To me, the Isle of Harris was the place we went for our Easter holidays every year. We would go visiting, feed up on pancakes, gambol around the moors chasing sheep and long for the rain to stop so we could go to the beach.
Now that I’m older – nothing has changed, with the exception of an appreciation of just how beautiful this island is.
The weather can be fierce and you are likely to encounter sideways rain and wind that could blow you backwards. At other times, the whole place can turn into a tropical paradise and all is forgiven for everything that was thrown at you five minutes earlier.
There are so many things to do here that I could write ten blog posts before scratching the surface: hills, beaches, lochs, turquoise sea, art galleries and cafes in abundance – as well as a new distillery – leave you spoilt for choice.
The hardest part is deciding what to do with your day (actually that’s not true: packing your four season wardrobe into one case is the hardest part).
This time round we went self catering and stayed at the Rodel Valley Log Cabins situated in South Harris. The cabins are recently built and are just delightful. They are cosy, modern and well designed, with a deceiving amount of space and facilities that extend to a sauna and jacuzzi bath.
Not only are you guaranteed a friendly welcome but you are also supplied with fresh eggs and home baking on arrival – touches that make the stay feel all the more luxurious.
The cabin was a stones throw away from my 90 year old Granny who insists on regular cups of tea and a healthy dose of hilarious chat – maybe that’s the secret to her longevity…
Rodel in South Harris is a quiet historic village and the place where I have been visiting for the last 28 years. The highlight I always return to (regardless of how long my stay or how sideways the rain) is St Clements Church.
St Clements was a Catholic Church built in the 1520s for the MacLeod Clan Chiefs and is regarded as one of the finest medieval structures in the Outer Hebrides. Following the reformation in 1560 it fell in to disuse. It was restored by the Countess of Dunmore in 1873 and again in 1907 after it was struck by lightning. These days it’s looked after by Historic Scotland.
On the inside it is dark and slightly creepy due to medieval tombs, sculptures and engravings on display. Outside, in the Churchyard, are the burial places of many of the MacLeods and gravestones that hint at tragic stories.
Take in the views and try to find the ‘heart’ and ‘daisy’ built into the walls on either side of the gate entrance, and you’ll find that suddenly an hour has passed in this hidden gem at the edge of the world.
I could wax lyrical about Harris for a lot longer – I haven’t even covered the things Harris is famous for – beaches, gin, art, gaelic, cafes, mountains and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet.
So go and see for yourself – the place will take your breath away. And if it doesn’t then the wind soon will.