From the car park follow the signposted path as it makes its way steadily up the hillside. The ascent of this stony but well constructed path can seem relentless at times, but console yourself with the thought that at least you are not a Reinigeadal child, trudging back home from a long day at school in Tarbert - a common scenario in the years before the village was connected to the road network. You also don’t have to do this section of the walk three times a week, unlike generations of superfit posties.
Take your time, pausing regularly to admire the views of South Harris and the Clisham, and soon you will reach a large cairn marking the bealach. A short way further on a small sign indicates a branch path to the right. If you have plenty of time (and stamina) you may wish to follow this down to the shore and the beautiful deserted settlement of Molinginis. The detour adds two hours and a 760ft climb to the day.
If you choose this option – and it is highly recommend, as this lush green settlement with its renovated ruins is a beautiful and atmospheric spot – return uphill to the path junction. Don’t be tempted to continue from Molinginis onwards along the shore line.
The path marked on the map does exist, but it is small and makes some precarious crossings of burns, where one slip will send you off down the hillside into the waters of Loch Trolamaraig.
Back on the main path, continue easily on for a short distance until you round a corner and the ground suddenly disappears beneath your feet. This is the start of the Scriob, an astonishingly steep zig zag path that would not look out of place in the Alps. If you are impressed by its precipitous turns (and you will be) have a look on YouTube when you get home for an impressively deranged mountain bike descent by Scaladale Outdoor Centre boss Sean Ziehm-Stephen.
After crossing a wooden bridge at a stony beach the path soon forks. Take the upper branch and as you wander along the northern shore of Loch Trolamaraig keep a look out for wildlife: porpoises are often seen in this sheltered loch and both golden and sea eagles are regular visitors.
Passing a lonely holly tree and a small bridge, the ruins of a deserted township, Gearraidh Lotaigear can be clearly seen on your right. Down by the shore look out for an unusual shaped building – an old store -once roofed with an upturned boat.
Leaving this fertile little oasis continue along the path to the tarmaced road. Pop down to Reinigeadal if you have time, or stay the night at the lovely Gatliff Trust hostel. Otherwise turn left and walk easily uphill, passing under the steep slopes of Todun to your left. The road you are walking along was only built in 1990, making Reinigeadal the last coastal community in Britain to be connected to the main road network. Before it was built, the only way in and out of the village was either by boat or on foot – usually along the track you have just walked.
After passing a couple of lochs the road drops down the shores of Loch Màraig – a small inlet off the much mightier Loch Seaforth. Otters are common along this rocky stretch of coastline. Just before you reach the head of the loch, a path on the left is signposted to Urgha. Follow this well-constructed old track as it heads over the low pass of Bràigh an Ruisg before sweeping down to the west bank of the Laxdale Lochs. Follow the path back to the main road or – if you are feeling adventurous – make your way over an old weir to the north shore, where a new path takes you back to the start.
Distance: 17km/ 11 miles
Height climbed: 729m/ 2,391ft
Time: 6 hours (with plenty of time for stops)
Start point: Car park just after the new Laxdale river bridge, on the Tarbert - Scalpay road
Staying safe whilst walking is mostly a matter of common sense:
- Check the weather forecast before you set out
- Take appropriate clothing - this walk follows good paths and a minor road, but boots are still recommended. A coat is almost always advisable
- Take care - especially descending the steep slopes of the Scriob
- Carry water and a bite to eat
- Always tell someone where you are going.
Scottish Outdoor Access Code
In Scotland we have some of the best access laws in the world - we have the right to walk on most land provided we behave responsibly and respect the rights of others. Full information on access rights and responsibilies can be found at [http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com|www.outdooraccess-scotland.com|click here}.
If you keep to the following guidelines you won’t go far wrong:
- Do not disturb livestock or wildlife
- Keep dogs under control, especially at lambing time
- Leave gates as you found them
- Take all your litter home
Mick Blunt runs the island based company, Hidden Hebrides, offering specialist walking holidays and customised day or half day tours.
The tours are relaxed, with plenty of time for enjoying the wonderful views.
If you would like to get off the beaten track visit the Hidden Hebrides website for more information at www.hiddenhebrides.co.uk.
Mick can also be contacted by phone on 07724150015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.