Exploring the wild coast of North Harris is like an adventure into the unknown. Around each turn in the road is a new sight, a new stream or as on numerous occasions a flock of sheep, owned by a crofter but living in the wilds. Heading down the relatively new road to Reinigeadal it is like slowly stepping back in time. The road was one of the last to be tarmac’d and this was only in 1990, a relatively new addition to the road network. Prior to this the only access to the village was along the ‘Postman’s Path‘, a winding path between Reinigeadal and Urgha over the hill towards Tarbert. The path winds its way along the cliff edge, possibly due to the payment of the path-builders by the yard, who would make the route direct if distance covered is what paid the bills.
Parking just outside Reinigeadal we headed along the path. Close to the edge of the cliffs, the gulls were soaring in the thermals below the path, checking out the new visitors to their domain. The path twisted and turned with glimpses of Gearraidh Lotaigear in the distance. At first it was the abandoned chimneys, standing proud. As we got closer the buildings became distinct against the rugged stoney landscape.
Ewe’s with young lambs were dotted along the path. Not bothered by our passing and almost inquisitive, exploring us as much as we were exploring their landscape.
The village was still inhabited by the MacLennan family until the 1950’s. They ran a shop from one of the buildings which remain, empty and almost forgotten. The family moved here when the fertile land they farmed was cleared and they had to start again in this hostile, sloping cliff-top location. The ‘lazy-beds’, raised areas fertilised with seaweed in an attempt to farm the land are still present, slowly being eroded back to the natural state of the land.
The buildings stand empty, but the past can be heard as you walk between the walls. Looking across the bay through the glass-less window it is easy to imagine the view and the hard life that the villagers led. The burn passing through the village is crossed with a wooden bridge. Boggy on the side where the homes sit even in the dry spring.
There are two chimney’s stood each side of the missing building. Reminders that the chimney is the heart of the home and some things will remain even after the home has gone. Exploring this area the hearth is still there, the fire basket discarded as if they went yesterday. The bed remains with the chamber pot close by. Rusting through and as useless as the homes now appear.
Walking back away from the village it was as if we were walking back to our lives, echoes of the past whistling in the wind. Had it not been for a geocache hidden nearby we would never have discovered this piece of history.