The idle seals of Taransay
Just a few hundred yards from the main houses on Taransay, there is a sheltered cove that is home to our resident seal population. If you follow a zig-zag route behind various boulders, and hug certain ravines, you can get to a large rock face that abuts the shore. A tentative climb up this rock will bring you to its crest, and if you slowly peep over, you can be within a few feet of dozens of seals.
This colony certainly lead a good life on Taransay. Protected by law from their main predator (us), and facing little threat from Orcas, they are pretty much the ‘alpha dogs’ of the food chain in the Sound of Taransay. An offshore reef teams with fish — Pollock, Mackeral and Colley – providing ready meals in any season. This is important, as they are reported to eat half their body weight in fish every day. The pups are growing nicely, and after a lively winter, our resident population now have the mild Hebridean summer to look forward to.
The joy of proximity to the seals does not usually last long. One of these canny creatures will spot you, and as if by a hive mind, the colony will galumph into the ocean with a splash. There, they will remerge from their plunge, and glance back at you from the water with their dark, almost sentient, eyes. Their bristling moustaches and imperious looks remind one of a gin-soaked Raj-era colonel, and you half expect them to holler, ‘Oi! Get off my island!’
Avoid Earthquakes: come to Harris
There have been some musings in previous mails about the powers of the Atlantic, which on any given day will wash up on the Estate headland in modes ranging from a benign washing to a furious pounding. In any other place, residents would be fearful that the coast would be bashed up and washed into the sea. Not so here. Certainly the sands are ever-shifting, but the Atlantic has a tough opponent in the Hebrides: Lewisian Gneiss (pronounced ‘nais’). This is one of the hardest and oldest rocks in the world.
The unititated may ask, but are not all rocks old? Not so, is the reply. Our gneiss was created about 3 billion years ago, in the pre-Cambrian era a mere 1.5 billion years since the earth coalesced around the sun. The rock was formed under great pressure maybe 20 miles beneath the earth has taken this time to rise to the surface, the slow pace being testimony to the stable position of the Hebrides. We are far from the edge of the Eurasian tectonic plate, meaning, as one geologist opined, ‘it is an interesting place because geologically, not much has happened here for a long time.’
Uneventfulness has the bonus of stability, which makes Harris one of the least likely places to experience an earthquake. And of course a magnet for geologists, who occasionally come in big groups, armed with little hammers, to poke about and ponder over the wonders of this rock distinguished by its light and dark bands. Of course it is a wonderful feature that The Broch and The Rock House are made from materials that have been proven durable from 3 billion years of ‘market-testing.’ And it is tough stuff: about 3 times as hard as granite. It took a fair dose of explosives to blast out the foundations, and get our stock of Gneiss to then build both buildings. But the next time you come to Harris, and go from a coastal scramble over the lovely striated Gneiss rocks, ponder how long it will take for the ocean to wear it down. A while yet, we think.
Give Sporting a Try
Harris has always drawn people for its field sports, be it fishing, shooting, or just enjoying seeing the rich array of wildlife on offer. We are well placed for all these activities on the estate, as it is the home for the Laxdale system, (which is very productive in salmon and sea trout), Taransay island, (with its resident deer population), and various other tracts of land which avail themselves for grouse, snipe and woodcock. There are innumerable small lochs, where one can bag a trout, and wide tracts of land for walking freely and just soaking up the wondrous landscape. Our philosophy at the estate is very simple: in such a delicate habitat as Harris, these activities must be well managed and sustainable. So over the years, we have invested in various conservation projects, to try and grow the flora and fauna, and develop a robust habitat for all creatures. For example, planting trees along our river system has brought in insects, which carnivorous fish enjoy, as well as birds. It can be challenging to get trees to grow on the wind-blasted slopes of Harris, but where we have them established, we have seen a great knock-on in the variety of wildlife attracted.
It is from this approach, that we are developing the sporting on the estate. Our new manager, Steve Woodhall, has a strong pedigree, and his conservation credentials are very high. We invite you to look at our various sporting packages on offer, be it fishing or stalking, and see if you might want to pick up a rod on your visit to the estate. We will provide tuition to the initiated, and support for the converted.