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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On The Road: Lewis & Harris Island

Another ferry ride to another island.  With the weather a bit chilly and damp, I spent my time in the passenger lounge enjoying some tea.  Himself and Dave were in the TV area watching a rugby match – it was the first time Himself had seen a rugby game and Dave is a former rugby player. 

We docked in Tarbert, Harris and headed off thru the rockiest landscape I’d ever seen.  Rock and heather.  And this drive-by photo doesn’t even show the most rugged area!  Our destination was to the shop of a hand weaver of Harris Tweed.  That visit was so fascinating I’m going to give it its own blog! 

After our visit there we headed north to the ‘Lewis’ part of the island.  (We spent 2 days on Lewis and Harris but I’m going to mostly combine the visit into one blog – with a couple separate posts about things I want to go into a bit more detail on). 
‘Peat’ is one of the forms of heating fuel used in Scotland… and is used a lot on L&H.  Peat is basically compressed wetland plant material that can be cut and dried to use fire fuel.  It’s the first ‘step’ to becoming coal.  This photo shows a peat bog and how it is being cut into bricks.  The small pile is the first drying process… it is after all wet ‘dirt’ and is heavy when first cut.

Once it’s dry enough to be easy to handle, the peat is brought home and stacked for use.  As a brick, it has just a mild earthy smell.  Burned, it actually smells very good… sort of a blend of a woody smoke with just a touch of coal.  It is its own scent! 

The rivers that run thru the peat bogs turn brown, much like a cup of tea.  That burn (stream) is good, clean water that will have a bit of earthy peat taste.

A typical area on Lewis.  New homes and ruins stand side-by-side. 

Scots are so polite!  These signs always made me smile.

We went to the northern most point in Lewis… known as “The Butt of Lewis”.  There are huge cliffs that are battered by the frequent storms.  The rocks are supposed to be some of the oldest in Europe. 

It is a great viewpoint for watching birds, fishing boats and the crashing waves.

A lighthouse stands there over the cliffs.  It was built in the 1860s.  It’s one of the prettier ones I saw in Scotland.

These are the Callanish Standing stones.  They are larger than they seem in this photo!  They were put up between 2900 and 2600 BC!  It’s one of many standing stones in the area.

See… they are not small!  They are made of local gneiss. 

Himself is leaning up next to the largest one of the group.  Dave is telling him about some of the many theories of why the stones are there and what their significance might be.

We also visited the Gearrannan Blackhouse settlement.  It was Sunday so it was actually closed, but we walked around the houses.  The construction is fantastic.  The walls are dry stack and absolutely solid.  The roof is thatch.  At this particular location you can let (rent) a house to stay in.  The interiors have modern conveniences. 

Dave showing me how the houses had built-in ‘steps’ so you can get up to the roof.

I love this doorway! 

This is a broch.  According to Wiki, “A broch is an Iron Age (1200 BC - 400 AD) dry stone hollow-walled structure of a type found only in Scotland. Brochs include some of the most sophisticated examples of drystone architecture ever created, and belong to the classification "complex Atlantic Roundhouse".

This is what they think it looked like.

And here is what is left.

Himself had fun climbing around the maze-like inner walls.  The view from there was fantastic… looking out to the sea. 

One of the most enjoyable things we did was also one of the simplest.  We three had a picnic on a wide sandy beach.  We picked up various tasty munchies the day before (Lewis rolls up the sidewalks on Sunday and there aren’t any shops open) and enjoyed a fun dinner.

I opted to sit on the sand dune.  More comfy! 

And this is the beautiful view we had while we ate.  Is this not an awesome picnic spot?

One of our B&Bs was at Galson Farm.  It had one of the best beds on the whole trip.  95% of the beds we slept on were firm to very firm (hard to very hard) and this one was a nice medium.  That’s one adjustment I’ll have to make when I get to return to Scotland… I’ll be bringing an air mattress!  I like a soft bed and I suffered for it. 

Here’s what we saw from our window… the lighthouse at the top of the island.  The light was faint but we could see it blink across our wall.

This is Jackson.  Do not think Jackson is this calm and relaxed.  He’s faking it cause “Dad” is watching him.  He’s a bundle of energy who loves to show off.  He grabbed the ink pen I was using and wouldn’t give it up, and then took off with a sea shell that had been sitting on the fireplace hearth.  In other words… Jackson is a hoot!  LOL 

This is the courtyard at Galson farm.  Pure lovely. 

These jokers were watching me as I walked along the beach early in the morning.  They’d line up to stare at me… then all a sudden get ‘scared’ and run about 15 feet into a huddle.  They’d stand there with their heads together as tho discussing the situation.  Then one by one, they would again line up to stare at me.  This process repeated itself at least a dozen times as I walked along the beach.

When I turned to go back to the B&B, they followed me up the beach.  If I walked… they walked.  When I stopped… they stopped.

It was a fun beach to explore.  If “Scotty” (from Star Trek) could have ‘beamed’ some things home, this old shrimp trap would have been one of them.  Is that not the coolest piece of junk?!

This old net was great too.  I should have gone back down with my knife and gotten some of it.  

We left Lewis on the early ferry to Ullapool in the midst of a gale.  It was a bouncy ride.  When I’m on a rocking boat it is like putting the baby in a cradle… I wanted nothing more than to curl up and go to sleep!  But soon enough we were back over to the main of Scotland and heading out on our next drive, this time to Durness.

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