The following day dawned bright and sunny and we set out bright and early for Huisinis – the most westerly point of the Outer Hebrides. I had been there once before a few years ago when working on a student film, however when I had made the journey I had a massive hangover and was actually in the back of a small van so although I thought I knew the right road and that the place I remembered was Huisinis (there are only 4 or 5 roads in Harris anyway!) I wasn’t 100% sure as we turned off the main road down a single track ribbon of tarmac. I was even more anxious as I had seen a sign as we made the turning saying Huisinis 113 miles – I know I was hungover last time and it did seem a long way but even so………
After a 10 mins we passed the tennis courts (yes there are well maintained public tennis courts on the side of a cliff in the middle of nowhere) and I was relieved as I remembered them from the last time so at least we were on the right road. I then realised that we only had half a tank of petrol and started to fret about that (everything closes on the island around 1pm on a Saturday) If Huisinis was 113 miles away on single track would we make it there and back and then up to Stornoway to catch the ferry the next day on half a tank? Unlikely I thought so, after much discussion and a 20 point turn, we turned around and headed back to a small petrol station on the main road which took roughly 15mins. When I was paying for the fuel I remarked to the lady behind the counter (I think she was American) that it was a long way to Huisinis and she agreed! So we set off again – this time with a full tank. There was the sign again – Huisinis 113 miles. After driving along the precarious road for around 20 mins we stopped and looked at the map. According to the map we were 2 thirds of the way there! 10 mins later we were pulling into the small car park at the beach having reached our destination! It was then we realised that Huisinis was only 13 miles not 113 miles – someone had tampered with the sign! I was very relieved as I didn’t fancy 113 miles on that sort of road.
The beach at Huisinis was as lovely as I remembered and we spent some time walking around and taking photos before setting off over the Machair (wild grassland and flowers) to the cliffs. It’s a lovely walk with stunning views out to sea. We were a bit early in the season to enjoy it in its’ full glory – there were buds and shoots everywhere but it will not come into full bloom until June – but it was bright and sunny with a fresh breeze so we weren’t complaining!
Anyone can let their sheep and cattle graze on the Machair so as you walk around you will always encounter livestock. Unfortunately, although I was some distance away, one sheep took exception to me being there and whilst trying to skirt around me got perilously close the cliff edge and disappeared over the side with a startled “Baaa!” Luckily, it landed on a rocky outcrop about 3 foot down but it was wedged and couldn’t right itself. I had to slide down on my arse to where it was and grabbing its’ ample fleece I lifted it up onto its’ feet – it was surprisingly light – it then leapt (who knew sheep were so agile?) onto some other rocks before leaping back onto the grass at the top. After a few seconds it put its’ head down and started grazing as if nothing had happened! I think Isobel and I were more traumatised by the whole event – plus I had a very wet arse!!
Drama over we continued our walk but minutes later I slipped on a very boggy bit of peat and slid a few feet, covering myself from arse to ankle in smelly peat bog mud. I was also pretty close to the cliff edge and decided that walking so close to the edge was courting disaster and headed up to the top. By then the wind was up and with nothing to stop it before it hit our bit of the coast it was fierce. In fact it was hard at times to stand upright and holding a camera to take pictures was almost impossible, plus the glare of the sun meant that all I could see on the screen was my grimacing face! Its’ a wonder that I got any decent pictures at all. The wind did dry me out very quickly though which I was grateful for!
After a couple of hours we returned to the car to get out a picnic that Isobel had bought with her (very well prepared!) and despite the howling wind she insisted on putting it all out including the gingham cloth which we had to weight with stones! It was delicious and immensely enjoyable despite the dermabrasive effects of the wind whipping sand into our faces – we were covered in the stuff – but we are British and nothing stops us having a picnic on the beach! This is our picnic bench - what an idyllic spot. You can just make out Isobel on the beach in the distance!