Tarbert Circular via Laxadale Lochs & Rhenigidale (Harris)

11 02 2012

One summer, while staying at Tarbert, the ferry port on Harris, I decided to have a non-mountain walk as the cloud was pretty low. While driving to the Isle of Scalpay one evening, I’d been intrigued by the track I’d seen leading up over the high moor after the Laxadale (Lacasdale) Lochs. When I got back to my B&B, I found the track led to the famous Rhenigidale which used to be the most remote village in Britain and where there is a now a Gatliffe Trust Youth Hostel.

I worked out a 14 mile circular route which would bring me back to Tarbert while visiting Rhenigidale, the Scriob and Laxadale Lochs. Seven miles of this would be on small roads but I personally don’t mind that if there isn’t much traffic. I must have seen a couple of cars on the whole walk – what a nice change when you come from somewhere with such crowded roads as England!


Tarbert

After a good breakfast, I set off up the road heading east out of Tarbert for Kyles Scalpay. After two miles of road walking along the coast you reach the track heading straight ahead up the hillside at a right-hand bend. It heads off immediately uphill, climbing to a height of 720 feet in the first mile or so. To the left are two peaks, the first unnamed and the second Trollamul – for very little extra effort, I could have bagged them but unfortunately didn’t. The weather may have had a bearing on this decision as it varied from very heavy rain to very hot sun with nothing between the two options – just straight from very wet back to very hot. Quite inconvenient clothing-wise – in the end I decided being very wet was preferable to roasting in waterproofs and stowed them away – anyway, I soon dried out in the hot sun.

From the high point of the moorland track the village of Rhenigidale was visible, a couple of miles away across Loch Trollamarig. I’d read about the route I was on and was a little worried about the vertiginous-sounding ‘Scriob’ – the steep descent of the path to the loch. As I started to descend from the moor-top, I took the left-hand fork in the path to head towards it. In less than a mile, I was at the top of the tight zig-zag down the extremely steep hillside – quite a view but not scary. Loch Trollamarig was a very narrow inlet at this point and it, and Glen Trollamarig, looked extremely scenic.


The Top of The Scriob

I was soon at the foot of The Scriob and crossed the river feeding into the inlet via a small bridge. It was then an extremely pleasant ramble round a headland and a small bay before the final rise to Rhenigidale village. I was fascinated to see this poor house and all that was left of it!


Chimneys!

I’d also been having a good study of the peak of Toddun as I passed around the end of it as it’s an extremely spectacular-looking steep and narrow peak which doesn’t look easy of access but I’m dying to give it a go.


Toddun from the main road to Lewis – you can see my later road coming down from the left of it and running below the hillside

I called briefly at the village before turning about and heading off up the road back inland to the main road. The long, gradual pull up to the road summit yielded even more views of Toddun as I passed the innovatively-named Lochs Beag and Mor (little and big lochs). The road then sloped down gently to the top of the tight bends of the steep descent to Maruig where there was a beautiful abandoned cottage by the shore – I’d love to do it up and live there 🙂

In another half mile, as the road bends right to ascend the hill to the main road, a track strikes off left for Laxadale Lochs. The track, climbing gradually all the way, heads west for around half a mile and then turns sharply south for the lochs. There is yet more ascent to just above 400 feet and then a long, gradual descent, across quite wet and boggy ground, to the lochs, passing under Sron an Toisteir (fondly translated/named by me as ‘The Nose of the Toaster’ as I have no idea what ‘toisteir’ means 😉 ).

The route along the loch shore is extremely pleasant and there is lots of birdlife to watch if you like that kind of thing – it is also a fishery and I believe boats are available for hire locally. At a very narrow isthmus of the northern loch, there is a bridge across if you want to visit the other side. The southern part of the loch has a few very small islands in it.

All too soon, the path turns to a landrover track which heads back up, in a mile, to the road back to Tarbert. As I’d had a hard day the day before, walking a few miles in very soft sand across the beach to Toe Head, my knees decided at the start of the climb back to the road that they’d completely had enough and I started limping – unusual for me!


Toe Head & Beach

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10 responses

5 03 2012
Malcolm

Not looked on here for a long time…
This looks like a great route. If I ever manage to do any walking out here, I really fancy Todun, and this looks like a much more satisfying day than a quick up and down – cheers for the inspiration.

Having spent the best part of 6 months looking at a new water supply to Maaraig, it is nice to see some photos of Glen Laxdale. Despite the amount of time spent working on it, my only visit was looking out of a van window at Maaraig for 5 minutes in the howling rain!

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5 03 2012
mountaincoward

I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get more photos of Laxadale then – I think the weather took a nasty turn when I was passing through there looking at the photo I have got. It was a nice round and you could do a traverse of Toddun on the road back from Rhenigidale instead of following the road all the way as I did.

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16 02 2012
Across the Minch

Never heard of the zig zags called The Scriob before – where did you come across that? BTW my house is tucked away on the north side of Loch Mharaig – just outta shot on one of your images

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16 02 2012
mountaincoward

Do you mean where did I find out about The Scriob? It was a few years back now… I think it was in a little ‘local walks’ booklet in my B&B in Tarbert.

So your house isn’t that cute little house in my photo? I’d really love to do that one up and live there. But I was more Uist-based and so, if I ever do manage to move up to the islands, it will probably be to South Uist.
Carol.

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12 02 2012
fedup

I’ve found/googled a pic of Todun from the Reinigeadal path and what I presume is the SW face looks v steep & craggy defo one for a good day – Have you climbed it ? Too many hills, not enough time 😦 but added to the ever expanding list :). I hadn’t really looked at this area An Cliseam et al drawing my attention over the road – so thanks for the heads up Carol I’ll certainly consider these as a substitue.

Also your post made me follow your route on a the map and the shielings nearby at Moilingeanais also caught my eye – your ‘obelisk’ like chimneys a monument to different times.

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12 02 2012
mountaincoward

Nope, haven’t done Toddun yet but am really dying to. I could see ways up from the road leading onto the end of the Rhenigidale end of the ridge.

You’re young and fit 😉 You could do Toddun and Clisham together 😉
Carol.

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25 04 2012
fedupofuserids

Amazon delivered me a copy of the Cicerone – Walking on Harris & Lewis, apparently some of the shielings at Molingeanais have been restored to holiday retreats!

The Marilyns either side of Gleann Reonasgail on West Lewis also look good.

Cicerone – publish one on Uist & Barra in June which I’ll also pick up before I go.

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25 04 2012
mountaincoward

I look forward to your reports when you get back from the Hebs Simon!

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11 02 2012
fedup

Looks a good one for a claggy day & well worth doing for the view down Loch Trolamaraig. Thanks for the share.

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11 02 2012
mountaincoward

On a good day, you could nip over Toddun as well 🙂
Carol.

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