Life at the end of the road

October 19, 2013

Harris and its Hydro :-)

Filed under: Uncategorized — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:43 am

The title of this post will cause chaos on Google, for not only does the island of Harris have at least three antique and disused hydro turbines plus one currently operational one, it is also the name of this .


underpicweb (11K) multipicweb2 (14K)

The famous pelton turbine manufactured by Don Harris in California for several decades, though Don has now retired and sold the rights to ‘LoPower engineering’ also in California.

Anyway, more of that later, for now I’ll try and concentrate on finishing off yesterday and starting on Friday’s exciting day on Harris (the island) Smile

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After the best breakfast I’ve had since my mothers cheese and tomato on toast, a free range egg and smoked salmon number knocked up by our hosts at the we headed for Rhenigadale. However, before I take you there I want to ‘rewind’ back to yesterday at Rodel with it’s old hydro turbine and radar station.

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Sitting just above the high water mark is the old turbine house and perched precariously on one of the walls the remains of the cast iron penstock that supplied the ‘Armfield & Co Ltd Engineering’ turbine.

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I’m guessing that it was installed to supply the hotel as there’s not much else there besides the church.

The long abandoned Chain Home Low radar station situated just behind the hotel had it’s own power supplied by diesel generators.

 Chain Home Low (CHL) was the name of a British radar early warning system, detecting enemy aircraft movement at lower altitudes than and summarily used with the fixed Chain Home system which was operated by the RAF during World War II.[1] Officially, its designation name was AMES Type 2 (Air Ministry Experimental Station) and used higher power, operating at a shorter wavelength of 1.5 metres than Chain Home.[1] Such systems could be mobile[2] in which units were placed on trucks and could be strategically moved based on enemy movement, giving the RAF a wider option where and when they would engage or not engage the enemy.


The many ruins of this station that was active from 1942 to 44 are still visible

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from the cooking range to a couple of air raid shelters.


066  Inside air-raid shelter 2 at Rodel Camp

There’s some great pictures here (that one above of the inside of the air shelter for one) but look at the map reference as I don’t think they are all from Rodel.


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After Rodel I think we just pottered back to Tarbert via Luskentyre, cursing our lack of binoculars for the bird life was spectacular, lapwings, curlews, starlings, greylag geese, fieldfares? not sure as I didn’t have the bins Smile



What a day it had been and we finished it off in our luxurious room with a fine bottle of wine left on Rona for me by the yacht Tarskavaig on the 22nd of August Smile Thanks Andrew, Bill left it on the Striven for us Smile


Well, I’m hardly going to be able to do the day justice as it’s 8:15 on Saturday and we’re going for breakfast shortly, after which we’ll be visiting the remote crofting community at Rhenigadale once more. Like Arnish on Raasay Rhenigadale was roadless until the twentieth century was almost over. Unlike Arnish though the council did eventually build a £500,000 one and not leave it up to a crofter to shame them. They tiny clutch of houses on Harris’s sandwiched between the entrance to Loch Seaforth and Loch Trolamaraig has much in common with Arnish. Small community forced into inhospitable terrain or face the prospect of emigration eking out a living from their cattle, sheep and the sea.  Cut off from ‘civilization’ and campaigning for a road for decades. Unlike Arnish they got electricity in 1980 but had to wait for a road for another ten years, but what a road. One thing about     Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) they do know how to build and maintain roads. The roads on Harris and Lewis put those on Skye, Raasay and the mainland to shame Sad smile.



The old path to Rhenigale,


the Shiant Islands from Rhenigadale


the Trotternish ridge, Brothers point and in the distance Raasay from Rhenigadale.


Gotta go

Sadly I have to go now and tuck into another portion of scrambled egg and smoked, what I’ve left below is a little ‘taster’ of the rest of the day but I’m going to have to finish it off tonight Sad smile


 Whaling boat with dead whale

The whaling ship, the ‘Empire Unitas V’ with an eighty-five foot blue whale in tow at Loch Bunaveneader, Harris, Inverness-shire, May 1952. The seas around Scotland have populations of rorqual whales that were too large to be caught by the early Arctic whalers. It was only with the advent of steam boats and harpoon guns in the late 19th century that it became possible to take these giants. You can see the gun that fired explosive harpoons to kill the whales at the bow of the ship. The whale is in the process of being towed to the flensing slip, where its blubber will be stripped and cut up.

Empire Unitas V

Empire Unitas V was a 341 GRT whaler which was built by Bremer Vulkan Schiff- und Mashcinenbau, Bremen. Completed in 1937 as Unitas 5 for Jurgens Van Den Bergh Margarine Verkaufs Union GmbH, Hamburg. Requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine in 1940. Seized in May 1945 at Flensburg. To MoWT and renamed Empire Unitas IV. Scrapped in 1954 in Port Glasgow.



  1. Know what you mean about the roads. I was amazed at the infrastructure on North and South Uist. A pleasure to drive and excellent passing places. Another informative post today. You’ve whetted my appetite for Harris!

    Comment by Carolyn — October 19, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  2. Me too, Paul – I haven’t been to Harris for 20 years but your photos have made me put it on to my ‘must go’ list. I’ve been to Rodel twice but the WWII stuff passed me by and it’s a special interest of John’s! Thanks for the blog and special thanks to Mrs LATEOTR for being so patient especially when it’s her holidays!

    Comment by Anne Macdonald — October 19, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  3. the story of Rhenigidale is fascinating .. I’ve just been reading up the BBC Domesday information, which was before the road was constructed
    has the arrival of the road made much difference to the place?

    Comment by cazinatutu — October 19, 2013 @ 11:25 am

  4. It is said that Mary MacLeod poetess, was buried face down at Rodel because she offended in her poetry. Seems she was accused of using language not appropriate to her sex in her writings ! Enjoy your trip…..

    Comment by SOTW — October 19, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

  5. Spotted the Sheelanagig. Thank you .

    Comment by SOTW — October 19, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

    • Spotted the Sheelanagig

      Did you spot the ‘Lewd man’ around the corner from Sheela on the eastern wall 🙂 apparently the countess ordered the ghillie to shoot off his willie 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — October 20, 2013 @ 5:55 am

  6. Once again you transport me from my kitchen in Northern California to the magic of Scotland and her beautiful islands. These are spots I still have on my list of places to see. Thanks for the journey.

    Comment by Morgan — October 19, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

  7. Have forwarded a link to your visit to my pal Morag Harris, who always wished to visit the island. Perhaps this will inspire her.

    Comment by drgeo — October 20, 2013 @ 2:51 am

  8. the old path to rhenigadale. you guys. you kill me.

    Comment by jeannettesmyth — October 20, 2013 @ 6:30 am

  9. Hi Paul, glad you have finally caught up with the bottle of wine! Hope you both had a good trip to Harris. Cheers, Andrew

    Comment by Andrew Thomson — October 20, 2013 @ 9:54 am

  10. Like the photo’s Paul, feel there’s a bit of restoration on the old hydro engine there. Possible use of the old WD40 could be a help.

    Comment by Polite Scouser — October 20, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

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