Wild Moment: Isabel Berry

Published: 26th July 2018

"After the long, dry spell my footsteps swish and crackle through the dried grasses and across crusted bog..."

The air outside my tent is warm and still. It’s intensely peaceful, with the lazy, rhythmic sound of the waves breaking on the white sand just below. Barefoot, I step across the short grass of the machair, the glassy strands of the marram grass scratching at my soles, and slip into the powdery soft sand. There is a warm pink to the sky across the bay, with the hills of the Frith Losgaintir standing out, shadowy in the 2am light. I’d like to stay awake and absorb the stillness and beauty but, despite the light skies and already singing skylarks, it’s too early.

Hours later my feet are crunching up the old road past Laxdale Cottage, tucked away behind a stand of trees and its lily-sprinkled lochan. I gain height quickly through the mosaic of rock outcrops across the valley. Turning north, I forge my way up through the tufted grasses, bog cottons and low heather on the skirt of the Frith Losgaintir. After the long, dry spell my footsteps swish and crackle through the dried grasses and across crusted bog.

Isabel Berry view east from Uabahl Mor

^ It’s a good effort to gain Uabhal Mor through this pathless terrain, but my reward is a visual journey of discovery, as I take in the crumpled east coast of Harris, the outline of Skye, the smudge of the mainland to the north, Scalpay and the North Harris hills.

Isabel Berry N Harris hills from Ceann Reamhar

^ Ceann Reamhar stands away under the deep shadow of a cloud, but the vegetation up here is shorter and with the best of the climb done, I am soon swinging my way up its rounded flanks to gain the summit in time for a breezy late lunch with a panorama into the clefts of the North Harris hills.

Isabel Berry view south from Beinn Dhubh

^ A quick descent over peat hags, an easy climb and I am striding across the summit of Beinn Losgaintir and on for the final steep pull onto the rounded hulk of Beinn Dhubh.  I dive deeply into the spreading view, reaching the end of the ridge to gain the fullest sweep; the deep-cut valleys and handsome ridges of the Harris hills and a smattering of islands in Loch a Siar. Ahead, is the shapely cone of Taransay and to the south, the dazzling turquoise waters of Losgaintir and Sheilebost, punctuated by the splash of gold in the distance which marks the sweep of Scarista bay.

I sit for a long time, feasting my senses. Eventually my feet lead me back over the top of Beinn Dhubh and losing height quickly, down the deep and pocketed grasses into the corrie to its south, along the quiet little road on the edge of Traigh Losgaintir where the high tide covers the vast expanse with a layer of silvery water.

Isabel Berry Frith Losgantair from Horgabost

^ Before long I am at my tent again, gazing back up at the handsome ridge of the Frith Losgaintir, now incredibly imprinted – still – in my mind.

Isabel Berry at Berneray

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