The Isle of Harris Distillery was raised by the sea. In fact, the land on which it is built was once a tidal bay before being reclaimed for development.
The name of our home village of Tarbert, or Tairbeart in Scottish Gaelic, is derived from the old Norse word for ‘draw boat’, meaning a place where the land is so narrow that Viking ships could be pulled across two stretches of water.
As our distillers set to work each day, their Spirit Hall windows look towards the morning sunrise with views over East Loch Tarbert and the harbour quay.
And, just a few short miles away lie some of the most beautiful shorelines in the world, from the stunning beaches of the western coast to the rugged inlets of the eastern fishing bays.
So, it’s no surprise that we feel deeply connected to the sea, something expressed in our inaugural spirit release, the Sugar Kelp seaweed-infused Isle of Harris Gin with its gently rippled azure glass bottle.
In 2018 we were pleased to witness a wonderful new project come to fruition by the breakwaters just yards from our distillery doors.
With state-of-the-art pontoon systems and shoreside facilities, the Isle of Harris Marina was the result of many years of local efforts and community collaboration.
Although it’s been in operation for just over a year, Wednesday marked the official opening and the inaugural Feis Mara Na Hearadh, or the Isle of Harris Festival of the Sea.
The area around the harbour here has been alive with all manner of maritime fun and games, and we’ve been happy to get involved in the nautical goings-on.
Visitors to the distillery will have seen all our staff sporting Harris Marina t-shirts, a most welcome change in this minor Hebridean heatwave and we’ve also been enjoying some of the delicious local lobster rolls from Lorna’s Larder, just one of the pier-side stalls set up for the festival week.
Some of our team also took to the water last night in sea kayaks to put their paddling techniques to the test with Roam Outer Hebrides, and we’ve enjoyed meeting many of the visitors and boat owners who have tied up at this busy port of call.
Marina manager and festival founder Fred Taylor tells us…
"We’ve still got one more day to go with Saturday being the big one with the RIB powerboat challenge, 'Sailing In Company' around the nearby Shiant islands and the coastal rowing races. We hope the good weather holds out!"
"The public talk by Andrew Halcrow last night was a personal highlight so far, an incredible story of resilience and perseverance. And next year is Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters so we’re planning a bigger and better Feis na Mara for 2020!"
There is much still to come this weekend and we’ll be hosting a fireside talk from seafarer and all-round adventurer Will Copestake tonight from 7.30pm (tickets £7 on the door) as well as the Feis’ award ceremony tomorrow night at 5pm.
As usual here in Harris, things will wrap up with a community ceilidh on Saturday evening with plenty of good food, drink and dancing at the Tarbert Hall.
You may very well find our staff and island spirit in full flow, so if you’re nearby, then we hope to see you there!