Monthly Archives: May 2017

29th May, Stornoway

It was disappointing to have missed Barra and Uist completely, so I was very frustrated that we have had 6 days in Harris and Lewis, but I still don’t think that I have a real feel for them. I had a mental image of white sands and rugged vistas covered in standing stones and prehistoric remains – but haven’t seen any of this.

After a long time spent in the Tourist Information Office I found that public transport is not organised around tourists, so the only practical thing to do was hire a car. I’m so gad we did. It was an exhausting day and we covered 146 miles – quite astonishing on a small island that only has two main roads – but we saw a lot. We also realised why there is so little public transport – the interior of Lewis is just vast plains of rather bleak undulating peat moorland, interrupted by electricity pylons, a few scattered communities and very little else.  Having a car to travel around for work, shopping, etc. must be essential.

Port of Ness

We started by driving north to the Butt of Lewis and Port of Ness. This area is really bleak and wind-swept. It’s fairly flat, and nothing grows except low scrub. Many of the houses seem to be empty, and even the ones still inhabited are covered in grey/brown pebble dash or stained render which just adds to the drab atmosphere. There are no shops, the harbour looked abandoned, and the only cafe didn’t open on a Monday – so you just wonder what people do all day – although there are so many churches that you know where they go on a Sunday! We were just turning away, when a local artist, Anthony Barber, opened his studio. He was so friendly that we cheered up and looked a bit more kindly on the area!

Blockhouse in Arnol

The scenery gets slightly better as you go south, but it still feels fairly hostile. For hundreds of years most people on Lewis had a hard crofting lifestyle and lived in long low stone houses called “blackhouses” with their animals. Some of these were inhabited right up to the 1960s, and we visited one that has been preserved in its original form at a place called Arnol.

 

Callanish Standing Stones

 

Then on to the Callanish Standing Stones.They are an extraordinary cross-shaped setting of stones erected around 5,000 years ago. They predate Stonehenge  and are thought to have been an important spiritual place for at least 2,000 years – especially as there are the remains of many other stone circles in the area.

Reconstructed Iron Age building

Then to the island of Bernera where a iron age settlement was discovered in 1993 after severe gales revealed the remains. The settlement is now re-buried in the sand so to help visitors to the site picture what it was like there is a reconstructed iron age house – complete with a very smoky peat fire – and an enthusiastic lady to show us round.

 

Uig Beach

Then to the Uig area, the coastline of which has some enormous beaches. They are particularly known because of the discovery there in 1831 of 12th Century Viking chess pieces, carved out of walrus teeth.

 

 

 

What a day! The rain held off until we got back to the boat. Where we collapsed. Driving is much more exhausting than sailing!

28th May, Stornoway

Lews Castle from Stornoway Marina

 

Everything closes in Stornoway on a Sunday. There are no shops open or buses running, and most of the tourist attractions and restaurants are closed. There were some fairly disgruntled tourists around, but we are not in any hurry, so enjoyed a beautiful walk around the grounds of Lews Castle, lunch in the castle cafe and then came back to the boat to listen to the Monaco Grand Prix on the radio.

27th May, Stornoway

Stornoway 10k finisher!!

Richard was delighted to discover that the Stornoway Half Marathon and 10K Run was taking place today. He managed to register for the 10K, and really enjoyed the experience of running round the town and castle grounds with lots of other people. The weather was still warm but overcast and muggy, and he just made it to the finish before the heavens opened. It never seems to stay settled here for any length of time…

Anyway, while he was running, I had been exploring, and came back to the boat with prize-winning Stornaway black pudding and fresh scallops, so we were quite happy not to go anywhere!

26th May, Loch Mariveg to Stornoway

Loch Mariveg entrance

Another lovely day. Apparently north Scotland is the warmest place in the British Isles today, so we made the most of the sunshine just sitting in the cockpit most of the morning. I was feeling fairly desperate for a shower by this time (the last one was in Mallaig!), and rain is forecast, so after lunch we motored the 6 miles further north to Stornoway.

 

Harvard next to the lifeboat in Stornoway harbour

Stornoway marina is right in the middle of the town. The harbour master was incredibly welcoming, and found us a berth right next to the local lifeboat so we should be fine!

After spending so much time peacefully at anchor in the last week, we found the “traffic” of Stornaway frustrating and so retired to the boat fairly quickly after a look around.