Harris is an incredible place with unbelievably beautiful coastline. It’s the Sophia Loren of Isles – amazing curved beaches and sublime profiles.
We had a number of impressive encounters on Harris. The first when we went to the home of Harris Tweed weaver, Donald John Mackay to interview him and film the weaving process on his foot-powered loom. Donald lives in a stunning, but remote area near Luskentyre beach. The interview went well and ended just as some Australian tourists arrived to look at the tweed making process and it wasn’t until we had gone into the field above his cottage to get some exterior shots that our first encounter with nature happened. It was, more specifically an encounter with a ram that took an instant dislike to our Panasonic camera. It was either to that or my hat.
Now, I love all animals, but the look the ram gave me chilled me to my core and seemed to be full of malice and intent. I have only ever seen that kind of look once before, dear reader, when I stupidly stuck my fingers in my ears when my dear wife was trying to tell me off for something I stupidly considered minor. Something I will never do again. Anyway, this ram decided it was going to sort out Andy and I once and for all and started slowly circling us like a tiger shark.
Andy was filming the cottage down the hill below us, so I did what any normal friend would do and quietly walked around, without saying anything, to put him and the camera between me and the ram that was now inhaling, nostrils flaring like a four-legged Hannibal Lecter. The ram saw through this simple defensive manoeuvre and circled around in a spiral that was bringing it in worryingly closer.
Again I repositioned behind Andy, who had still not noticed that he was now the focus of Hannibal’s lowered head and pointy horns. I remember reading somewhere that if you are unfortunate enough to be chased by an angry rhino in Africa, you are advised to run as fast as you can, whilst pulling off items of clothing and dropping them, causing the rhino, whose sense of smell is far stronger than its eyesight, to stop and sniff them. A vision of us arriving, panting in our underwear in Donald’s workshop with shocked Australians looking on, flashed before me. As I was still behind him, I decided that now would be the best time to mention the ungulate threat that Andy faced. His first words were “Yikes! How did he get so close?”
We made a tactful retreat with the two of us trying to comically remain behind both each other and a slim and worryingly lightweight tripod, whilst walking backwards down the hill to Donald’s cottage workshop.
The second impressive natural encounter was a visual delight. As we were about to leave Luskentyre beach, the sun came out, but a few hundred metres away a monsoonal downpour was deluging the landscape across to a distant farm, resulting in a pair of the brightest rainbows either of us had ever seen.
The Outer Hebrides seem to specialise in multi seasonal weather at the same time. Summer on one side of the road and autumnal hail on the other!