gordon stokes photography

Na Hearadh (Isle of Harris), Outer Hebrides

These photographs were all taken on the Southern part of the Isle of Harris, mainly around Luskentyre, Scarasta, Northton and the East coast

Luskentyre beach - Tràigh Losgaintir

What people call Luskentyre beach (or Losgaintir in gaelic) is actually two sea facing beaches and an estuary. Rosamol beach (to the North) and Seilebost (Sheileboist) beach (to the South) face the island of Taransay (Tarasaigh) while behind the dunes of each is an estuary that has filled with sand. According to the Ordnance Survey the estuary is Tràigh Losgaintir, but journalists seem to be thinking of the seaward facing ones.

Luskentyre beach, Rosamol, Seilebost, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Gordon Stokes
Seilebost and Rosamol beaches from the South

Luskentyre beach, Rosamol, Seilebost, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Gordon Stokes
From Seilebost to Rosamol

Luskentyre beach, Seilebost, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Gordon Stokes
Dunes - Seilebost beach

The weather was not exactly brilliant while I was there in 2015, though it could have been a lot worse. The ones below are from 2011 when it was a bit better.

Luskentyre beach towards Taransay and the Harris mountains

Harris, Luskentyre, Gordon Stokes

The two photos above was taken from Losgaintir graveyard. If you ever want to be reassured that graveyards can be beautiful, calming and positive places then go to the Outer Hebrides. They're nearly all on the west coasts because the land on the machair is soft (unlike the hard rock on the east coasts). They used special paths to take the dead from the villages on the east across the mountains. Read 'The Old Ways' by Robert Macfarlane to read about one from Geocrab towards Luskentyre.

Luskentyre Beach has acheived fame as the beach to go to in the Outer Hebrides, being listed in "top 50 beaches in the world" and suchlike. It has lovely views, and is gorgeous, but there are plenty of others that are about as good in their own way.

Its beauty, to my mind, is in the endless variety of colour in the sands, and the way the water constantly changes in the light as it flows over the sands on an outgoing tide. There's also a page of photos of the sands at Luskentyre, from the Hebrides page.

Scarasta beach and Northton (Tràigh Sgarasta and Tràigh an Toabh Tuath)

Scarasta beach runs for nearly two miles from the Golf Club to the hill named Caepabhal, and Toe Head (Gob an Tobha). Behind it is Taobh Tuath (Northton in English) with salt marshes and isolated freshwater lake, though I doubt the water is very fresh since it connects to the sea by sandbanks.

The freshwater lake behind Scarasta Beach

Scarasta beach looking towards Taransay - 30 minutes from sea mist to a bit better!

Scarasta beach looking towards Taransay

Northton has its own beaches on the South Side, facing North Uist (Uibhist a Tuath).
Northton beach, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Gordon Stokes
Tràigh na Cleabhaig (near Northton) facing Pabbay, Berneray and North Uist, North West of Northton

The East Coast

The East Coast of Harris has been variously described as the back of beyond and like the surface of the moon. Although it's the mainland facing side of the islands, a quick look at the map shows the east side to be the 'back', and besides St Kilda you can't get much further 'beyond' than Na H-Eileanan an Iar.

It's a land of rock and water, with some places where grass grows and a lot of bog. For the many people 'cleared' from the more fertile West Coast in the early 1800s it must have been truly awful. People had to survive on bare rock by making 'lazy beds' to grow crops from peat and seaweed which they brought in. "Lazy" is a bit of a misnomer, as they involved an incredible amount of work, but history tends to show that oppressors like to use euphemisms or complete misnomers. Even the dead had to be carried over the interior of the island to the West Coast, the only area it was possible to dig deep enough for a grave. The clearances, along with slavery and other outrages show just how inhumane those with excessive power can be.

Since the 1930s a road has been built along the coast, known as the 'golden road', apparently because it cost so much to build through this landscape. As for the surface of the moon, that's not so far fetched either. It was used for filming parts of "2001 - a space oddyssy". And all its rocks are over 3 billion years old, including some 4.3 billion year old Anorthosite, which is called Moon Rock as its what the moon is largely composed of. Some places boast a history, but along with small areas of North Lewis and parts of Labrador, the East Coast of Harris can claim the oldest history of all! It is like nowhere else I've been.

Looking to the Shiant Isles (Na h-Eileanan Mòra)

Looking towards Skye

Reeds in small loch


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© Gordon Stokes, 2011-15