Dreaming Stones: Wild beauty

Our first job on disembarking was to look for an air pump for the ever-deflating tyre that had caused us so much trouble that morning. Granted, it looked fine, but as the pump we had used was dodgy and the gauge even dodgier, I really wanted to check the pressure to be safe.

No luck in Tarbert, the tiny ferry port. Fuel we would be okay for, at least for a while. The drive to Callanish was only about forty miles and we would not be far from Stornaway, where well over half the twenty thousand residents of the island live… there was bound to be somewhere to fill up.

So off we went, taking the A859 northwards, from the Isle of Harris to the Isle of Lewis… which, oddly, are both the same landmass. They are not even divided at the obvious isthmus near Tarbert, where only the narrowest strip of land holds the two together, but further north.

I haven’t been able to find out exactly why the Long Island has two names, though it probably has something to do with the two branches of the Clan MacCleod who hold it, though it is home to Clan Morrison too. What we weren’t expecting was the distinctly different character of the two parts of the island.

We were driving… there was little opportunity to stop and take photographs* on the narrow, often tortuous roads through Harris, which was a crying shame as it is incredibly beautiful. High, cloud-wreathed hills encircle deep, clear lochs. It is wild, rugged and simply awesome in the true sense of the word. It was enough just to be there, drink in the utterly amazing landscape and let it heal the soul.

There were hills… many of them over a thousand feet. An Cliseam, the tallest, is over two and a half thousand feet… and, reflected in the clarity of the lochs, the sense of scale is only enhanced. There were waterfalls tumbling by the roadside or down distant slopes, wildflowers everywhere and  you could see that when the heather is in flower, the island would be purple.

Not that colour was missing… rhododendrons have colonised many places and whole islands in the lochs wore the distinctive pink of their blooms. The only things missing were trees, which are scarce and usually deliberately planted as windbreaks for the crops of crofters or in gardens.

There were once forests on the island, but many trees were felled by the Vikings to deny the islanders the chance to build ships. More were cleared to make way for grazing land in later centuries and few native trees remain. That, though, is about to change, as a project is underway to plant a hundred thousand native trees. Rowan, aspen, birch, willow, hazel and juniper are all native to the island and adapted to its often-harsh conditions and seeds from surviving trees are being grown and planted to re-forest parts of the land.

The landscape might not be to everyone’s taste. If you love rolling hills and green fields, the wild majesty of Harris is not for you, nor is the flat, heather-covered peat-land of much of Lewis. But if, like me, wild, rugged majesty feels like home, then like me, you would be in heaven.

I was missing my morning coffee… I hadn’t dared risk one on the ferry and we’d seen nowhere since. We had replenished our supplies though and had stopped for second breakfast above one of the lochs. But we were also getting very tired. I had already driven well over a thousand miles including the workshop weekend, and after the drama of the morning and a night of magical, but limited sleep in the car, I was flagging. We turned onto the A858 towards our destination and the long straight road did for me completely.

To be honest, I think there was more to it than that. For want of a better word, I’d have to call it ‘psychic fatigue’. There had been so much going on, so many emotions and responses to the land, let alone the work of the workshop itself, it was hardly surprising that we were so tired. With just five miles to go, I could safely drive no further. I daren’t even find a proper layby, just pulled into what was little more than a scrape at the roadside and, within a couple of minutes, we were asleep and dreaming.

The tiny ‘parking space’ on the A858. Image from Google Maps.

*Thank you once again to the photographers who contribute to Geograph.org and who share their photographs with a Creative Commons License. All the images from Geograph are stamped with their accreditation.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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44 Responses to Dreaming Stones: Wild beauty

  1. What a lovely post – stunning photographs. I found the history of why there are no trees interesting and what a great thing they’re doing by re-planting them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Alli Templeton says:

    Hello from Wales! It’s great to read about your Scottish Quest while I’m on my own. Interesting that the Vikings took all the trees to build ships. But it doesn’t seem to have affected the views – the pictures are stunning, and I loved the one with the clouds reflected so clearly in the lake. What a gorgeous landscape. I’m not surprised you had psychic fatigue after all your adventures. We were a bit like that last night! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sue, thank you for the tour and the lovely photos and the clear writing. Best

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gwen M. Plano says:


    Liked by 1 person

  5. fransiweinstein says:

    Sounds exquisite.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. colonialist says:

    A rugged beauty, and a strange, almost alien light photos cannot do justice to.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. willowdot21 says:

    This is brilliant 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Rugged terrain, utterly wild and so beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Widdershins says:

    Seeing as you were travelling through the Otherworlds for most of this Journey, the more I read/see of it, the more I wonder that you made it back … or did you? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  10. dgkaye says:

    Absolutely stunning. I could just imagined the land covered in heathers. And amazing you traveled through so much and miles and had to stop 5 miles before your destination. It’s good you listen to your body. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Jennie says:

    Fabulous! Rugged, dramatic landscape – how exciting!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. noelleg44 says:

    Ach, beautiful Scotland. Hope to see some of it next year – but your photos make me wish it were sooner.,

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Darlene says:

    I love the rugged beauty of these islands. Makes me think of parts of the Canadian prairies. No wonder the Scottish settlers adapted so well.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I loved the face in the mountains in the last photo before the white map. Really totally incredible!


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