Thursday, 21 September 2017

Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides - Tarbert, a little harbour town, and the amazing St. Clements Church

The geology of these Islands is 3 billion years old - in fact, this is one of the oldest territories on Earth. The Isle of Harris is northernly, remote and rich in History, that's what Ultima Thule is all about.

Lying in a valley where North and South Harris meet, and set against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks, Tarbert is the island's main port and capital village.

The Caledonian ferry at Tarbert, Harris

Tarbert lies on the shores of Loch Tarbert, and South Harris avoids becoming an island by just a few hundred yards of land over which the Vikings would drag their longboats into West Loch to avoid sailing around via the Sound of Harris.

The Caledonian ferry has daily calls at Tabert harbour

Tarbert, Isle of Harris

Coordinates: 57° 53′ N, 6° 47′ W
Population:  ~500

Pier Road, the town center: Hebrides Hotel (long, white), the Tarbert store (yellow), the Tourist information center (beige, right).

There are two villages on the Isle of Harris, Tarbert and Leverburgh (in the south).  Tarbert lies on a narrow strip of land.  The name Tarbert means “portage” or “ithsmus”.

Tarbert has most things that a person needs:  besides the Tourist Information Centre (above), there is a small bank, post office, a hardware store, two hotels, a coffee shop, two grocery stores, a gift shop, the Harris Tweed shop, a fish & chips.

The famous Tarbert Stores

The Tarbert Stores, where you can find almost anything except food.

On Pier Road, Tarbert Stores is specialized in supplying the needs of fishermen and other tradesmen. This simple timber construction is thought to have been built ca. 1900 with timbers deriving from Swedish origins as return ballast from ships exporting fish.

A traditional house and fishing hardware shop and ironmonger, also providing electrical services.

Heading now for the First Fruits Tearoom, a local must, with a gourmand offer in a friendly cozy atmosphere.

The tearoom is installed in Pier Road cottage.

First Fruits is a very popular place to spend some time waiting before the ferry leaves, if you can find a seat.

Main Street (or High Street) is a long and rather straight street from Pier Road to the Harris Tweed Shop, further west.

A yellow Hostel on Main Street

Main Street in a rainy day, as is quite often the case.

Buth Bheag, candles and fragrances, on Main Street.

There are several alternatives for guest accomodation, from Hotels to hostels and B&Bs;  the Harris Hotel is surely one of the best offers.

The family run Harris Hotel has been welcoming holidaymakers to the island for over a century.

The garden room.

Tarbert was founded as a fishing village in 1779, mainly for herring. From 1840 a new pier in Loch Tarbert allowed for a weekly mailboat service. By 1894 Tarbert was the main settlement on Harris, and a few years late Harris Tweed mill was set up here.

Tarbert harbour is the island’s main ferry terminal and also serves for boat tours to colonies of puffins and razor bills.

In 1964 the MacBrayne ferry started service on the Tarbert route. Fishing decayed and the port's main activity is now the loading and unloading of goods.

But Tarbert is mostly known as the home of the Harris Tweed Mill. This mill was established during the 1900s and became a major industry in Tarbert at the time.

Harris Tweed Shop

Today the Harris Tweed shop is opened on the main road running toward the ferry terminal.

A tweed cloth handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides.

Tarbert's Church of Scotland, built ca.1860.

Main Street and the port by twilight.

The Isle of Harris is one of the oldest geological terrains in the world, mostly ondulating rocks of gneisse covered with moss and dry grass, or flat wet moorland.

St. Clements Church,
 or Tur Chlíamainn, in Southern Harris

St. Clements Church, dedicated to the patron saint of seafarers, is situated in Harris Island's southern tip, some 30 km south of Tarbert, and dates from the end of the 16th century.

The tower was built on the top of a rocky outcrop, a higher level ground than the nave.

St. Clements church is widely thought to be the grandest medieval building in the Outer Hebrides. The heritage building is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

Medieval celtic cross.

The interior of the church is impressive and atmospheric, and contains the finest examples of late medieval sculpture in the Outer Hebrides.

The carvings.

This is the finest medieval wall tomb in Scotland, crowned by an arch and ornated by elaborate carvings of biblical design.

The arched recess of Alasdair Macleod's tomb (1528), in the south wall.

The arch surmounting the tomb has some unique Carvings with Gothic and Celtic motifs.

A sailing galley in the 1500s.

The pretty Razorbills

Besides Puffins, the Razorbills are a Nature attraction for tourists in the Isles.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Brúgvin um Streymin, a Faroese bridge over the Atlantic

They say this is the one and only bridge over the Atlantic Ocean; well, myself I prefer another one - the famous curved bridge in coastal Norway, part of the scenic Atlantic Ocean Road, but it's just a road section arching over the sea, it doesn't cross the sea from one land to another.

This bridge Brúgvin um Streymin jumps across a narrow ocean straight between two islands of the Faroese archipelago; it does not feel like you're over the ocean, though: the waters of the shallow Sundini Straight are usually quiet, in spite of strong currents.

Brúgvin um Streymin connects the two largest and most populous islands of the Faröe: Streymoy and Eysturoy. Crossing the 40 km long Sundini (Sundini = small Sound) at its narrowest point, it became the only inter-island bridge in the Atlantic Ocean.

220 meters long, Brúgvin um Streymin opened 1973; it's part of national road number 10, running from Tórshavn to Klaksvík, the two largest towns in the archipelago. The bridge has two car lanes and a narrow shared bicycle-foot path.

Two small settlements by the bridge have developped a bit since then, located at crossroads as they came to be: Norðskáli and Oyrarbakki, on Esturoy. Let's start with


Coordinates: 62° 13' N, 07 °00' W
Population: ~ 320

Norðskáli is an ancient settlement from the Middle Ages. The few fields around the village show that there were grounds for only a few settlements in the past.

After 1800, with the population growing, residents also had the opportunity to take care of fishing and trade. Norðskáli came to be central, and laid the foundation for new jobs such as fish factory, foundry and two banks, shopping malls and even a café with dining facilities.

Norðskála Church was opened on 1932. The white barrel of the barrel sits over narrow side ceilings. .

The church ship is a model of a "Verdandi" release that was hanged up in connection with the 75th anniversary of the Church in 2007

Under mild sun and...

under heavy snow.


Oyrarbakki is a village on the east coast of Eysturoy, south of the Brúgvin um Streymin over the Sundini.

Coordinates: 62°12′ N, 06°60' W
Population: ~ 160

This is a recently founded settlement.

Until the middle of the 20th century, there were only a few farms and some fishermen. Many new houses have been built since the bridge was completed, and the village was created to become the home and center of the new municipality of Sunda.

A few grass-roofed houses in the Faroese tradition can be seen at the village.

Boat sheds in Oyrarbakki.

The Sundini Straight

View from Oyrarbakki to the South end of the straight.

Nesvik, on the west side of the Atlantic Streymin.

The Sundini Straight opens to the Atlantic Ocean at both ends; the Northern entrance is quite steep and wild:

Weather and luck can bring fantastic light to the landscape.

Evening mood at Norðskála, with the silhouette of Brúgvin um Streymin on the horizon.