Posts Tagged ‘Ranger’

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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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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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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5th January: Red Deer

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We’ve been seeing plenty of Red Deer stags hanging around at various points along the Hushinish road over the last few weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!20141230_095719

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22nd November: Orcas!!

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On Saturday afternoon, a group of Orcas (Killer Whales) were seen in Loch Leosavay at Amhuinnsuidhe! One adult male (massive dorsal fin), and we believe an adult female and 3 calves. Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family. There is only a small population present in the Hebrides, ranging over large distances and constantly on the move. As a result, sightings are pretty rare. 

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7th November: Sea Eagles and Snow Buntings

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Three juvenile Sea Eagles seen from the road, flying about around Aird an Tolmachan this-morning. We’ve also had a few reports over the last couple of weeks of Snow Buntings being spotted – These distinctive little birds come down from the arctic circle to overwinter in the UK. 

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15th October: Bramblings

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There has been a large Brambling influx over the last few days with flocks of 30-45 seen at Tarbert, Leverburgh, Manish, and Leac a Li. Nice Scandinavian migrant rarely seen in treeless terrain – very unusual to see such large numbers here.

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2014 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival: Success!

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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.

Cleit Ard Guided Walk

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.

Above the clouds on the Clisham Horseshoe 2

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.

Sea Kayaking in West Loch Tarbert

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.

 On the Giolabhal Horseshoe

If you have any ideas for next year’s festival, please get in touch by emailing Keep an eye on Facebook, and for updates. Hope to see you all next year!

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20th August: Merlin

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On the Eagle Walk on Wednesday, as well as golden eagle sightings, we got a couple of brilliant sightings of Merlin out in Glen Vigidale. The UK’s smallest bird of prey, the Merlin nest in deep heather, usually in sheltered gulleys – so plenty of good habitat for them here on North Harris.

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24th July: Minke Whales!

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Yesterday on the Guided Walk out to Scalpay lighthouse, we were treated to sightings of a number of Minke Whales out in the Minch! The sea was totally flat/calm so it was really easy to spot everything on the water. Also plenty of Gannets, Guillemots and Gulls, as well as a Great Northern Diver and even a solitary Puffin fishing just off the lighthouse! What a day!


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