An Isle of Harris Holiday: In Photos


We are back from a lovely ten days in Scotland. Two 35 hour journeys in less than a fortnight has not left me at my most eloquent, so I will save the write-up for another day, but I wanted to share a few photos of our time away.

We were staying in a stunning self-catering house called Croft Cottage, which has views of East Loch Tarbert and across to Skye. On a still night, this is what it looked like…

view from Tarbert Isle of Harris

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Where I Live

Lovely Michelle at The American Resident has just started a new linky called Where You Live, and this week’s prompt was ‘If I visited you for a day, where would you take me? One place. And why.’

How could I not take part in that?

In most of the places I’ve lived before, I would have been spoiled for choice with this question.

Tarbert, Isle of Harris

In Harris I would have wondered whether we should go to the beach, roll our trousers up and shriek as we splashed in the clear, cold waters of the North Atlantic. Or whether we should get fish and chips in the village, which we’d eat sitting on the wall that overlooks the pier – the best spot to watch the ferry come in.

Eventually I would have settled on showing you the big boulder on the hill behind my Dad’s house, right beside the lower loch. With a large flat top like a table, and ledges that stick out like shelves below, that rock was my imaginary childhood teashop. I would put my pretend cakes in to bake in the pretend oven, before serving them up with pretend cups of tea and coffee. There was an indentation in another nearby rock, which would fill with water on rainy days, and that is where I would do my dishes. It made my heart sing when we went to Harris last year and DorkySon ran up the back hill, headed right for the same spot.

A touchstone, both literally and metaphorically. Continue reading

You say tomato, I say… how do we define home?

I saw today that Taransay – the former home of the Castaways – is up for sale. Unfortunately I don’t have a spare £2million to spend on it, but seeing the news has left me thinking all day about my own childhood, which I spent in the Western Isles.

Although I haven’t lived there for nearly twenty years, the countless days I spent playing on the beaches and walking in the hills were happy ones, and I will always feel a deep connection to the place. I am convinced that growing up somewhere so isolated – where the relationship between the people, the land and the sea is still a strong one, and where there is still a real awareness of the rhythms of nature – has shaped my character in fairly fundamental ways. It also says something about the sense of community on the islands that even having been away for so long, when I go back and visit now I still have people asking when I got ‘home’.

We took DorkySon to Harris for the first time a few months ago and he had a great time roaming around in the fresh air. His highlight was probably sitting watching the cars come off the ferry every day…  although he also had a blast throwing sticks in the river and stones in the loch. (It’s always the small pleasures…) We will try and visit that part of the world as often as possible, but I am already realising that DorkySon’s sense of ‘home’ is going to be far more he complicated than my own.

Edinburgh is a great place to start life, and I hope that when he’s older he will have fond memories of toddling around the Meadows, checking out the trains and cars at the National Museum, and running along Portobello beach with his Granny. But I’m not convinced that living in a city will have as much influence on him as living on as island did on me. If we moved away from here in five or six years, would it still feel like ‘home’ to him when he came back to visit in twenty years?

I also wonder what we can do to ensure that, in the future, DorkySon feels as much ‘at home’ in the States as he does in Scotland. Half of his family lives on the other side of the Atlantic. He has a blue passport as well as a red one. And yet when DorkyDad asks if he wants a ‘Tom-AY-to’ in his salad, he doesn’t realise that it’s the same thing as when I offer him a ‘Tom-AH-to’.

We are doing our best. There are Reese’s Pieces in the chocolate drawer, Gullah paintings on the walls of the living room, and a Phillies game on the television. After DorkyDad read my comment on this old post, he taught DorkySon to say ‘Have a nice day!’ And we are making our third family trip to the States next month. But none of that is a substitute for full submersion in the culture of a place.

For now, I very much hope that home is wherever DorkyDad and me are, but it’s going to be interesting as DorkySon grows up, to see where he is drawn to. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be Taransay, but if he ends up feeling equally at home in Scotland and the States, he’ll be a very lucky boy.