Arriving on a Saturday to blue skies, we decided to head straight to the beach of Luskentyre in South Harris. Such was the weather forecast for the rest of the week that this might be our only chance to see it while the sun shone.
While Harris is well known for its many incredibly beautiful beaches, it is Luskentyre that most people will think of as the jewel for its vast area of white sand, a backdrop of hills, and the Isle of Taransay (where the reality UK TV series Castaway was filmed with a then unknown Ben Fogle).
We passed the turning for the beach in order to look out at the large bay which was a vast expanse of white sand, the ocean itself a long way off on the horizon. Jumping down from the rocks onto the firm sand, a single figure was lost in the vastness of it all.
From here it was still a small drive to the main beach, backed by sand dunes and a cemetery. I soon discovered that so many of the beaches on the islands are looked down upon by a cemetery, scenic places to be interred and laid to rest. The reasons for such picturesque burial sites are, however, somewhat darker.
One of the walks on Harris is called “The Coffin Route”, a walk that starts on the east coast of the islands and heads to the west coast, before returning to the eastern shores. As a result of the “clearances” in the 19th century, those that chose to stay on the island were forced out to the rocky and inhospitable eastern shores. So poor was the land on this side, that they had to carry the dead to the western side of the island where the better ground enabled a grave to be dug.
Let’s lighten the mood a little now with an image of Luskentyre beach.
The skies were blue, the sands were very white and our own figures cast wonderful shadows. Heading straight for Luskentyre had paid off handsomely. We weren’t alone, but with acres of sand, the beach could hardly be described as crowded.
A walk along the beach was pretty much as long as you wanted it to be. Toes were dipped in and yes it was pretty cold. All that was needed was a nice bit of comfort food to replace the many calories shed while exercising on the beach. Back we headed along the single-track road, with passing places dotted here and there. At one of these places stood a tall slender cupboard.
Our prayers had been answered.