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Best Foot Forward

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Harris in the spring, April 2021. Image © Peter Kwasniewski

Our island’s location in the far north-west of Scotland means that the island often lies a bit behind the rest of the country’s curve when it comes to coming into bloom.

Green shoots are still few and far between, and only recently have the trees begun to bud. There are some tiny tufts of nettles appearing but the recent cold snap has slowed the season down somewhat.

There’s also often a last blast of winter before the seasons turn. As the Gaelic saying goes, “Cha tig fuachd gu'n tig Earrach” or “Cold will not come until Spring”

Keeping warm in the spring sunshine despite the cold. Image © Peter Kwasniewski.

But, the run of recent good weather has helped the sap to rise in our inner and outer worlds, and we’re feeling a real sense of renewal.

The local lambing is drawing to a close across Outer Hebridean crofts, with just a few ewes leaving it late to bring their new arrivals into the world.

While the fast-growing lambs are full of the joys, the circle of life has also given rise to reports of the growing eagle population snatching some of the smaller, less wary ones as easy prey.

Relaxing as lambing season draws to a close. Image © Peter Kwasniewski.

Historically, fishing boats would be taken out of the water at this time of year to be scraped down and repainted. But, with few wooden boats these days it’s a far less common occurrence,

But, old habits often die hard, and many fishermen will still take a break in May, some even take the whole month off, while others just take a week or so and then go fishing further afield.

The longer days and sunshine have sparked the first sorties out onto the moor, as peat-cutters across the Western Isles set to work with a wood and iron tarasgeir to hand.

The old wooden 'Kelly Gal', few boats like her used today.

Far fewer folk from our villages tackle this traditional task these days, but those that do still enjoy the social aspect, and hard work is always rewarded by hot tea and home baking.

Talking of sociability, earlier this week we were delighted to place our own peats on the distillery fire and light a blaze in our hearth for the first time in over a year.

It was a symbolic moment, as we make preparations to reopen our doors on Monday and warmly welcome people back after a long period of Covid-caused closure.

Bill Cross and his helper, cutting peats here in Harris.

Our Shop will be open Monday to Saturday, from 10 am until 5 pm, and Tours will hopefully resume next month when we have more certainty. Please note the Canteen will remain closed.

Finally, as our community takes tentative steps towards the new normal, our team will be taking the long and winding road from Talla Na Mara to Tarbert tomorrow as part of the annual Kiltwalk.

It’s a twelve-mile walk tracing our west coast, but the scenery will make the journey a lot easier as we take in views of beautiful beaches, machair, and mountain along the way.

The distillery fire, lit for the first time in a long time this week.

As of Friday evening, we have raised over £4,000 for local island charities, and if you’d like to help us raise a little more then you can donate whatever you can afford online here.

We hope that wherever you are in the world, you’re feeling similarly positive as we look at the road ahead as one, and to the better days that are yet come. 

So, let’s put our best foot forward together, keep a spring in our step, and hopefully our paths will cross again in person sometime very soon.