Fiona Rintoul – writer, journalist, translator

Tag: Outer Hebrides

St Kilda: cleits and clichés

Posted on July 11th, by admin in Travels from Tinseltown. No Comments

While out walking near Huisnis on the Isle of Harris on a particularly clear day last summer, my husband Pete and I caught sight of St Kilda – a mesmerising silvered smudge on the horizon. It’s easy to think you’ve seen St Kilda, only to discover later that you were contemplating some other outer isles that do not excite the imagination in the same way. That day there was no mistake; those distant vertiginous outlines could be nowhere else. We realised then both how stupid and wrong our previous ‘sightings’ had been, and that it was inevitable we would now go to St Kilda.

We travelled there in mid-June aboard the MV Cuma, a restored 12-berth former marine research vessel operated out of Uig on the Isle of Lewis by Murdo Macdonald, a former fisherman and sure-handed skipper. The Cuma chugs across the permanent swell between the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda at a stately pace, allowing passengers to grasp something of the archipelago’s remoteness.

“It is St Kilda’s shimmering farawayness that constitutes its allure”

Along with its haunting human history – Hirta, the main island of the St Kilda archipelago, was inhabited for 4,000 years until the 1930 evacuation – it is … Read More »

W12 Tarbert to Hushinish

Posted on June 23rd, by admin in Travels from Tinseltown. No Comments

The tiny beach-fringed settlement of Hushinish on the north-west shore of the Isle of Harris is quite literally at the end of the road. The winding single-track B887 peters out here, its final stretch subsumed by fine, silver sand. Stationed at one of Scotland’s most westerly points, the four-house settlement has the feel of an outpost; across the sound is the now uninhabited island of Scarp; on clear days, St Kilda can be seen shimmering on the horizon from a nearby hillside path.

Hushinish is separated from the main Tarbert to Stornoway road by a majestic landscape of rugged mountain and sodden bog, punctuated by teeming fishing lochs and tumbling, peat-reddened burns. Here the eagle soars, the stag bells – and the feisty W12 minibus bounces gamely past on week days. For Hushinish, though remote, is very accessible, lying only 46 miles from Stornoway, the largest town on the Western Isles archipelago with a population of about 6,000.

The W12 bus is absolutely the best way to get to Hushinish. Glance out the window as it rounds one of the B887’s many high-perched hairpin bends and you’ll see why. The views south across Loch a Siar – turquoise on sunny days, a … Read More »