The Isle of Harris has always had a strong connection to the sea, and our distillery is no different, particularly with the arrival of a new marina right on our doorstep.
Opened in 2018 and already proving to be a great asset to the local economy, we decided to find out more about Isle of Harris Marina life from manager Fred Taylor.
With pontoons in East Loch Tarbert, in front of the distillery, and to our east in Scalpay's North Harbour, it's Fred's job to ensure the safety and well-being of the many boats tied up here as he tells us…
'In Tarbert, we could have as many as 26 local boats and up to 10 or 12 visiting yachts. The visiting vessels are an essential part of the marina's offer, and so far this year we've already been 120% up in terms of yachts we've had visit.
Berthing is available all year round with water, power and Wi-Fi facilities for all. With so many boats arriving upon our shores, it's clear the marina makes for busy days as Fred explains his daily workload…
'In the morning I will check on the boats in both Tarbert and in Scalpay, and during the season I'll make sure that the guests are happy and have all they need. I will also check on local boats, particularly after heavy rain to make sure they're not sinking and have been tied up properly!"
Fred hopes to develop the marina further in the future, and this year has launched the first of what will hopefully be an annual event here in Harris, Feis Mara na Hearadh or The Harris Sea Festival.
'This year for Feis Mara na Hearadh we've got 4 days of maritime madness. There will be traditional boat gatherings where lots of wooden vessels from all over the island will come down to be tied up and viewed and hopefully some will go to sea. There's also 2 days of sea kayaking events, a whole day of coastal rowing races as well as a fast RIB race around the Shiant islands. And it will all culminate in a big ceilidh.'
One keen participant in the Feis is Andrew Reeves, founder of Roam Outer Hebrides, also established a couple of short years ago. Andrew utilises the marina and the facilities on offer over the summer months as he runs his kayaking trips around the island.
A keen kayaker himself, Andrew typically takes a maximum of 4 in each kayak trip with his equipment ready to go when and wherever the tides and weather conditions allow.
'I go wherever on the Isle of Harris that’s suitable, it could be from Scalpay, the marina in Tarbert, over on the beautiful sandy west side beaches, out to Taransay or across the Sound of Harris.'
And whether you're brand new to kayaking or familiar with the waves, nothing's a problem for Andrew…
'Most of the people I take out are either complete beginners, or they've done kayaking once or twice. I cater for anybody, even experts that want a bit of tidal advice.'
With two booking options available, a half day trip and 3 hours at sea or a full day with 6-8 hours on the waves, Andrew promised the chance to explore some hidden corners of Harris on a day out with a difference…
'We'll hop out and have tea, a spot of lunch and a walk around. It's not all kayaking!'
So, whether you’re simply enjoying some Isle of Harris Gin, or pioneering with pontoons and paddles, we highly recommend discovering your own beautiful connection with our island seas.