WAKING THE BUTT OF LEWIS
By CHANTAL COOKE
Which do you prefer? Long sandy beaches, curving gently round to offer shelter from the wind, as they slope slowly towards the sea with the waves tickling their edges, or rugged cliffs and jagged rocks jutting up out of the water with the sea splitting onto a thousand droplets as it crashes against this immovable obstacle?
I am a rocks and sea spray girl.
But it doesn’t actually matter which you are – Lewis and Harris have both. And the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the island, is the perfect place to experience them.
Our walk starts near the beach – a classic golden crescent of sand surrounded by the wildflowers of the machair. As we head out across the grass, leaving the beach behind, the land rises slightly and rocks replace sand below us.
The coastline is jagged so each inlet offers a new view; rocks of varying shapes, waves creating foam patterns as they race forward, brightly coloured lichen clinging to volcanic stone.
There are lots of rabbits lolloping along in the grass disappearing down sandy holes. Nothing very unusual about that. But to see rabbits leaping from one bare rock to the other, the sea churning below them – well, that is something I haven’t seen before! They balance precariously on the tiny ledges looking as startled as always.
Beyond the rabbits stands a cormorant – its wings held wide like the Spirit of Ecstasy riding the gleaming bonnet of the Rolls Royce rocks below.
The Butt of Lewis is a descriptive place name – the land protrudes like a rather large derrière. This means that as you walk along the leading edge you get great views in all directions; across the grasses, out to sea, over the cliffs – and in the distance the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is our goal, but before we get there, there is still plenty to see. Looking down I watch half a dozen fulmars flying in low arcs around the rocks, their young fluffy chicks balanced on tiny ledges waiting for food. These graceful birds, with their distinct beaks and nasal passages, glide on the air and then come in to perch precariously on the minute lips of rock where they nest. And beyond the fulmars a group of gannets fly past. There is amazing wildlife everywhere you look.
The lighthouse has been on the Butt since 1862. It was manned by three Keepers and their families who lived there and were largely self-sufficient. It was automated in 1998 and is now remotely monitored from Edinburgh.
We may have been alone as we walked the Butt but at the lighthouse tourists are pulling up in their cars every few minutes. It’s clear there is an opportunity here for a tearoom with a constant stream of visitors and great views – but, as yet, no one has seen fit to grasp it.
The lighthouse isn’t the only thing attracting attention, far below in the water two seals are floating on their backs, every now and then tipping their flippers and disappearing into the clear water leaving a grey smudge visible as they swim.
With no tea to be had here, we head inland back towards Eoropie village where we stop at the whitewashed Eoropie tearoom for a cuppa and a slice of pecan and date cake.
The perfect end to a perfect walk.
Highlands & Islands Discovery – Self-guided drive and hike from MACS Adventure
This self-drive and hike trip is sure to appeal to all those who wish to embrace all that is dramatic, awe inspiring and unique about Scottish walking.
Distance: Walking up to 10 Miles per day
Duration: 14 Days and 13 Nights
Availability: March to October
Price: From £895 per person, which includes all accommodation, breakfast, detailed info pack & guidebook, and ferry crossings as per your itinerary. Flights/rail to and from starting point are not included, but Macs Adventure’s team can advise best value travel options at the time of booking. Car hire can be arranged if required. Macs Adventure has more than 200 walking trips around the UK & Europe, which can be tailor made according to level of fitness.
Macs Adventure: www.macsadventure.com or 0141 530 1950
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.