A few weeks ago we spent a night camped deep in the hills of Eishken on Lewis. It was a magical time to be there, in one of the wildest parts of the island. Just us, the deer and the heather.
We walked ‘the old way’ from one abandoned settlement to another, 15km through moorland, hills and glen. These ways were the easiest paths from village to village, marked by natural features and well-placed cairns. Despite being disused for many decades and hard to see by eye, you can feel the path underfoot when you are truly on it, a sense of flattened earth and ease of tread, made so by hundreds of bare feet passing along it in the past. It was a humbling journey, one we enjoyed as a weekend stroll, but one that was a necessity for those families for generations.
On our journey, we were surrounded by heather. The moor was a swathe of gentle colour. At closer inspection, there are many different types of heather on the moor, and I found myself admiring the many shades of purple. The ‘Heather Purple’ in our collection captures the colour of that gentle mist across the hills. ‘Moor Purple’ is worth getting under a magnifying glass, for there you will truly see the Lewis moorland: deep purple blooms between yellowed green stems and the last flecks of the summer’s white bog-cotton. I finally understood the colour of my ‘gaudy’ purple primaloft jacket. It really is the colour of Bell Heather – Erica Cinereal – the brightest of all our moorland heathers.
Trudging out at the end of our adventure, utterly soaked from marching through hip deep vegetation along the loch’s side, I stopped to admire the view before hitting civilisation again. I gazed back along our path and found myself with a renewed appreciation for heather, in all its unassuming, gentle and purple beauty.