Yes! That’s correct. Unrestricted travel to, from and around Tiree by imagination. Let us take you to the West End of the island to Lag na Cleite, or as it more commonly known ‘Happy Valley’. Due to the current restrictions amidst a lockdown on all but essential travel across the whole of the UK, we will travel there today in our imaginations.
C.S. Lewis, author of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, knew the value of both reason and imagination. In ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy discover a wardrobe in Professor Digory Kirke’s house that leads to the magical land of Narnia. Well you can try stepping into you wardrobe, but I think it will have to be an imaginary wardrobe, to take you to Lag na Cleite – ‘Happy Valley’ – another very special place.
I have always maintained that I cannot picture places or things, yet I can often describe them in detail. So with the aid of some photographs let me stimulate your imagination and take you to Happy Valley. We have turned to our photo library that has been built up over the years, as we are restricting ourselves at present to walking around the crofting township of Scarinish and venturing no further than Gott and Kirkapol.
This walk to and from the valley was probably the very first that we did after moving to Tiree in August 2013 and in the intervening years we have taken various visitors there. Directions for the walk are clearly set out in in the booklet ‘TIREE WALKS’, 12 Walks Through An Island Landscape.
Today as we set out the sun is shining. Although Tiree is often referred to as the sunshine island, as it is one of the sunniest places in the UK, do remember it is not always like this. Oh! You haven’t forgotten a good strong pair of shoes or boots? We have got to step over a wee burn, cross pebbles and if you are feeling adventurous explore some natural arches and hidden coves.
Our walk commences at the Hynish Centre and from there it is a short walk uphill to Hynish House. All around is evidence of the construction of the Skerryvore Lighthouse. Hynish was the shore base for the building and operating of the Lighthouse. There is a great wee museum at Hynish and it is an ideal place to visit if the weather is unsettled or worse still raining.
For much of the walk there are views of the lighthouse about thirteen miles distant. On clear days you can even make out the skerry from which the lighthouse derives its name. This particular skerry is a historic hazard to ships at sea.
From Hynish House we follow the track through a couple of fields to Millport House. To the left is the open sea and to your right is Ben Hynish which is Tiree’s highest hill at 142m (463 feet).
An Càrnan Mòr is the name of the highest point on Ben Hynish Here is the Radar Station often referred to as the ‘Golf Ball.’. It is one 1 of 23 main NATA radar stations in the UK. It scans the airspace out into the Atlantic. There is no mistaking this landmark.
As we continue walking watch you step, but also keep a lookout for the wild flowers, the birds and on the skerries seals. In May June and even August the flowers are so colourful. Often we see busy bees flying between them. If you should visit on another occasion be very careful not to disturb the ground nesting birds.
Our path then follows a farm track which is not always obvious. Along the way there are several pebble deposits. We come next to a series of rocky outcrops. Here we turn right and climb uphill.
The short climb brings us to the entrance to the valley. It is then a downhill walk through the valley to the sea. Often you will find contended cows grazing here.
A mound of pebbles helps protect the valley from the ravages of the sea. Nature and a helping hand appear to be at work here.
One feature is the number of natural sculptures in this area. So let’s drop down to the shore and on our right there are rock arches. Here rocks perch perilously one on top of another. This is a great place to carefully explore but do remember the power of the sea and just how quick the tide can come in! You don’t want trapped in one of the coves.
Lag na Cleite is commonly known as ‘Happy Valley’. There are various claims as to the origin of that name. Whatever the origin of the English name it makes a great walk.
As we make our way back towards Hynish we watch out for the dominant feature of Ben More on Mull, the Paps of Jura and the Rum Cuillin.
The Isle of Tiree is low lying, but it is not flat. Try cycling and you soon realise that it is undulating. Something to bear in mind for a future visit is that you can hire cycles or a car if that’s more your scene. But, do keep walking.
Well we hope you have enjoyed travelling by your imagination to the island of Tiree and the walk with us today to Lag na Cleite. Whether you a regular or occasional visitor, or you have never been before, in the not too distant future we look forward to being able to welcome you to Tiree – when it is deemed safe to do so.