Just 15 years ago, the Isle of Scalpay became the latest in a long line of smaller islands whose commerce and community received a big boost brought about by the opening of a bridge linking them to their larger neighbours.
Covering a compact 2.5 square miles in total, this little island is a hotbed of Hebridean industry – playing host to fisheries and fishing fleets across the centuries as well as being home to generations of artisanal makers producing items from Harris Tweed to Scalpay linens and even the traditional Scalpay jersey – knitted using only Harris wool.
Cross over to the island to see a thriving Hebridean community in action, and explore the land that these islanders love so much that they have managed to put up a strong resistance to the ever present problem of depopulation – with numbers holding steady and continuing to match those of more than a century ago.
Follow the circular walk through machair and moorland past the Eilean Glas lighthouse at the island’s eastern tip, taking care to watch out for wildlife such as seals, otters and even eagles along the way.
The lighthouse site itself is one of the original Northern Light Houses and as such dates back to 1789. However the original tower was replaced in the early 19th Century by a Stevenson structure, now painted in the traditional red and white stripe that has come to be known and loved equally by seafarers and lovers of seascapes.
If you prefer your exploration with less exertion, choose a scenic drive round the Scalpay roads, not missing the manse built on the site of the home that one provided shelter to Bonnie Prince Charlie as he fled after his defeat at Culloden.
Other highlights include the sheltered North and South Piers, which make the island so popular with fishing fleets and were once the preferred place to put ashore for many herring men of the Hebrides during the heyday of this island industry.
When you’ve discovered all that the great outdoors has to offer in the Scalpay area, then come along to the Community Shop and Cafe, where a warm welcome awaits with hot and cold refreshments on hand.
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