Celebrating its fifth year in 2015, the North Harris Trust’s Isle of Harris Mountain Festival is set to be bigger and better than ever before.
Begun in an attempt to extend the local tourist season, the event has seen a rise in popularity over the years, with attendance of 560 in 2014 – 40 of whom came to the Western Isles specifically for the Harris Mountain Festival and would not have visited otherwise.
“We always hold the Festival in September in a bid to boost tourism at the end of the season,” explains North Harris Trust Ranger Matt Watts.
“We now have people coming just to go to the Festival events so it’s great news. Thanks must go to our sponsors – Awards for All Scotland and Marine Harvest – and also to the many local businesses and organisations which join us and allow the festival to offer such a full programme of events.”
Running from Saturday 12th to 19th September this year, a terrific set of guest speakers will be on hand to regale, entertain and inform throughout the week long celebration of the mountains of Harris.
‘Headline’ speaker of the 2015 festival is the esteemed nature writer and journalist Jim Crumley who joins the line-up to talk about his latest publication ‘The Eagle’s Way’.
Concerning the effects of the reintroduction of Sea Eagles in Scotland, Jim combines passion, beautifully descriptive prose and his 25 years’ experience within the book, making it essential reading for wildlife lovers and eco-enthusiasts. His talk, therefore, is not to be missed!
Other speakers include fell-runner Manny Gorman telling the story of his continuous traverse of the Scottish Corbetts on foot, bike and sail – a journey which took 70 days; Sustainable Rural Development Lecturer Roddy Murray, of Lews Castle College presents an interesting look at the islands lands; and the ‘Munro Moonwalker’, Alan Rowan, brings with him a film to accompany his talk.
A ‘mountain fanatic’, Rowan has climbed the Munros twice, the Corbetts and all the 3,000 foot peaks in England, Ireland and Wales – many of them during the night!.
As well as hosting Photographic Workshops throughout the Festival week, award winning natural history and landscape photographer Laurie Campbell presents a collection of his work, old and new in his turn as guest speaker.
Landscape Photographer Darren Cole will also take Festival-goers on a day-long photography workshop; and rounding up the guest speakers is James Ogilvie, a mountaineer and forester who completed his round of ‘Seven Summits’ - climbing the highest mountain on each continent around the globe – in January this year.
The Harris Mountain Festival once again throws down its own climbing gauntlet in ‘The Harris 5 Peak Challenge’. Climb three of the five peaks – An Cliseam, Toirga Mor, Toddun, Beinn Dubh and Roineabhal – and claim not only a free Mountain Festival dram, but the accolade of your achievement!
Certainly not a ‘passive’ event, the Isle of Harris Mountain Festival encompasses everything outdoors, and the 2015 week proves no different with walks, trails and more to suit every ability – from a stroll in the rolling hills to a hike to the top peaks!
Guided walks due to talk place include the Huishinish to Cravadale and Traigh Mheilen path; walks to the summit of Todun, An Clisham and Tiorga Mor; as well as the Community Walk following the ‘Postman Path’ and taking in Urgha, Rhenigidale and Maraig, and the ever popular Golden Eagle Walk.
Segway Trekking events are another, and perhaps easier on the legs, way to explore the Harris hills; and for a different perspective of the land, why not take a powerboat tour of Loch Seaforth to view the mountains from the sea!
Other outdoor activity taster sessions on offer this year include sea kayaking, rock climbing, and surfing.
And you can find out more about the seas surrounding the Harris Mountains – and what’s in them – by joining the Whale and Dolphin Conservation ‘Shorewatch’ Event, celebrating these amazing creatures by learning how to spot and identify different species of whales and dolphins.
A Boat Trip to Scarp from Hushinish, delivered by the Islands Book Trust, offers a rare chance to get out to the island of Scarp; the annual Mountain Festival Raft Race will no doubt provide much hilarity, and you can test your mettle against others in the Rhenigidale Hill Race!
And throughout Festival week, the Isle of Harris Mountain Festival will also offer the chance to gain a Mountain Training Association ‘Hill Skills’ accreditation for beginners; as well as ‘Mountain Skills’ for those aiming to improve their abilities.