Our first ever guest blogger – Megan Mcintyre …
Life On the Isle of Harris
So, I’ve been living here in the Isle of Harris now for seven months, and I have just realised I’ve never written a post about why I’m here and whats kept me! This island has captured my soul, the lust for spontaneous and sporadic adventures has been calmed by Harris’ powerful embrace. I’m living harmoniously in a circle of protection; West Harris tucking me in at night with every crisp, blue wave kissing the white sands, whilst North Harris guarding me with its impressive mountain range – snow capped and standing tall by the weaving roads. I feel very cozy at home in the small village of Tarbert where I reside in ‘Dalhanna cottage’ with Mark and work at the Hotel Hebrides around five days a week.
For me it wasn’t a hard choice to extend my stay from the original 2/3 months I’d planned for a summer job. Life here is easy and simple, its a real community. I’ve learned to love waving at every person or car I pass walking the pavements, talking to everyone you pass no matter how small or quick the interaction, leaving the front door unlocked with no worries in the world, hearing folk stories around the bar told by the local legends, the weather changing so frequently you experience all the four seasons in a day, listening to the Gaelic language, dancing to ceilidh songs, exploring the land on any time free and really just everything that being here offers.
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the isles before moving unless maybe in my textiles class discussing the famous Harris Tweed. I applied for numerous summer jobs after returning penniless from Australia with the hope to explore more of the country I live in. I heard back instantly from the hotel and was asked to leave the next day; after researching the whereabouts (when I was called I thought it was somewhere in Devon!) I headed North with no idea what I was doing or what to expect. After one homeless night in the Isle of Skye (note to reader – book FAR in advance) and two long days of travel I arrived! From my first step off the boat Harris greeted me as warmly as the summer sun beating on my face, it was the same feeling as hugging an old friend after years apart. I feel that warmness even now in these cold, black winter months as the locals would say!
A typical day I’ll wake at six thirty in the morning (or more like attempt too!) run down to work which takes all of three minutes, serve breakfast and chat to the guests, travelers and workers residing in the hotel – every day at work is a little different and you never quite know who’ll walk in next. Everyday (bar Sunday’s – where all shops and transport will be closed to keep in line with Sabbath) at eleven am on the dot the old locals will come in for half an hour and drink as much whisky, Whyte & Mackay as they can before getting the bus back to their homes scattering all across Harris. I’ve never met such characters! They’re proud of me now as I’ll have each of their drinks ready for their arrival, they like that I’ve stayed on their land beyond summer, I’ll be sad to leave them but they won’t be forgotten. I’ll then work on till three and weather dependent I’ll go for a walk, write, do chores around the home, practice yoga, read or more recently go to the tiniest gym in the whole world which is in the local school. Some days I’ll also work here to as a second job, cleaning the school as another way to fund flights and adventures for New Zealand soon! Other days I’ll start work later and finish later, around ten pm but no matter the time I’ll eagerly run home to Mark waiting for me beside the fire with a well-needed hug, and maybe a delicious Harris gin.
We’re very lucky to have a cottage of our own, beside the water, I’ve never had a place to call my own home like this, I don’t know what can compare! I think Harris is explained well when I say our landlady is also the receptionist at the doctors and our spin class teacher! I feel even more lucky to have met Mark here, on such a small island. Everyday I wake up so happy and joyful no matter if the wild western isle gales are beating against the walls – beauty is everywhere. On our days off we like to explore with big walks, go on car rides to each corner of Lewis and Harris, run barefoot on the golden sands, play ukulele, cook good food or go out and eat good food and listen to live music – pretty much all the same things we’d do anywhere but here with far less civilization, a unique and unspoiled atmosphere, less pressure and more time.
I really can’t recommend experiencing the island for yourself enough. This place is magic, you’ll find again all the feelings you lost as a child – listening to stories about fairies, dragons and brave adventures. The warmth and comfort from the heart of the island will radiate through the fearsome biting winds and send a red heat to colour your cheeks. You’ll find yourself laughing more and any little worries in your mind drifting off with the ferry behind you. A new feeling of unshakable excitement is what you will discover as you lose yourself in the striking, elemental beauty of the land. Surrender to the freedom of a phone-less hand, to the no WiFi, no signal just memories ready to be captured and held forever. You’ll start to see again that the simple things in life truly are the best, warming cold hands by a peat-fueled fire with the flames of sunset flickering down to the Atlantic sea, the wind whistling in the air. Here I’ve found friends, discovered love and the island’s become home. I know where I go next I’ll carry a little bit of the western winds, the sunsets I’ve seen will light my eyes with warmth, and wherever I go Harris will be there in my heart.