Rock of ages
THE oldest rocks in Britain, the Lewisian Gneiss, are almost 3,000 million years old and they are among the oldest rocks anywhere on the planet. As their name suggests, they are found in the Outer Hebrides and, last week, they were receiving a battering from wind and rain as ferocious as any local could remember in September. The burns were slicing into the rock like a steel knife into a rib of beef; a day later and the start of October saw the return of our Indian summer, with millpond conditions.
The change was scarcely believable—from the top of the island of Taransay, just off Harris, we could see St Kilda, 50 miles away. Despite St Kilda’s loneliness, it had, until the last century, been inhabited for two millennia.
Living on the Western Isles was once a terrible, repetitive hardship—but, contrastingly, in what I regard as the most beautiful landscape on earth. A living was scratched from the thin soils, raised painfully into parallel ridges called lazy beds, on which potatoes and oats were grown. The weather controlled daily life just as much as the absentee landlords, but it also sculpted a masterpiece of topography, which, today, is there for all of us to enjoy. MH