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" Outer Hebrides 2019 - 3 - Bunavoneader and Reinigeadal "


Date & start time:    Monday 13th May 2019.     ( NB 141 043)

Location of Start :   Bun Abhainn Eadarra, (Bunavoneader), Tarbet, Isle of Harris, UK.

Stayed at :                Number 4 Harris, self-catering for the week.

Places visited :       Bunavoneader and the 'new' road to Reinigeadal.

Walk details :           A morning walk, then one to Reinigeadal, 2.5 hrs, 4 mls, 1350ft of ascent.

With :                         Anne and Andrew, Ann and our dogs, Dylan and Dougal.

Weather :                 Fine weather with a slight breeze, overcast to start our Reinigeadal walk.

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A morning spent exploring locally and giving the dogs an extra outing,

then a trip in the afternoon with Anne and Andrew to explore an old walking route on the east coast.

First a leisurely breakfast, though we had been awake in the night as sunrise this far north was about 4.30 am.

Three cheers for blackout blinds on the bedroom windows, which worked a treat once we closed them properly !


Breakfast time view of Bunavoneader Bay once the curtains were drawn back.

Outside, the wider view . . . time for a walk locally to see the sights.

- - - o o o - - -

The village of Bunavoneader is famous for the finest and best preserved example of a shore-based whaling station in the UK.

It was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1992 and the site is now owned by The North Harris Trust

The chimney down by the water's edge, originally one of three, stands testament to the industry that once thrived here.

The dogs and I have walked across from the cottage to explore the site.

A Norwegian family, the Herlofsens, ran the successful whaling station here at Bunavoneader between 1903 and 1920.

It was subsequently bought by Lord Leverhulme in the 1920's, partly to control the pollution which he thought was damaging fish stocks

and also as a viable commercial enterprise, but it closed in 1929 due to over fishing of the whales and also the falling price

of whale oil, sold to light the lamps of the nation.   Lamps were now using electricity and paraffin instead.

These great slabs would have been the bases of heavy machinery on the site.

The whaling station re-opened in 1950, again developed by the Norwegians, but the operation became uneconomic once more

and the company went into liquidation in June 1953.

- - - o o o - - -


Many of the whales were caught far out to sea

and then towed into Village Bay on St. Kilda.

When carcasses were ready they were

towed back to Bunavoneader for processing.

This was the wharf where the boats drew alongside.


The River Eadarra had been dammed to provide water and electricity,

and the other boats that took some of the whale products to Glasgow

returned with coal for the whaling fleet

and to run other shore based equipment.


Many thanks to the Virtual Hebrides website for information.


- - - o o o - - -

The old slipway and steps that used to be at the heart of this gruesome trade.

Looking back at the slipway from the base of what would have been the wooden pier that reached out into deeper water.

On the hillside above, one of the few remaining old buildings . . . and the round base of an old boiler installation.

I walk up the green track that was once the main road access into the site.

Below is the back of the earlier building with the round boiler installation alongside.

- - - o o o - - -


Dotted around the site were old bricks

which had been imported from Glasgow to build

the sheds and chimneys of the old works.


It is thought that the second building below

was built at a later date from the bricks of one of the old chimneys.


- - - o o o - - -

A granite monument still stands in remembrance of "Sam", the Norwegian owner's faithful dog, who died in 1907.

Dylan and Dougal sat patiently by the side while I took the photo.

I had notices a pipe in the field near the cottage.
It ended down on the whaling station . . .
. . . so I traced it back up the hillside.

It appears to have been repaired several times along its route.

At the top of the hill above the houses

the Eadarra river had been dammed to collect the water for the pipe feeding the works below.

Today there's a new dam just a little further upstream.

- - - o o o - - -


This dam is not for the redundant works site,

but for a new hydro-electricity power station

located further down the hill next to the road.


The normal river water flows through this picturesque spout

and maintains a minimum level of water in the river.


Once the water levels rises, the river overflows the whole width of the weir

and much of it flows through the porous curved cover seen in the last photo.


That water is diverted down through a new pipe

to drive the turbine below and generate power for the grid.

Clever design and fully automatic.


- - - o o o - - -

The pipeline follows the line of the access track . . .

. . . and in wet weather the water drives the equipment inside the new turbine house.

History and modern life explored and I'm back down at the road next to the cottage . . . an interesting circular walk

- - - o o o - - -

- - - o o o - - -


Subsequently I've researched the old whaling station

and found this plan (my red notes as the original is hard to read).


It is only when you see the old photos

does the scale and substance of the whaling operation

really fall into perspective.


- - - o o o - - -

I have reproduced some of the old photos here . . .

The whaling station, jetties and pier.

The carcasses of the dead whales drawn onto shore . . .
. . . where they were cut and sent for processing.

The whales were processed here and turned into oil, soap, margarine, fertiliser, bone meal, cattle food, and dried and salted meat.

The scale of the operation is evident here.
A later photo (?) of two of the whaling boats anchored in the bay.

Off the Scottish shores minke whales, Orcas and Pilot whales can still be seen, but the Fin, Sei and Right whales that once made up

most of Bun Abhainn Eadarra’s whaling catch have sadly almost disappeared from the waters of the North Atlantic.

The boat crews that hunted the whales were Norwegian.

The carcasses were usually processed by local people, which provided welcome local employment,

but many older islanders can still remember the horrific smells that emanated from the whaling factory.

Lady visitors by the look of the clean clothes.
"The house of the Station Manager / Director, photographed in 1954"

- - - o o o - - -

Many of the old photos of the site and some information

has been reproduced from the Historic Scotland site run by

for which I am very grateful.

- - - o o o - - -

- - - o o o - - -

Back to the present . . .

Lunch completed we drove up to Anne and Andrew's house.

They will join us for the afternoon and show us one of the older walking routes on the island.

We headed a short way north till we met Loch Seaforth then turned down this minor road to the sea.

The main road we are on is the red one on the map below . . . and the smaller road the yellow one.

O.S. 1:50k circa 1985.
Digital O.S. circa 2015 with our walking route shown.

The maps on the left that we were using for our holiday were the same ones as we used for our 1980's Hebridean adventure.

The mountains remain the same . . . only some of the roads have changed . . . spot the differences.

Much to Anne and Andrew's delight, the road we are about to drive didn't exist in 1985 . . . it is the road to Reingeadail.

Loch Mor as we drive over the windy pass.
The modern road follows a straight route cut through the rocks.
Our walk will follow the old path back towards Tarbet.
We'll just walk the first couple of miles to Glen Trolamalaig.

Before the road was built this would be one of the two routes out of Reinigeadal, this path heading west for the town of Tarbet.

The other would head north along the route of the new road towards Maraig and Stornaway.

It is still within living memory that this path was used on a more or less daily basis by the postman from Tarbet.

The old houses at Linginis.

The folk from these homes were offered accommodation in Tarbet and the houses have now fallen into disrepair.

A climb up and over the flanks of the Todun mountain . . .

. . . and we're looking down on Loch Trolamalaig.

The rapid descent is made easier by a series of long zig-zags . . . the path beyond to Tarbet can be seen climbing up the other side.

The dogs lead the way down to the beach, though Dougal is coming back to help us along the way.

A well maintained footbridge spans the small river.

Dougal is intrigued by the sea and the waves.

We stop for a short while on the rocks at the back of the beach.  Beside Andrew are the outlines of more old houses in the grass.

These and the houses at Linginis would probably been homes of people forcibly cleared from productive agricultural lands during " The Clearances".

Not the easiest places to live. We'll turn for home now after our short break.

Heading back on our return route.

An inquisitive sheep appears from the other side of the rock . . . to note our passing.

In view of the deer fencing keeping his competitors out . . . perhaps he's claiming the title "Monarch of the Glen".

Dougal keeps a watchful eye on him as we move on.

A lovely shingle beach . . . pity the big boulder stops you landing a decent sized boat.

As we walk on the sun makes a welcome appearance once again . . .

. . . but the ruins of Linginis township look as forlorn as before.

Some of the old lazy-beds where folks scratched a living growing crops.

Supplementary fishing would also have been an important part of the life of a Crofter.

All that remains of a more modern home that Anne said used also to be a small shop.

When the village was cleared all the houses were made uninhabitable. 

Any good fabric may have been removed and re-used elsewhere, the weather has done the rest.

Back past the tree . . . Andrew having taken a higher route to catch a different photo.

Last one out please shut the gate !

From our parking space we drive the last hundred yards down to the end of the new Reinigeadal road.

It was constructed to create better access and to maintain the viability of the village in modern times.

Houses like this would not have been built if the postman still delivered mail by pony and the food and supplies only arrived by sea.

Time moves on !

Thanks to Anne and Andrew for suggesting this fine little walk.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Panasonic Lumix Tz60 Compact, or my Panasonic Gx8 mid-range System Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . a old map and the ability to read the landforms in order to bring it up to date.

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Previous walk - Outer Hebrides 2019 - 2 - Bunavoneader

A previous time in the area - Sorry, none on file for this area . . . it's all new to us.

Next walkOuter Hebrides 2019 - 4 - Horgabost