Isle of Harris: Otters on the Rodel Peninsula

‘It was sunny when we started.'

According to Bernie, proprietor of the Loch Erisort Inn on the Isle of Lewis, this is a comment he hears many times each year as bedraggled walkers, drenched from the rain, scuttle into the pub in search of shelter, warmth and some food.

It was certainly our comment when he asked us about our walk. We’d started near St Clements Church (on the Isle of Harris) and followed the path around Loch Rodel and along the cliff edge towards Borrisdale where we’d climbed up onto the Rodel Peninsula. The weather was fine when we started, but within less than an hour huge grey clouds had gathered above us, blotting out the pale sunlight, and the rain started to fall. We debated turning back but we’d already come this far and we had waterproof footwear and anoraks, so we continued.

The wind drove the rain hard into our right sides, drenching us from right to left. We battled on towards the cairn at the tip of the peninsula, sinking into the boggy moss every time we misjudged a path through the grass. The sheep, seemingly unbothered by the downpour and strong winds, continued to munch impassively as we passed.

Despite the rain and the grey clouds the scenery was still lovely to look at: a small bay to our left with a tiny boat bobbing on the water not far from the orangey-brown seaweed covered rocks; rolling grassland with ancient lazy beds, remnants of long dead farmers attempting to get more from the land; and the grey-blue of the vast Atlantic ocean spread out before us, so much further than the eye could ever see. 

On reaching the cairn we paused to gaze out across the water as thousands of foaming white horses galloped relentlessly towards the rocks. As we peered through the binoculars a movement caught my eye – an otter! It was on a rock in a V-shaped cove ahead of, and far below, us. It slid gracefully into the water with a flick of its tail. Suddenly thoughts of heading back vanished. The rain and wind no longer mattered. We’d seen an otter. And we wanted more.

Being careful not to slip, we clambered down the hill to a point nearer the otter. It was still far below us, but a treacherous, sheer, wet cliff face prevented us getting any closer. The otter popped its head out of the water one more time and then swam off round the headland disappearing from view. But the show was not over yet. As the otter left a harbour seal arrived. We sat in the rain watching it dive under the waves, and the reappear a few moments later, its nose and whiskers twitching in the salty air.

Finally, as the water seeped through the last protective layer of our clothes we turned our backs on the playful seal and started the return walk across the headland. The wind now drove the rain into our left sides ensuring that every inch of us was soaked.

And that’s how we came to be yet another two hikers, soaked to the skin, scuttling from our car into the warmth of the Loch Erisort Inn and uttering the same line that a 1000 wet walkers had said before us.

Fortunately Bernie didn’t seem too bothered by the repetition, he just smiled and turned on the fire.


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. 


Fact Box:

Distance: Walking up to 10 Miles per day

Duration: 14 Days and 13 Nights

Availability: March to October

Info: Macs Adventure:  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

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