The Golden Road - The Isle of Harris - Western Isles
The Golden Road winds and twists through the East Coast of Harris - sometimes called The Bays because of its miniature fjords. The road - a single track road that connects all the tiny hamlets who have either Viking or Gaelic names. The scenery is spectacular encompassing what is sometimes described as a 'lunar' landscape, with rock that shines in the sun and beautiful lochs and inlets where seals bask on the rocks..
The Golden Road winds and twists through the East Coast of Harris, sometimes called The Bays because of its miniature fjords. The road - a single track road connects all the tiny hamlets who have either Viking or Gaelic names. The spectacular scenery encompasses what is sometimes described as a 'lunar' landscape.
The rock that shines in the sun and beautiful lochs and inlets where seals bask on the rocks and a wide range of birds are to be seen.
I have researched as to how and why the Golden Road was so called and when it was built - and it seems that there are several opinions as to its derivation
Road Surveyor, Mr A.S. Matheson (Angus Stewart) MICE
A lady called Susan kindly emailed me to tell me that her father Mr A.S Matheson (Angus Stewart) MICE was the Road Surveyor, for Tarbert, Harris during the period. He was very proud of the work that he did in Harris. This project was the one project throughout his entire career, which was his most favourite.
The work actually commenced on April 1st 1947 as has now been confirmed by a friend of Susan's, whose father too worked on the road construction
(the road is actually my favourite road on the Islands)
The Golden Road
The following is a response to an email which I sent to the eminent "historian" Bill Lawson - who has published many books in connection with the history of the Islands - I had asked his opinion on the Golden road and where it actually commenced and ended and why it was so called.
"Many thanks for your e-mail regarding the Golden Road. I think that you are right in thinking that the problem is the definition of the Golden Road itself. The name is often used for the whole of the east coast road through the Bays of Harris from an Tairbeart to Roghadal, but this is too wide, and the name originally referred to the road from Ceanndibig to Greosabhagh and on to Leac a Li. The 1897 date tracks which were built with help from the Congested Districts Board, largely to provide access for children to schools. Several of these are now incorporated in the Harris Walkway.
The Golden Road proper was the first tarred road, and I think that the date of the early 1940s is correct for the final link in the roads, which I think was in the township of Cliuthair.
It is often said that the road was named the Golden Road because of its expense, but I think that the name was originally coined by a mainland newspaper in an article complaining about the coast of building ANY road in the islands in fact it was relatively inexpensive and built largely by local labour.
You will find references to the story in my Harris in History and Legend."
Bill Lawson Publications, The Old Schoolhouse, Northton
Why is it called The Golden Road?
The name was given to this lovely winding road in part as I understand it by the 'locals' who really did have to fight to get a grudging authority to spend the money to build the road.
Cost of The Golden Road
Some locals are of the opinion that the cost of building the road was quite a sum - so much so that it is said that it 'must have been made of gold!'.
This loch is I think one of the prettiest lochs to be seen In Harris. On a still day, when the weather is calm and sunny, the tranquility of the loch and it's surroundings makes for a beautiful picture.
Loch Huamabhat is one of many lochs and lochans within the gneiss rocky land of South Harris. The adjacent pier services a fish farm on the loch.
Water Lily - Bog Bean Covered Lochans
The road is 'golden' in more ways than one - it winds through the splendid water lily covered lochans, and is a real pleasure winding through lochs with water lilies and bog bean in amongst the lunar rocky landscape
Highway Authority - Imagination
The road sign actually bears the name 'Golden Road', showing imagination on the part of the Highway Authority in using the 'slightly satirical' name
Cottage Industries and Fish Farms
As you wind your way along The Golden Road you will pass small 'cottage industries' , local artists, crafts, Harris Tweed Weavers and even a fish farm. Harris Tweed. The long established Harris Tweed and knitwear still hand weaves the Harris Tweed in the traditional way
Rock - Gneiss - 3000 years ago
Much of Harris and indeed Lewis is formed on the oldest exposed rock in the world, Lewisian Gneiss. Formed in Ice Ages.
This is grey coloured with bands of white and dark minerals contorted by the pressure of the earth. These were formed over 3000 million years ago, The exposed rocks are a result of scouring by the glaciers in the Ice Ages.
Originally only one Road in Harris
Originally the was only one road on Harris, the road which runs along the west coast, where the terrain is relatively flat with occasional dunes.
A local minister told a Royal Commission that the road was desperately needed as there had been many near accidents and narrow escapes when people had tried to cross the swollen rivers and indeed that lives had been lost.he cost of building the road was quite a sum - so much so that it is said that it 'must have been made of gold!'.
75 Years Later - 1st April 1947
It was actually some 75 years that passed after the minister's request that the the road was actually built
The scenery along the golden road is spectacular.