Last week was a massive success for the 2014 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival. The programme this year was bursting full with a huge variety of events, including guided walks, outdoor sports, evening talks, film nights, and much more. All the events were well attended, and everyone who came together in celebration of the mountains of Harris was treated to perfect weather right through the week.
The programme was packed full of guided walks taking place every day through the week – a good mix of long and short walks to provide something for everyone. The big walk of the week was the Clisham Horseshoe walk, which took place on the same day of the Referendum. The walkers were treated to some very special weather conditions – a cloud inversion for most of the day meant they were walking on the hill tops above a sea of cloud that was billowing through the glens. Accompanying the walkers on this journey was long-distance walker, author and photographer Chris Townsend; his second year of involvement with the festival.
The evening events were opened by Alastair McIntosh – author, broadcaster & activist who spoke about his involvement in the story of the Roineabhal quarry. Renowned natural history photographer Laurie Campbell gave an evening presentation of some of his latest work, as well as running two photography masterclasses during the week. Every year these workshops have been massively oversubscribed, and this year was no exception! Biologist and author John Love gave a presentation about Hebridean naturalists.
The opening Saturday saw the return of the Raft Race in East Loch Tarbert. Six teams took part, along with a good turnout of spectators, enjoying a barbeque put on by the Harris Hotel. Congratulations to the winning team “The Bolts.”
The weather conditions during the week meant it was perfect for the activities taking place on the water – particularly the Sea Kayaking in West Loch Tarbert and the powerboat tours of Loch Seaforth, provided by the Scaladale Centre.
The festival week also heralded Segway Hebrides’ first venture down to Harris – they operated for two days running Segway Trekking trips up and down Glen Miavaig, to the North Harris Eagle Observatory.
Terry Abraham’s films were showcased at the festival. “Life of A Mountain: Scafell Pike” and “The Caringorms in Winter” were both screened at the Tarbert Community Centre, the latter being introduced by Chris Townsend.
Another new set of events this year were a set of Mountain Training Association accredited Hill & Mountain Skills Awards courses , being run by the Outdoor Learning team from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Participants were treated to some pretty special wildlife sightings through the week – right at the end of the Eagle Walk, a Sea Eagle came and did an incredibly low fly-over right above the group, obviously very curious. A Minke Whale and porpoises were sighted off Scalpay during the walk out to the lighthouse, and on the Community Walk on Saturday, an otter ran right past the whole group by the path through Glen Cravadale.
There was also a very good turnout for the festival dance held on the Friday night at the Tarbert Community Centre. Music was provided by Stornoway’s celtic rock band “Rock Island Line” keeping the party going until the small hours of the morning!
Overall attendance was pretty much equal to last year (around 560 people), but there was an increase in the number of people who had specifically come to Harris for the week during the festival – approximately 40 people, up from 25 the previous year. This is a pretty significant figure, seeing as one of the main aims of the festival is to provide a boost to tourism at the end of the season.
The North Harris Trust would like to thanks everyone who attended, and all the organisations who supported the festival. Also, thanks goes to John Muir Trust, Marine Harvest and Bòrd na Gàidhlig for funding the event.
If you have any ideas for next year’s festival, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com. Keep an eye on Facebook, and www.harrismountainfestival.com for updates. Hope to see you all next year!