HISTORY OF HARRIS
Rich history flows through the Isle of Harris and many of the islands place names owe as much to a Norse influence when under Viking rule as to its traditional Gaelic culture. Harris was brought under the Scottish crown in 1266 and through time became the traditional lands of the Macleod’s of Harris.
"Harris" comes from Old Norse and means "High land" and its name points to the islands history as well as its landscape. Joined to the Isle of Lewis, the two are known as the "Long island" stretching from the Butt of Lewis to Rodel in the South of Harris.
If you are planning on booking self catering in the Isle of Harris, there is much to see and visit during your stay. For those with family or ancestors in Harris, the Isle of Lewis or other areas of the Outer Hebrides then a visit to Seallam Genealogy Centre in Northton, Harris is a must. www.seallam.com
St Clements Church
The Clan MacLeod influence can be found at the beautiful St Clements church in Rodel. Built in the early 1500’s and restored in 1873, it is a wonderfully unique building. Visitors are able to view the church internally where the Tomb of Alexander MacLeod, the 8th chief of Macleod, various Stone tablets, the burial enclosures, carvings and the church vestibule are to be seen. Visitors are also able to climb the tower for views of the surrounding landscape.
The MacLeod Stone at Aird Nisabost on the sandy west coast of Harris is a Neolithic standing stone, believed to be almost 5000 years old. Known as MacLeod’s stone after the clan that previously held Harris as their lands, the stone can be walked to from the Parking area at Nisabost. The stone also has the benefit of being situated amongst some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes that the Isle of Harris and the Outer Hebrides have to offer.
More Recent history
Many inhabitants of the Isle of Harris and its islands fell victim to Land clearance in the 1700’s and 1800’s and indeed much of the beautiful west side was only repopulated in the early 1900’s where it had been used for sheep. The ruins of many "Cottars" cottages and the remnants of their farming and use of the land can still be seen when walking the land.
The Isle of Harris economy now relies mainly on Local Government, fishing and Tourism with crofting becoming a secondary occupation. However the name of Harris is of course known worldwide through its most famous product – Harris Tweed which bears the trademark Orb Symbol. Harris Tweed is famous and local weavers still produce lengths of tweed and a variety of products from jackets and handbags to lengths of the tweed itself can be purchased on the Island. Indeed in recent years even such clothing giants as Nike have been purchasing Harris Tweed and utilising local weavers. It is also possible to visit some of the local weavers who also have homemade products on sale. See www.isleofharristweedshop.co.uk , www.isleofharrisknitwear.co.uk or www.harristweedandknitwear.co.ukEnjoy a dram in the local hotels with one of the locals and as ever you may find that in island folklore, History, Myth and legend are often entwined.