A rich history on the
Nature has a free hand on
Britain’s largest uninhabited island
The owners of Taransay, Cathra and Adam Kelliher, have commenced on a project to regenerate the island’s ecosystem. Their long-term vision is to restore the flora and fauna back to a time before intensive grazing took a toll, essentially to what the island looked like in the bronze age. A tree planting programme is underway, and various herbivores, such as cattle and deer, will provide a lighter grazing footprint.
Rich in History
Taransay has been home for people reaching back over the millenia: a midden on the Atlantic side proves that inhabitants lived on a shellfish diet here some 9,000 years old. Visitors will be able to see plenty of evidence of the previous occupants; in the remains of two iron-age fortresses, a Neolithic standing stone with a Christian cross carved into it’s surface, stone-works from the Viking era, and more recently, the black houses lived in until the last occupants left in 1974.
Paible, the historical settlement on the leeward side of the island, is the launch-pad for visitors, being the location of our three habitable dwellings. The remains of the Chapel of St Taran can be seen, as well headstones from two graveyards, divided by gender. The smitten rock marks the culmination of a 1544 massacre by the Morrison clan, and a counter attack by the MacLeods: survivors jumped into the ocean to escape, one reportedly swimming back to Harris with an arrow in his buttocks!. Paible was home for one year for some 30 participants of the BBC reality TV programme, Castaway 2000.
Taransay has been part of Borve Lodge Estate since it was purchased from the MacKay family, by the Kelliher family in 2011.
A Precious Ecology
The island has an ecosystem governed by its position on the Atlantic shelf, giving it the full variability of a powerful marine climate. In mid-winter, Taransay can be battered by hurricane-force winds, while in summer, the ocean can calm to a benign pond. This means hardy flora and fauna will survive and thrive, and the lee-ward side of the island is blessed with sweeping pastures of calcium-rich machair grassland, which transforms into a floral carpet in spring. The upper reaches are extensive peatland, largely devoid of trees after years of intensive grazing. Now, the island is undergoing a tree-planting programme, and the relaxation of grazing pressure has already triggered regeneration of botanical groundcover.
A herd of wild red deer roam the hills and livestock is now limited to a small summer herd of cattle, as all sheep have been removed. Taransay boasts a pair of golden eagles, and two pairs of sea eagles, often glimpsed circling in vigil. Bird watchers may also be able to spot curlews, plovers and oyster catchers and a myriad of other species. The haunting cry of a black throated diver can often be heard around Loch an Duin and on the Altantic side of the island. Offshore rocks are the favourite perches of heron and other marine birds. Otter frequent the dunes and Taransay boasts an extensive colony of seals who live a very comfortable life on the rocks around Paible.
The Outer Hebrides is home to some of the oldest rocks in the world (~3bn years old) and Taransay is the perfect destination for anybody with curiosity in geology. The northern section of the island is dominated by Lewisian Gneiss, hardy material in pink, grey and black hues. This is complete contrast to the southern section of the island (Ard Mannish), which is part of what is known as the South Harris Complex, and is dominated by younger rocks, known as metapelites.
Visitors must be adept at rock scrambling to enjoy these offerings. Ridgelines are festooned with giant boulders, left in incongruous locations by glaciers millions of years ago. Rocks harder than granite have been softened by the elements, and have been transformed into remarkable natural sculptures. The Atlantic has punched a dramatic natural arch through a western rock face. Taransay’s stones have been extensively used as building materials throughout the millennia to make walls, fortresses and dwellings.