Posts Tagged ‘north harris’


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Twelve months ago, we were well into the build of the three business units at Oban, on the outskirts of Tarbert.







The frames were up and watertight, and a group of pupils from Sir E Scott School were inspecting the work going on, on the inside. They were keen to see what each of the trades do, and what tools they use nowadays.

As we entered 2015, we spent time advertising the properties in various trade magazines. We aimed the properties at the craft/food & drink sectors. We had enquiries, but it was always going to be a long shot, finding an existing business willing to relocate to a remote island. Many people fancied the idea of living in Harris, but their business ideas would have struggled to create the new jobs that the project has to deliver. As the year has progressed, we have broadened the selection criteria.





By March 2015, the first of the units was ready for occupancy. March 1st saw The Harris Tweed Company, Grosebay move into Unit 1. Unit 2 saw Fiskmann Ltd move in briefly. Unit 3 was let in September to Buth Bheag Candle Co. In November we secured a new tenant for Unit 2, the well known local business Hotel Hebrides. It plans to start manufacturing a new product shortly.

So, at the end of 2015, we have three rent-paying tenants and three sets of solar panels generating a small income for the Trust. Each of the tenancies will be reviewed at their first anniversary to see if they have delivered the jobs and training that they promised.


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2015 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival – Review

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What an amazing week! The programme for 2015 was our biggest and most ambitious yet – packed full of guided walks, evening talks, workshops, boat trips and sporting events. The festival is now managing to bring a significant contingent of visitors to the island, at a time of year when things would otherwise be slowing down for the end of the season.

Sunshine in Glen Cravadale

Our headline speaker was the fascinating Jim Crumley – a Scottish nature writer with an infectious passion for all things wild. He spoke about his book “The Eagle’s Way” which is about the reintroduction of sea eagles to Scotland, as well as touching on his latest publication about Beavers. Photographer Laurie Campbell gave some fantastic insights into nature photography, and mountaineer James Ogilvie told us of his adventures climbing the highest mountain on each continent around the globe, collectively known as the “Seven Summits,”  The best turnout was for Alan Rowan, the “Munro Moonwalker” with captivating stories and images from his night-time climbs. He has inspired us to consider a night walk for next year’s festival – ascending a hill in the early hours of the morning to be at the summit for dawn.


Laurie Campbell also ran another set of photography workshops; an amazing opportunity for photographers to get tips and advice from one of the UK’s top nature photographers. These workshops ran alongside a very popular session hosted by local landscape photographer Darren Cole.

Crowds gathered for the raft race


We had a mixed bag of weather for the guided walks; half the week we were treated to bright sunshine and gentle winds, whilst the rest of the time we were walking in full waterproofs! The first walk of the week was to Cravadale from Hushinish, with beautiful weather and an abundance of eagle sightings. We weren’t so lucky on the hill-walks up Todun and the Clisham – both days were wet, windy and cloudy, but we still managed to reach the summits. Spirits weren’t dampened – only our clothes! The Eagle Walk was once again massively popular, with 37 walkers and a good handful of sightings. Our top walk of the week was an ascent of Tiorga Mor, a hill in the west end of North Harris – a perfect hill day!


This year was the first time since year one that we worked with the Islands Book Trust, who ran a set of boat trips to the Isle of Scarp. Participants were given a few hours to explore the island before heading back across the sound to Hushinish. The event was so popular that the boat had to make seven return trips through the day.

Imagining the view on top of Todun!

Many events were delivered by partner organisations. Working with our numerous partners allows for a greater variety of events and helps to spread the benefits of the festival much more widely. Segway Hebrides returned to Harris to run trips up Glen Meavaig; The Scaladale Centre put on powerboat tours of Loch Seaforth right through the week (with Eagle sightings from the water on nearly every trip); Comhairle nan Eilean Siar ran rock climbing and Hill Skills sessions; and Sir E Scott School supported the Sea Kayaking sessions. Conditions on the water were perfect for the kayaking, and both sessions were fully booked. SurfLewis were also set to run surfing sessions but unfortunately weather and sea conditions didn’t permit the event to go ahead. Whale and Dolphin Conservation ran a special set of Shorewatch events in Rodel, and the Hebrides Mountain Rescue team hosted a “Night Nav” race in Glen Meavaig.

Finishing the Eagle Walk

A few other highlights included the annual Raft Race in East Loch Tarbert – five teams participated and the race was won by the team calling themselves “Noah’s Ark”.  The Rhenigidale Hill Race was also very popular with 22 runners, and marshalling from Hebrides Mountain Rescue. We also had a go at running a set of fishing taster sessions; one on freshwater at Lacasdail Lochs, and the other sea fishing at Scarista.


The festival dance was held in the Harris Hotel and for a second year running, the music and entertainment was provided by local celtic rockers Rock Island Line.

Perfect conditions for the Sea Kayaking in West Loch Tarbert

We are incredibly pleased with the attendance figures this year – just over 650 people attended all the events – well up from around 560 people the last two years. Now in its fifth year, it now feels as though the festival has become properly established in the annual calendar of walking festivals across the UK. Many people came from all across the country, and we are now gaining a sizeable following of people who are travelling here every year to take part. Again, we counted over 40 people who had come to Harris for the week specifically to attend the festival – bringing significant benefits to the local economy.

Best walk of the week! Coming down from Tiorga Mor (Thanks to Katie Dixon for the image)

We are already getting to work planning next year’s event – if you have any suggestions please let us know by dropping an email to We can also add your email address to our distribution list so that you’ll be kept up to date with developments for next year. Also check us out on Facebook and Twitter, and have a look at our website at


The North Harris Trust would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended the festival, and to all the individuals and organisations that have supported us. We couldn’t have done it without you! Also we would like to thank Awards for All Scotland and Marine Harvest for funding the event.


Hope to see you all next year!


Matt Watts, North Harris Ranger

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Getting wet feet

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It’s over two months since the diggers moved onto the Bunavoneader site. Looking at the weather today, we are definitely getting into the wet season.

Work started by creating an access track up to the common grazing boundary. As with all projects in Harris, this was followed by a few weeks of rock-breaking. An intake is being built in the river just beyond the old dam. The river banks have been cut back to clean rock here, and some pipes sunk into the bed of the river to take the water, whilst the intake is built over the top.


Work has progressed well, with the concrete blinding being installed as a foundation, a couple of weeks ago. The intake structure is now taking shape on top of this. The picture shows the construction crew setting out the formwork for the main chamber that the water gathers in, before heading down the pipe to the turbine.

Heavy rain has stopped work in the river today, but the plan is still to complete the in-river work in the next couple of weeks. After that, focus can move to installing the pipe and erecting the turbine house at down at the shore.


The volunteer Directors of the Trust and its Trading Company have been working on this project since 2009. Despite financing and electricity grid set-backs we are now underway, with our JV partners S.T.I.L. The hydro-turbine itself is on order, but will not be on site until March next year. We look to be generating in the spring.

By this time, the government consultations on the Feed-in-tariff (FiT) will have closed and the changes implemented. FiT is the scheme that pays for the generation of “green” energy. Once again the goal posts will move. The pre-accreditation system is to end. This allowed developers to lock into the current FiT rate and still have two years to finance and build their hydro schemes. Community groups like ourselves needed this time and this guarantee of future earnings to find finance and ensure viability. With the recently-announced moratorium on grid connections in the Western Isles and this revision of the FiT scheme, Bunavoneader is likely to be the last new hydro scheme for some time.



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Harris Gunnera Control

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The ongoing battle with the Gunnera Tinctoria, continues. With support from the Community Councils and funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, the North Harris Trust is co-ordinating a pilot project seeking to identify the best methods for halting the spread of Gunnera. We also aim to update our distribution maps and to look at the options & costs for a full scale eradication scheme.

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A team from OH-MEET (Outer Hebrides- Managing Employment, Enterprise & Training), has started spraying outlying populations of Gunnera and weather permitting they will attempt work around Scalpay, Scaladale, Ardhasaig, Rhenigidale, Leverburgh and Flodabay. In the meantime North Harris Trust Staff and volunteers have continued to work in and around Tarbert.

Eradicating Gunnera from Harris is going to take a large scale, co-ordinated effort, involving professional contractors and teams of volunteers. None the less, every Gunnera plant removed will reduce the rate of spread. If you can help, especially by dealing with plants on your own property, it could make all the difference. Here is some guidance on the methods we would recommend.
1. Manual Digging
Especially effective on seedlings and young plants, it is often surprisingly easy to dig up mature plants using a sharpened spade. Just be aware that the whole of the swollen ‘turnip like’ root needs to be removed or the plant will regenerate and if the seed heads are mature, they must be carefully bagged and disposed of in your organic waste bin or at the Urgha re-cycling centre.
2. Chemical Treatment
The most effective, widely-available chemical for spraying Gunnera is Glyphosate. This is commonly sold as ‘Round-up’, although there are other brands. This should be applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, ensuring good spray coverage of the entire plant. Alternatively the herbicide can be applied as a stump treatment. i.e. cut all of the leaves just above ground level and then paint the herbicide onto the exposed wounds. This method is particularly suited to plants near watercourses and/or if it is too windy to spray, or if there is a threat of rain. Again, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for mixing and applying stump treatment. The solution used for stump treatment is much stronger than that used for spraying, but overall much less chemical is required, as the application is more targeted. Make sure your mixed herbicide is safely contained by using a ‘weed-wipe’. Once you are finished each plant it is a good idea to cover the treated stems with the cut leaves to protect the treatment from rainfall. The best time for treating Gunnera with chemicals is late in the growing season (late Aug/Sept), when the plants are fully grown, before the leaves die back.

Whichever method is used, follow up treatments are likely to be necessary. Gunnera is very resilient and if the plants have reached maturity, their seeds will be in the surrounding area and are likely to germinate. However, every time the plant is treated it will get weaker, it will produce little if any seed and will be more susceptible to the next treatment. So don’t be disheartened, if the plant re-grows, just give it another go. If you don’t have the time or the equipment to remove Gunnera from your land then you can help by just removing the seed heads. At least this way you can effectively limit the spread of Gunnera.
We strongly discourage Harris residents from intentionally growing Gunnera tinctoria because of the now obvious risk. In Scotland, it is legal to grow Gunnera in your garden. However, it is an offence to allow it to spread onto neighbouring land.
For further information on this project, or if you have any suggestions for dealing with this pest please contact Gordon Cumming, Land Manager at The North Harris Trust. Tel: 01859 502 22 or email:

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2015 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival

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The  full programme for the 2015 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival is now available!

The Isle of Harris Mountain Festival is a week long celebration of the mountains of Harris, and takes place this year between 12th – 19th September.

Download the PDF version HERE. Feel free to pass it around to anyone who might be interested!

For any more information, or to make bookings for any of the events, contact us on 01859 502222, or email

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Bunavoneader hydro scheme gets under way

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This week sees the contractors starting the civil works at Bunavoneader. The project reached financial closure last week. A joint venture company has now been established for the Trust and its partner, Sustainable Technology Investors Limited to take the project forward.

The 100kW hydro-electric scheme is being built by Duncan MacKay&Sons. The mechanical and electrical works are contracted to Ross-shire Engineering who we started talking to in 2010.

access track week1

The first task is to get an access track in, below the road. This will give access for temporary welfare facilities and the site of the new turbine house. The project will take 9 months to complete due to the long lead time on the mechanical components. We will however be able to complete the civil works in the “dry season” -when it arrives.

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Iomairt an Obain ready for business

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It’s March 2nd and we now have three completed Business Units. The Iomairt an Obain development in East Tarbert was finally handed over to us on this fine spring day! There are a couple of outstanding tasks, like painting the white lines on the road and fitting the street lights, but these will have to wait for the better weather.

Today also marks the handing over of the first set of keys to new tenants. The Harris Tweed Company, Grosebay have taken a lease on Unit 1. They will be growing their mail-order operation and starting to manufacture tweed items on site.

We are in discussions with a mainland food-based business for the lease of Unit 2. The hope is to have the new business on site and manufacturing in the next 6 weeks.

The final unit is now being marketed to Food & Drink and Craft businesses on the mainland. One of the terms of the funding was that we try to attract a new family to the community. The best use of the building will be a  new family business, bringing new kids to the schools, new disposable income to the economy and creating new jobs for the community. This is what we are trying to do with press articles like these HERE and HERE.

We are planning an open day at the site on SATURDAY MARCH 28th for the community to have a look round and see what we have been building these last 6 months.

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Monan now has two turbines

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monan t2 from North Harris Trust on Vimeo.

Here’s a short video showing the second of three turbines being erected on the monan site. The towers arrived off the Newcastle ferry from Leipzig. They came in two sections. The turbine head arrived in a container from New Zealand and had the blades bolted on whilst on the ground. The whole lot was then lifted to the top of the tower and gently aligned before bolting securely together.

The Windflow 500kW turbine is unusual in having only two blades. This gives it the ability to pivot in one more axis and allows the turbine to deal with the high levels of turbulence experienced on the site.

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9th February – Sea Eagle, Stags, Buzzards

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A wildlife-rich drive to Tarbert from Amhuinnsuidhe yesterday morning: a juvenile sea eagle flying very low over the road at Cliasmol being mobbed by a pair of gulls; a red deer stag at Tolmachan; and two buzzards, at Buna and Ardhasaig! A buzzard is quite regularly seen perched on top of the chimney of the old Whaling Station at Buna.

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A new fencing challenge

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One of our projects to support the regeneration of native woodlands progressed rapidly this week as 10 tonnes of fencing materials were airlifted out to Gleann Trolamaraig.


Important remnants of native woodland still cling to inaccessible steep slopes along the shores of Loch Trolamaraig and in numerous gorges. With a reduction in grazing pressure, seedlings from these ‘relics’ will at last have the chance to establish and colonise the open ground.












By making the most of natural boundaries to red deer access formed by lochs, populated areas and the sea, the relatively short 3km electric fenceline will effectively annex an area of 1,500ha. No doubt some deer will still find their way into the area but with the support of the Harris Stalking Club deer densities will be kept as low as possible.kyles




Contractors have been appointed to install the fence strainers over the next three months and Trust staff, assisted by volunteers, will complete the fence during the summer of 2015.

Clearly it is going to take decades for these seedlings to establish extensive woodland areas, but if natural regeneration is successful, the process will be accelerated by planting trees propagated from locally gathered seed.

So far, thanks are due to The John Muir Trust and The Carnegie Trust for donating the majority of the fencing materials. Net Services (Scotland), Paul Finnegan and CNES are thanked for their help with the logistics.

If you have any questions about this project, contact our Land Manager: Gordon Cumming  at tel: 01859502683

Trolmaraig Copter from North Harris Trust on Vimeo.

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