Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Scarp Calling

After a calm night tied to the Leverburgh pier, we watched the three St Kilda day-boats head out at 8am. The island on our plate for that day is as interesting as St Kilda, and much less visited: the island of Scarp. After breakfast we headed up the Sound of Harris, out past Toe Head, and into the Atlantic. After two hours of steaming we circled the top of Scarp to motor into Cearstaigh Bay at its north end. It's a good spot for eagles, and we floated for a while searching, but none were seen.

Cearstaigh Bay
From there we headed down the east side to drop the hook off Scarp Village. The island looked as inviting as ever from the sea, and we were soon ashore.

Scarp Landing
Like St Kilda, Scarp has a line of old blackhouse dwellings, long abandoned, and we started our tour by wandering among them. In 1881 over 200 people called Scarp home, but by 1971 the population had dwindled to seven. The island’s moment of fame came in 1934, when Gerhard Zucker experimented with rocket powered mail delivery. After the fuse was lit, instead of shooting 1000 feet across to Harris, the rocket exploded, and the mail got a little charred. Zucker's rocket experiments were depicted in the 2004 film The Rocket Post, which was filmed on nearby Taransay,

Our next stop was to take a look at the crumbling remnants of the school. It's a sad sight, but next to it stands the beautifully redone church. When I first visited Scarp (2004), the church was also in a sad state; full of sheep, half its floorboard rotted, and there were missing doors and windows. But unlike the school, it was rescued several years ago.

Ruined school (left), restored church (right)
After exploring the village we headed to the top of Beinn fo Tuath. Even though mist topped the distant hills of Harris, the view over to the three large sea-lochs that cut into the west of Lewis is truly spectacular. A group photo was called for.

Atop Scarp - misty hills of Harris in the distance
From the top we descended to Loch a’ Mhuilinn (Mill Loch). It is a special spot, for lying in the stream that runs from the loch to the sea are a pair of Norse mills, their millstones still in place. It was here that Alan fired up his drone and got some footage flying over the mill loch and the interior of Scarp.

Loch a' Mhuilinn
Alan prepares the drone
Following the stream downhill we came to the mills, their grinding stones still in place. For more photos of Hebridean mills (including Scarp's) see this link.

Where the mill stream reaches the sea we came to Mol Mor. The Gaelic name means big pebbly beach, but it's locally known as Treasure Beach, for the occasional treasures that wash ashore. There was no sign of anything valuable, unless you treasure old fishing floats and plastic flotsam.

Looking for treasure...
An easy coastal walk took us back to the village, where there was time for a brief visit with Brian and Shiela Harper, who call Scarp home part of the year. Their resilience in making it to Scarp every year is impressive. Getting here, even in the summer, can often be a challenge. See the August 6, 2013 post for photos of Brian, single-handedly, landing his inflatable on a windy, and wavy, summer day.

It was getting late, and so we had to leave Scarp in our wake to steam five miles around the Ardveg Penninsula to look for an anchorage for the night in Loch Hamanavay. Hamanavay is the one of the most remote, and least visited places in the Western Isles. We were in the Hebridean Back of Beyond.

To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment