Travel

Freya North: Harris inspired author’s new novel Little Wing

Harris. From the base of the Seilebost dune looking across the vast horseshoe-shaped bay to Luskentyre.

Why do you go there?

Partly because I live in landlocked Hertfordshire and partly because it’s a place where I feel simultaneously tiny and yet empowered. Harris holds great significance for me and is itself a major character in my new novel Little Wing. Luskentyre could never be merely a backdrop.

Sometimes I think it’s good for the soul to be in a place where weather defines the land – somewhere we can feel isolated and in awe of the natural world.

HeraldScotland: Author Freya North. Picture: Dan Welldon PhotographyAuthor Freya North. Picture: Dan Welldon Photography

How often do you go?

Not as often as I’d like. It’s been over a year since I was last there and I’m hoping to rectify that very soon.

How did you discover it?

A few years ago, I was researching the true story of the Hebridean district nurses with the idea of developing a TV drama series (which I still hope to do).

READ MORE: Sean Batty on the Hebridean island he loves so much that he named his dog after it

I had travelled up from Barra, through South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray, then sailed over to Harris. And bam! The spell was cast and I have been happily captive ever since.

What’s your favourite memory?

In 2017, I had to have back surgery. I thought there was something wrong with my leg, but it turned out to be two badly herniated discs. I was so anxious about the operation and also terrified of the anaesthetic. I worked with a physio afterwards.

I’ve always been outdoorsy and sporty and suddenly felt so physically vulnerable and really low about everything. Eight weeks after my back operation I was on the sands at Luskentyre – right at the very end of the beach at Traigh Rosamol.

HeraldScotland: Seilebost Beach on Harris looking over the Sound of Taransay and the Atlantic Ocean. Picture: Martin McCarthy/GettySeilebost Beach on Harris looking over the Sound of Taransay and the Atlantic Ocean. Picture: Martin McCarthy/Getty

I walked for a way before giving a little skip and off I ran. It was really emotional – I was laughing and crying. Mine were the only footprints on the beach that afternoon.

I went the next morning and ran again. I have a character, Dougie, in my new novel who runs there too. I can safely say I know how he feels.

Who do you take?

When I first visited, I was with two pals who are producers. We’re such chatterboxes but Seilebost and Luskentyre stunned us into silence.

READ MORE: Linlithgow Loch: Retreating glaciers, ancient crannogs and the legend of the ‘black bitch’

Last time I went I was due to go alone but a couple of days before I asked my oldest and bestest friend Lucy if she’d like to join me – it was thrilling to watch her reaction when we walked through the marram grass and over the dunes to the sands.

What do you take?

My imagination. And deep, deep breaths – the air is amazing. Somehow when I’m there I feel both closer to the ground and yet nearer to the sky too.

What do you leave behind?

Footprints and friends.

READ MORE: River City star Iain Robertson on his love for a majestic Moray landmark 

Sum it up in a few words.

Far-flung. Breathtaking. Other-worldly. Spiritual. Wild.

What other travel spot is on your wish list?

Alaska.

Little Wing by Freya North is published by Welbeck, out now, £12.99

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