Round Harris – East to West Odyssey

We depart from East Loch Tarbert Marina at 9.30am and pass the beautiful coastline of the Bays of Harris with its rocky inlets and the picturesque crofting villages which relied on the sea for their survival through fishing. So much beautiful wildlife can be seen here from seals and otters to porpoises, dolphins and other cetaceans. Following the coastline round to Leverburgh we pass by the village of Rodel and the famous medieval St Clement’s church.

We stop at Leverburgh for lunch where you can try the renowned The Butty Bus – a tardis like wee gem which serves hot soup, filled rolls, fish and chips, tea and coffee. Passengers may also bring their own packed lunch.

After lunch we depart Leverburgh, An t-Ob, and head into Caol na Hearadh(Sound of Harris), the arm of the sea which separates Harris from North Uist. It is full of islands, rocks and sand shoals. We pass Easaigh (Ensay), a low green island which was once an important farm. A sand-blow on the northern shore is uncovering sites of Iron Age occupation, as well as graves from the Viking era, about 1000 years ago.

Further to the west is Pabaigh (Pabbay) a conical island which was so fertile it was once known as the granary of the Hebrides. It was the stronghold of the Macleods of Harris and the ruins can still be seen of the old castle. In the sixteenth century the warden of the castle was Kenneth Campbell – a direct ancestor of your skipper Angus!

Moving on, Ceapabhal (Chaipaval) (365m) is the mountain on your starboard (right hand) side and on its shore is the Teampull, a ruined medieval church which probably dates from pre-Norse times. It is on the site on an iron-age Dun (fort / watch tower) which would have commanded views of the whole Atlantic approaches to Harris. Offshore is the rocky island of Copaigh (Copay), the only isle in the Sound of Harris to have a breeding colony of puffins.

Passing through Caolas Tarasaigh (Sound of Taransay) we have the spectacular beaches and machairs of West Harris leading on to headland of Aird Nisabost where Clach MhicLeoid (Macleod’s Stone) stands. This was an old rallying place for the Macleod clan, although the stone itself dates much further back, to the Bronze Age of 3000 years ago. Off Aird Nisabost is Bogha Uspaig, a rock which breaks the surface at low tide, and is named after Uspak, one of the Viking rulers of the Hebrides.

On the port (left) side is the Isle of Tarasaigh (Taransay), although it really consists of two islands, joined by a narrow strip of machair. Here there will be 2 hours allocated to land and explore. At the southern point of the main island was the old village of Paibil which was the main settlement until the last inhabitants left in 1970s. Above the shore east of Paibil there is another look-out Dun and beyond that the village of Raah with the spectacular sandpit of Corran Raah, running out towards the Harris shore at Losgaintir (Luskentyre).

From Taransay the route takes a turn to the east into Loch a Siar, below the cliffs at Beinn Losgaintir. At the head of the loch, below the peak of the Cliseam (799m) is the red-brick chimney which is all that that remains of the whaling station at Bunabhainneader which is one of the few Gaelic place names in Harris, where almost all the major names are Norse.
Heading into West Loch Tarbert we pass the villages of Biasdail and Steiocleit which were once home to small communities, but now no longer occupied.

Our tour ends back in West Loch Tarbert, half a mile from our departure point in East Loch Tarbert.


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Northton Chapel, Pabbay and Shillay in the background
Macleod’s Stone with Taransay in the background
An Otter, well camouflaged in the seaweed
Trio of Oyster Catchers out for a stroll

East to West Odyessy Tour Schedule

Depart: : Marina in East Loch Tarbert at 9.30 pm

Return: : West Loch Tarbert, half a mile from our departure point, at approximately 5.30pm.

Tour Duration – 8 hours
Cost – £130 adults – Children 14 and under £95
What’s included:Tea, coffee, soft drinks and home baking.

See the full schedule

Wildlife to look out for:

In the Sea

  • Minke Whales
  • Dolphins
  • Porpoise
  • Seals

In the Air

  • Kittiwakes
  • Guillemots
  • Razorbills
  • Golden Eagles
  • Sea Eagles

On the Shore

  • Puffins
  • Seals