Returning from Lewis in the North to Harris in the South, and to our base in Northton, we took the Golden Road, avoiding the fertile Machair and white beaches of the West coast in favour of the barren landscape of the East.
Down this coastline the land is unforgiving, a thin covering of earth icing over the bedrock lying inches below the surface. It may be beautiful but few people would chose to scratch a living here, but then few had a choice after the forced evictions of the Clearances.
The single track strip of tarmac twisted around sheltered sea inlets, lochans full of water lilies, grey rocky outcrops and abandoned crofts; driving required full concentration and focus – why do you always meet an oncoming vehicle on a blind bend?
As we wound slowly on the weather closed in, obscuring our view, and the rain tipped down as it only can on Scotland’s West Coast. A quick glance at the map and we couldn’t believe our lack of progress South, having driven what seemed many miles and for over an hour.
With my mind tired after a full days driving we swapped seats. Polly drove and I gazed through the passenger window through the haze of rain at the passing landscape. It was the buildings that took my eye; signs of human habitation scattered down the coastline.
An old red telephone box, a long abandoned croft complete with decaying boat, a red tin roof, a wooden bridge crossing a brook, houses dotted along the coastline, the boat builders yard.
… And so every so often we stopped, and I took another photo, and ran back to the car to shelter from the rain.
Looking at the images afterwards, the thing that’s striking is the buildings’ temporary nature; the total lack of impact on the landscape. If a giant bent down and lifted them away, the land would be what it was a thousand years ago, and what it will be in another thousand years.
The only thing left would be the road, a permanent scar down the East Coast, a permanent reminder people once made their home here.