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The Postie’s Path walk on Harris, Outer Hebrides

Written by Fiona

July 02 2024

I enjoyed a recent trip to the Outer Hebridean islands of Lewis and Harris. One of the walks, on The Postman’s Path, was hugely memorable.

Also read about some more great walks in the Outer Hebrides.

History of the Postman’s Path, Harris

Until 1989, the tiny settlement of Rhenigidale, on the east side of Harris, could be reached only by a coastal path or by sea via Loch Seaforth. 

For many years in the 1970s and 80s, local postie Kenny Mackay walked the 13km there and back trail that hugs the shoreline between Urgha and Rhenigidale three times each week.

For walkers on holidays in the Outer Hebrides – also known as the Western Isles – the path is a fantastic way to enjoy superb coastal vistas and to consider the history of the Postie’s Path.

The day I walked the route it was calm and summery but I imagined the times the postie – and local residents – tramped the path in the midst of deep winter, or when a storm was raging.

After a 60-year campaign by locals, work finally began in 1989 on a road to reach Rhenigidale.

If you prefer to complete a one-way walk on the path, from Rhenigidale to Urgha, there is a bus from Tarbert to Rhenigidale that operates twice a day, Monday to Saturday, but must be booked.

Walk of the Postman’s Path, Harris

Parking at a small car-park just east of Lochanan Lascadail, near Urgha (some 3km by road from Tarbert on the road to Scalpay), my friend Ben and I set off on foot on the Postie’s Path.

We stopped to read the information board about the walk and the history of the path. The route is easy to follow and we simply followed the well-trodden path.

The first section – the walk can be divided into an up, down, up, down and then repeat for the return – took us from almost sea level to 285m elevation. Looking behind us, the rugged terrain of Harris mainland, interspersed with lochs, spread out below us.

We also enjoyed a number of beautiful waterfalls and a rushing river close to the path.

The high point was marked by a cairn and sits between two lumps of land, Beinn Tharsuinn (323m) to the south and Tromamul (around 330m) to the north.

The cairn provide an incredible view point as we gazed over Loch Trolamaraig  and the Sound of Shiant. The tiny Shiant Isles rose from the Sound in the distance.

We could see the path winding its way up the next headland – but first we need to descend. The route plummeted down the hillside and we were grateful for a cleverly created  zig-zagging route to lessen the slope’s gradient.   

We glimpsed another stunning waterfall in Gleann Trolamaraig, set to the west and above a small bay. As we came closer to the bay, I spotted what looked like a seal or an otter swimming in the water. Brilliantly, it turned out to be an otter.

Can you see the otter?

We stood in silence as Ben found his binoculars in his rucksack and we took it in turns to “ooh” and “ahh” at such a rare sighting. It was Ben’s first sighting of an otter in the wild and my first significant spot. I have caught glimpses of wild otters before but never for so long as on this occasion.

Eventually, the otter swam off and we started the next ascent.

Up again and down to Rhenigidale

We walked over an undulating section of coastline, which rose to around 90m from sea level and then dropped a bit before rising again to 55m. 

The remains of a couple of buildings stood as stark reminders of the people who lived remotely in times past.

The path ended at the singletrack road, which winds downhill to Rhenigidale. Ben and I found a bench in a tiny stoney cove and sat eating our lunch as we looked across the sea.

In the distance, we could see the northern end of the Isle of Skye and the north-west mainland around Gairloch.

Rhenigidale settlement.
Tiny cove in Rhenigidale.
Rhenigidale is home to many large species of Fuchsia

Return to Urgha

The return route was the same but in reverse. The hardest part was the climb up the zigzags from the “otter bay” but it was over fairly quickly and we were again treated to impressive views from the cairn.

The weather had held out for our walk and we returned to the car enjoying the surprising stats of some 900m of total ascent over the route of 13km. 

See: Strava and OS Maps.

  • Also read about some more great walks in the Outer Hebrides.

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