Eagles!!!

Collected Athene from the airport on Friday evening, and caught up over supper and with a good bottle of wine provided in the holiday let. The next morning we set of to Harris – initially we went to the parking place for the North Harris Eagle observatory at Miabhaig. The last few miles of the drive were on a very windy single track road with passing places, which left a lot to be desired. After a restorative coffee, we set off up the track. The obligatory orchids were evident. The 2km walk turned out to be closer to 3km, and eventually we rounded a corner to find the very smart eagle observatory. The valley got more and more wild and isolated as we walked up it, but relative to other paths it was a good solid track and relatively easy going! In the 90 minutes we were there, we were joined by a selection of other tourists. About 10 minutes before we had planned to leave, by chance I saw a large bird take off from the mountain side, and rapidly rise on the thermals. As we were watching this golden eagle, we saw it was joining another one who was higher up soaring. Within 5 minutes they were so high we couldn’t see them. In the pictures below the black spec is the rising eagle I saw first (I know it is completely unconvincing – phone cameras are not designed for rapidly rising eagles!). It was a breathtaking sight. Athene filled in the visitors book, and morale was high as we strode back down the track.

We went on to Tarbert, and stopped at Hebscape for some late lunch.  This café/gallery was full of fantastic pictures and other items. We had some extremely tasty cheese scones.

We drove on to Luskentyre, and were once again blown away by this fantastic beach – with golden sand, turquoise sea and some interesting wildlife (including a very nosy seal who came quite close into the shore (and then vanished as soon as phones were brandished)), a jellyfish and a field awash with orchids. We walked and talked on the beach for about an hour before heading back (via the Harris tweed/knit shop).

It was a very satisfying day and eagles clearly get star billing as wildlife of the day!

Sunday we went across the bridge to Bernera, in order to do a walk in my Lewis/Harris walk book and on a leaflet we found in the holiday let – there was some discrepancy over the length of the walk – the book said 6.5 miles and the leaflet 7.5. This was easily the best day weatherwise I have had – and was a positively tropical 21 when we eventually finished the walk! Any way back at the beginning – just before we set off, Athene spotted another eagle, this time we think as it had a white tail, it was a white-tailed eagle! This was a good starter for an excellent day.

The initial leg of the walk after a short road section, was very picturesque but quite hard going. Lots of ups and down, rocky and boggy bits. We were following a trail of waymarker posts (without these I am sure we would have got very lost). We stopped after about an hour for a coffee, and tried to work out where we had got to. It was hard to believe we hadn’t yet got to Tobson (and we had certainly covered the distance Tobson was supposed to be). Much to our surprise we in fact didn’t get there for another 90 minutes. I had a bit of a wobble at this point, but after an ascent and lunch overlooking a lochan and the sea, I was glad we had carried on (the rewards of a splendid walk even if a long one are many). We eventually got to a beautiful looking beach and reconstruction of an iron age house (with toilets and highland cows), knowing we had to do 4.8km on the road to get back to where we had started. We had one more break, again looking over a loch and the sea. We had another eagle encounter overhead as we were on the road, I spotted this one, purely as I was trying to work out what was upsetting a very noisy oyster catcher (red beak) – It was soon apparent what was upsetting it as the eagle circled overhead!!.

We got back to the car close to 5pm, and my pedometer said we had in fact done 9.5 miles!! This mean the walk book itself was nearly a third out! I was very glad it was a shorter drive back (only about ½ an hour) – though more than enough time for me to get rather stiff! We were also pleased to find the tennis was still going strong, so saw the end of the Men’s doubles final at Queen’s.

Wildlife of the day: …. Eagles (and yet more orchids!), and some gannets too

On Monday, I took Athene to Lews castle grounds, for a leg stretch before taking her back to the airport. It has been good to catch up with her and share the joys of Harris/Lewis. How much life has changed for both of us (and our lifestyles) since our first visit in 1995!

I went on to the An Rubha peninsula as the sunny morning turned cooler and rapidly to persistent rain. At Tiumpan head, as it threw it down, I contemplated the signs saying this was the best place on Lewis to see minky whales (and other sea creatures) – it was not the weather for lingering!! I also went to the new memorial for those who perished on the HMY Iolaire on 1st Jan 1919. This is a chilling story of how so many returning Hebridean service men lost their lives so close to home (a couple of miles from the safety of Stornoway harbour).

I ate lunch in the car, and then returned to base to wait the rain out, and make a few plans for my next 4 days here (and then the long and winding road back)!

Wildlife of the day : more orchids and the sea creatures I didn’t actually see!!!

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