back towards the mainland and Wester Ross, across the northern tip of Skye, with clear views of Slioch, Baosbheinn and the Torridons.

Below, Rodel Harbour.

10 thoughts on “Harris – the fabric of an island

  1. We visited Harris last Month for the first time. Captivated by the island. Sadly we had low light, high winds and very grey weather , so my few photos were few and far between.

    What will happen to all the deserted crofts and homestead? Would they get sold and reinvigorated?

    1. That’s a shame Sally-Jane – I know that that kind of weather is always a big risk on the islands- even in July! My understanding is that often these crofts are left to a relative who doesn’t have the funds or the time to restore them and most likely can’t bear to part with that bit of family history, maybe always hoping that one day they will….. but that’s my guess! Some of them have been beautifully restored but these days, so many see a ‘new-build’ as an easier option – it takes deep pockets and massive amounts of energy/time to restore something like this! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Love the photographs. Have always enjoyed pictures … photos or paintings of waves and your work adds to that delight. Seeing the derelict crofts reminds me that I should get back to Aberdeenshire and continue on the family history.

  3. Yes … I’d like to read your replies to Sally-Jane (re the deserted places, too. Thank you becomes just too inadequate a word, Alison, for the sensory gifts your prose and images offer me. I love the sole sheep sentinel watching down in the one image. LOVE the black and whites, but also the subtle colour grades in others. How many people live year-round here? How long does it take you to get there? So many questions. THANK you for this waking up gift on Remembrance Day 2017. x

    1. Val, thanks as always for penning an engaging response – apparently, 1916 people live here year-round. I can see Harris on the horizon, through my studio and house windows on the mainland and we take a ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway in the north of the island (Lewis), which takes about 3 hours, with a one and a half hour drive at each end. We can also get there on a ferry from Uig in the north of Skye, but it’s a much longer drive for us to get to the north of Skye. x

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