Letting Go #9: Uist to Harris

[Following on from Part #8], to recap: I’ve woken up early to catch the 08:45 ferry from Uisk to Harris.

Equipped with toilet paper and a shovel, there’s time for a quick morning jog. It’s so very warm in this beautifully wide cove [see pic above], sheltered from the unrelenting wind by the high sand banks behind. I wish I’d brought a towel and had a swim, but there’s no time. I rush to the ferry to find only one other person at the tiny port. There is no ferry, no one at the information kiosk, and no internet signal – just an electronic information board that confirms the 08:45 ferry is due. So where can it be?

I wait and wait for the ferry, frustrated that I’d missed out on that swim. I decide to take breakfast at the port, and fire up the stove. Is there a distillery on Harris, I ask myself? Cue the Malt Year Book. There is, of course! It’s in Tarbert.

Harris distillery 2.jpeg

HARRIS DISTILLERY

  • Founded in September 2015 with a build cost £11.4m, which is about par for a new modern distillery especially if you factor in a visitors centre which attracted 91000 visitors in 2018.
  • Capacity is 40000 lpa.
  • Fermentation is longer than the industry standard at between 72-96.
  • Equipment of interest includes a stainless steel mash tun clad with American oak. Is that the perfect balance of convenience/efficiency and aesthetics?
  • They’ve a pair of Italian stills. Would those be from Frilli like Glen Moray and Raasay? Indeed!
  • Expect to see a whisky with 12-14ppm and perhaps some stronger experimental releases.
  • Initially distilling gin, whisky production went online in December 2015 which means the distillery already has whisky around 4.5 years of age. Let’s hope the distillery is open.

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Meanwhile, the port’s electronic information board has changed to confirm the next ferry is now scheduled for 13:30, just as the local man who had been parked in front of me had intimated. He’s gone now. During the long wait [just shy of 5 hours as it turns out], I take a look at a snapshot of the booking reservation I’d made halfway up a beach cliff when a random 3G connection met my phone. It appears I’ve booked a ticket for the opposite direction. I now find myself in the wrong lane – the ‘booked’ lane – for a journey which should have occurred hours earlier from a departure point I wish to be my destination. Kapish? Let’s see how this plays out.

Incredibly, it plays out! How, I don’t know, but I’m in, I’m on [the ferry], and in no time at all I’m over the Sound of Harris and onto the island of Harris & Lewis itself.

Harris panorama.jpeg

Harris is stunning, making the frustrations that came from that long ferry wait dissolve right away. Furthermore, there are designated parking spots all over the island that actively encourage overnight stays  – result! Away from the hotspots, I find a place all to myself. It’s just off the main road, but one or two passing cars per hour is hardly ‘main’ by urban standards. When a passing car becomes an event, you know you’re in a peaceful place.

I have a glorious view of the hills, the waterways, and the sandbanks. After steam-cleaning some Glencairn’s, I drink a number of things, without taking notes !!!!

I begin with a sherried flight consisting of ‘The’ Kilkerran 8yo [WLP87], a long ago-bought Bladnoch 12yo [full bottle report to follow], and more of Glen Moray’s ‘that sherry cask’ WLP[1]90 & WLP[2]90.

That evening, I spent time sticking luminous stars around my camper, looking through photos, and reminiscing – invariably in the manner of Rob in the novel High Fidelity. My current read is ‘The Decent of Man’, by Grayson Perry. It reminds me of many a Sociological book I read at University in the early-mid 1990s. Turns out Sociology [and the Manchester Metropolitan University, aka Mickey Mouse Uni] wasn’t so Mickey Mouse after all.

Wildly intoxicated, I take a wander. Expressing my inner animal, I shout to the sky. The hills reply – an enlivening marker/signifier of presence, a recognition of self,… of being.

Harris Sunset

As the sun sets over the bay, reflections of Greek islands [which I’d also picked up on earlier in the day], don’t fail to impress. If it weren’t for the chilly brisk winds that speak to the bones, even in mid-July, perhaps I’d consider Harris as a more long-term possibility. One of the most beautiful places on earth it may be, but to live here is another prospect. Cue a car who’s headlights cut strange patterns into the landscape. 

Tomorrow I shall walk up one of the surrounding hills [see vid] before driving to Tarbert in an attempt to connect with the digital world and discover whether Harris Distillery is open or not. Most of all, I want to get into the sea. I hope the sun will finally break and the stubborn winds will desist. Either way, it’s all good. I’m here. I am in the Outer Hebrides!

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END

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Harris.jpeg

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