News & Events

Foreign visitor numbers rise

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Last week we hosted one of the The John Muir Trust work parties. A team of volunteers sign up to learn what’s involved in managing wild land throughout Scotland.

This time, as well as some familiar faces, there were two students that came all the way from Czech Republic to help. During the week there were the ususal beach cleans. The work-party also spent time making some improvements to the path that leaves Huisinis for Traigh Mheilein. We are very grateful for the labour, but also the technical skills that JMT bring with them to Harris.

During the week there was also another overseas visitor at Huisinis. One of the volunteers managed to capture a Rose Coloured Starling amongst the usual residents. This rarity should be in Eastern Europe/Russia at this time of year. Presumably he too had seen all the media coverage of Harris of late and wanted to pay a visit!


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Biking trails?

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The North Harris Trust is proposing to build some mountain biking trails in a few locations around North Harris. The trails will be purpose-built for mountain biking and will be graded for difficulty like ski runs.

Mountain biking is extremely popular in the UK with Scotland rated as one of the best destinations in the world for the sport. Mountain biking is worth millions of pounds to Scotland’s economy annually and has helped small scale regeneration of some local economies.

There are numerous riders on Harris and Lewis both young and old. This number swells during the summer months. Traditionally people have ridden the estate paths until the mountain bike trails in Lews Castle grounds were built in 2014. These trails have proven to be a great success with local cyclists and are frequently used by local activity centres and schools to deliver P.E lessons.

Building mountain bike trails in North Harris would be beneficial in many ways including;

  • It would give the local school a new facility to deliver National Curriculum P.E lessons.
  • It would encourage cycling and a healthy lifestyle amongst the local population
  • Provide a boost to local business
  • Be a tourist attraction
  • Take pressure (and potential damage) away from walking paths
  • Potentially create employment
  • Be a venue to hold competitions
  • Provide opportunities for people to develop, progress and achieve success at their chosen level of the sport

We are right at the beginning of this project and we need to find out how much local support there would be for such a project. Please could you spare a couple of minutes to complete the survey  below.


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Mountain of the Month- June 28th

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Join the North Harris ranger service on an amazing walk to the summit of Tiorga Mòr.

The walk will take you up through deserted glens to a pass with amazing views. We will then head up a short section of ridge to the summit.

On the way down we will get some fine views of Sron Uladail, the largest overhanging cliff in the UK.

During the walk we should see some of Harris’s most iconic wildlife– golden and sea eagles, red deer and mountain hares.

Please come prepared for a day in the hills, walking boots are essential.

The walk starts at 10.00 from the track just before Amhuinnsuidhe castle (NB 052 077) off of the B887 road to Hushinish beach.

For more information please contact or 01859 502222



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Mountain of The Month- Oireabhal

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Tuesday 29th May’s  Mountain of the Month walk will be Oireabhal.


We will do an interesting route up, past some beehives with great sections of ridge. After summiting we will drop down steeply through some stunning landscapes.


This will be a challenging route so please come prepared. Bring some sun cream!


Start point is the Eagle Observatory car park at 10am.


For more information please contact 01859 502222 or

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LAMM- Harris marathon information

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The well-respected Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM) is coming to Harris in a couple of week’s time. The event will see 700 competitors running through the hills of North Harris.

The event will start on the morning of Friday June 1st with the competitors heading into the hills early on. Most will be camping out in the wilds on Friday night before returning to Tarbert on Saturday afternoon. We expect a large number of the competitors to leave on the Saturday evening ferry. Most are traveling as foot passengers.

The LAMM raises money for charity each time. This year there will be a contribution to Activities Week at Sir E Scott school as well as donations to the Mountain Rescue teams and Cancer Research.

It will be a busy time in Tarbert with many local businesses benefiting from the extra visitors.

Click on this link for more details:    LAMM- Information

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Scalpay Care Unit Housing Project

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Scalpay Care Unit Housing Project – May 2018

The Scalpay Care Unit and the 6 sheltered houses beside it were opened in 1990. The Care Unit provided a 24hour care facility for 5 residents and the 6 sheltered social housing units provided supported accommodation allowing elderly folk to live independently. The Care Unit became a focal point in the local community as it allowed elderly local people to remain living in their community despite them no longer being able to manage alone in their own homes. The Care Unit was a huge asset to the community and the decision to close it in 2012 was not well received by locals as there was still a lot of demand for it as a care facility. The unit was turned into a regular house by the council for the one remaining resident and after she died in early 2013 the building was closed.

In November 2013 the Scalpay residents voted to approach North Harris Trust to take ownership of the Island and to join the rest of the North Harris Estate after the then owner had offered it to the community for a nominal fee. After consulting the membership NHT agreed to this and Scalpay became part of the North Harris Trust. As part of the acquisition of the Island; funding was secured for a Scalpay Development Officer for 2 years. This development officer carried out a number of consultation meetings with the community to ascertain what their aspirations were for the island and the purchase and development of the Care Unit was one of the top projects identified. This result was then presented to the Trust Board who agreed to pursue a lease of the Care Unit from CNES for a year to see what interest there would be from within the community.

This lease was signed in August 2014 and the Trust were approached by a number of parties interested in subletting the care unit as accommodation. Due to the success of the first year NHT applied for an extension of another year to August 2016. Over these two years the care unit was in constant use as accommodation and this demand for affordable accommodation in Scalpay was evidence enough for the NHT Board to agree to pursue the acquisition of the Care Unit building to redevelop it into two homes, one two bedroom and one three bedroom.

Following the decision to pursue the purchase of the building an approach was made to CNES and a community benefit application form submitted, following an independent valuation the council offered to sell the building to the Trust for 10% of its market value of £100,000.

Funding was successfully secured from the Scottish Land Fund in October 2016 to purchase the building and to cover the associated legal fees. There were some slight issues with the title of the property which resulted in the sale not being completed until February 2017.

Care Unit Building June 2017

During this delay a surveyor was commissioned to come and view the property and draw up some potential design options and their associated costings. The approved design came in at a total cost of £250,000. With these plans and approximate costings we then submitted successful funding application to the Rural Housing Fund for £100,000 and Outer Hebrides LEADER for £124,165.67 This combined with the Trusts own contribution completing the funding package for the project.

The contract for the buildings conversion was posted on Public Contracts Scotland in Spring 2017 and attracted tender submissions from 4 contractors. The contract was awarded to Neil MacKay and co in June 2017 as their submission came in cheapest at £248,415.34. Work on site began in June 2017 and involved initially stripping out the entire building back to the bare wall and starting again with a new configuration.

The work began with the site being secured and the interior of the building being stripped out.

The floors throughout the building were insulated and underfloor heating components installed. Air source underfloor heating was chosen for the properties as this is a very efficient way of heating properties at a low cost.

Inside, the building’s brick walls were strapped and insulated and work carried out to add a second floor to the building. Previously it had been floored with chipboard and used as a loft and so steel beams were added to reinforce it. Dormer windows were also added to the first floor of each property to ensure that space and light was maximised. New windows were installed throughout the ground floor of the property and the exterior of the building was rough casted which transformed its look from the outside.


Interior Strip Out – June 17

The next stage was to frame the new layout of each property and segregate the first floor which when used previously had been open plan. These works were completed on October 2017. The underfloor heating and flooring were next to be completed along with the solar panels of the roof. Velux windows were added to the rear of each property to maximise the light in the en-suites.


New Framing & Underfloor Heating – September 2017

The number of workers on site increased significantly in the run up to Christmas 17 with 10 workers on site each day. Plumbing and electrical works were completed in November and then the interior fittings for the properties began to arrive including both staircases. The doors and windows in both properties were framed, the kitchens arrived and were installed and multifuel stoves were fitted in both open plan living rooms. The bathrooms and en-suites in both properties were completed with the installation of sanitary ware and showers in December. Throughout January, painters and decorators were on site and the interiors of both properties were taped, filled and decorated in neutral colours

The finishing touches to each property including external washing lines, fencing and the installation of external lights were completed in February.

Completed Kitchens in 7A&7B – February 18

Once the practical competition stage was reached a walk-through of each property was carried out with the contractor to ensure all parties were happy with the finish and to identify any outstanding issues/problems. The Building Control Officer from the local authority visited the properties on Friday 16th February and was happy to issue the completion certificate. There was a delay in the installation of the additional electricity supply to 7A as it required the upgrade of the nearby transformer, this was completed on 15th March.

Completed Bathrooms & En-suites – February 18

Applications for the tenancies were opened up at the end of January 18 and closed on Friday 16th February. We were contacted by several interested parties during this time and received a total of 5 applications. A small group of NHT Directors met on Tuesday 27th February to award the tenancies and after each was considered the tenancy of 7A (three bedroom) was offered to Catherine Ann Morrison & Duncan MacLeod and 7B (two bedroom) to Bobby & Cristina Nistor. Both accepted the tenancies and leases were signed on 19th March. The keys were handed over to the new tenants on 2nd April 2018.

First and Second Floor Bedrooms – March 18

The properties have been finished to a very high standard which can be seen in the enclosed images. We have been able to provide two properties of high quality to two young families who are committed to the area but had outgrown their local authority houses. The rental for the three and two bedroom properties is £400 and £320 per month respectively and although this is slightly higher than the local authority because of the air source underfloor heating, solar panels and multifuel stove the cost of heating the properties will be minimal. The income from the rent of the properties will be approx. £8640 PA and even once insurance and maintenance costs are covered this will be a welcome additional income for NHT and will further diversify our income stream.


7A&B Creag Aonaich – April 2018

Our tenants in 7A are Catherine Ann Morrison & Duncan MacLeod and their two young boys Donnie and Uilleam. Catherine Ann has lived in Scalpay all her life and Duncan is from the Bays of Harris. Previously they had lived in a two-bedroom local authority property on Scalpay which they had outgrown as a family. Three bedroom rental properties are difficult to come by and so they had reached the stage that they were going to have to considered moving from Scalpay to elsewhere in Harris. “We were delighted to be awarded the tenancy of 7A Creag Aonaich as it will allow us to stay in Scalpay near our family and friends. The houses are great and we have settled in well.” Catherine Ann.


Duncan, Catherine Ann, Donnie & Uilleam – May 18

Our tenants in 7B Creag Aonaich are Bobby & Cristina Nistor and their little girl Sofi. Bobby and Cristina came to Harris first in 2014 from Romania for seasonal hotel work. They fell in love with the place and having worked here on and off for a few years made the commitment to move here permanently and make Scalpay their home. They married and in 2016 they moved into a 2 bedroom local authority bungalow in Scalpay. After the arrival of baby Sofi they quickly outgrew the property which was a former sheltered house and so never built as a family home. This also lead them to consider moving elsewhere to get a larger property. “ We liked living in Scalpay and it was very good for me as I had secured permanent work in the nearby Net Mending factory but we had no space in the house and so unless the North Harris Trust had built these homes we would have had to leave Scalpay. The house is lovely and we are very happy to be able to stay here, thank you North Harris Trust” Bobby Nistor

Bobby, Cristina & Sofi Nistor – May 18

Without the assistance of the Scottish Land Fund, Outer Hebrides LEADER and The Rural Housing Fund this project would not have been possible and so we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their help throughout this project.





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Beach business

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Last week saw the S3 year group from Sir E Scott School head out for the annual Enterprise Day run by The North Harris Trust.

This year pupils headed for Huisinis Gateway, stopping off at various local businesses on the way. The aim of the day is to show the pupils the opportunities that Harris offers. They talked to a number of businesses to find out what Harris has that makes them successful. A theme of water and rain emerged during the day, despite us basking in sunshine for the event. Pupils saw how rain was used in the production of whisky, electricity and salmon. They finally saw John Muir Trust volunteers repairing footpaths that were suffering from rain damage. After lunch at the Huisinis Gateway, teams presented their findings from the morning to teachers and NHT staff.

Thanks must go to Isle of Harris Distillers, River Generation Ltd, The Scottish Salmon Co and The John Muir Trust for their participation in the event.

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NHT Board Decision on the Proposed Purchase of the Scalpay School Site

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NHT Board Decision on the Proposed Purchase of the Scalpay School Site.

Back in 2014 the Comhairle offered the vacant Scalpay School Site to NHT.  To allow time for NHT to gather information and decide on whether to purchase and develop the site, a short-term lease was signed.  NHT has operated the site under the terms of this lease for nearly four years now.  The buildings have been sublet at a very low rate to 7 local artists, craft producers and builders.  It was always understood that this was a temporary arrangement and last summer the Comhairle made it clear that NHT would need to decide on the purchase by the end of April 2018. 

Whilst administering the site, NHT commissioned a condition report and kept a record of suggestions for site use and requests for space.  More recently a feasibility study was commissioned and a business plan prepared.  During preparation of the business plan the Scalpay Community were invited to contribute ideas and give their views on the school site purchase.

With the information gathered, NHT has seriously considered the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing the Scalpay School site; in terms of its potential social and economic impact on Scalpay and in terms of NHT’s ability to finance, deliver and maintain the development long term.

As the deadline is now upon us, NHT has decided not to go ahead with the purchase of the Scalpay School Site.  This decision was principally based on the following reasoning:

The title deeds show that the ball park area and a strip of land running through the centre of the site are not included in the sale.  This could be resolved, but will take time and additional purchase and legal fees.

The Schoolhouse, which is attached to the main school building, is not included in the sale.  This was always understood, but limits what can be done with the main school building.  For example, the main building cannot be demolished to make way for another development without making good the exposed gable of the Schoolhouse (cost estimated at £200,000).

According to the Condition Survey, the original part of the main building is structurally sound and the canteen is in reasonably good condition, but the extensions to the Main building and the two other outbuildings are in poor condition.  Overall the cost of essential repairs to deal with asbestos and making the buildings weatherproof are estimated at £91,000. To re-wire, insulate and re-decorate would take the estimated bill to over £200,000.

The feasibility study and business plan considered ideas from NHT and the local community including the creation of business space, workshop space, storage, campervan hook-ups, shared/community space and housing.  The preferred option was estimated to cost £1.2million.

Although the business plan demonstrated a scenario whereby the site could generate a small income, this was based on generous grant aid, and high occupancy at high commercial rents.

The funds required to make the buildings safe for use and to carry out urgent repairs are beyond what NHT can fund independently and the prospects of securing the grant aid required to fully refurbish the site are currently bleak.  Even with grants, the contribution required from the Trust would be significant and would impact upon the other the Trust activities.

Apart from the current tenants, there has been limited interest from the wider community regarding the future use of the site and a shortage of ideas that would generate income. Discussions with current and prospective tenants have indicated that few would be willing to take on the higher rents required to make the development sustainable.

NHT believes the option of purchasing the site and doing minimal improvement works is not realistic as the urgent repairs required are expensive and would need to be paid for by higher rents. 

There is already underutilised ‘community space’ within the existing Scalpay Community Centre and NHT would not wish to develop a competing facility.

Issues with the title deeds, poor condition of the buildings, lack of funding and inability to demonstrate that the development will be well used and viable all make purchasing and refurbishing Scalpay School too risky for NHT.  NHT will therefore withdraw from Scalpay School at the end of the current lease, in August 2018.  However, NHT would be interested in collaborating with interested agencies/parties to investigate potential strategies for development at the site.

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Election of Directors

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Election of Directors

There are TWO vacancies for North Harris Trust (NHT) Directors to represent the TARBERT AREA. 

Nominations have been received from the following eligible candidates:


Mr Philip Bertin, 7 Scott Road, Tarbert

Mrs Barbara Mackay, 1 Ardhasaig

Mr Innes Morrison, 6 Amhuinnsuidh


A sealed ballot box is now operating at the NHT Office and members of the North Harris Trust from the TARBERT AREA are invited to come and vote for their preferred candidates.

Members unable to visit the office can appoint another member as a Proxy to vote on their behalf.  (See note below).

The period for eligible voting will end when the ballot box is opened at:

6:00pm on Thursday 22nd February 2018.

There will be a meeting to coincide with the opening of the ballot box at the North Harris Trust Office starting at 5:45pm on Thursday 22nd February 2018.  NHT Members are invited to attend, along with the proposed candidates, to supervise the count.

The candidates with the most votes will be proposed as Directors at the subsequent North Harris Trust AGM to be held on the 26th February 2018, Tigh an Urrais, NHT Office, Tarbert at 7.30pm. 

For further information please contact: Gordon Cumming, Manager, North Harris Trust, Tigh an Urrais, Tarbert, HS3 3DB.  Telephone: 01859 502 222.  Email:



  • A Proxy is a written signed statement giving authorization for another NHT Member to vote on your behalf. A copy of this Proxy must be delivered to the NHT Office at least 24 hours before the vote is placed, to allow for verification.
  • The Tarbert Area extends from Leachkin, in the West, to Croft 1 Tarbert, in the East.



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What to do with an old slipway?

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At the start of the year, the lease of the slipway at Maraig, to Scottish Salmon Co. expired. The site has been cleared, the derelict shed removed and the fences replaced. The Trust now has full control over it’s use.

The site includes quite a large area of hard standing. Water, electricity and sewerage are still available. The slipway itself is in good condition, but the depth of water doesn’t lend itself to launching much more than kayaks, except at high water.


Informal use of the slip has been granted in the past for local boat owners and the Scaladale Centre. They have run sailing, kayaking and gorge scrambling activities from the site. The challenge now is to determine the best use for the site, and how it can make some money to cover ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs.

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