|Name of walk
|Harris and Lewis
|Date of walk
The final part of our trip was to Harris and Lewis.
We take the ferry from Berneray on North Uist to Leverburgh on Harris.
We head south to Rodel and St. Clement's Church. It dates from 1520 and is the burial place of the MacLeods.
On the left is the wall tomb of Alexander MacLeod, the founder of the church. The tomb has nine carved panels reputed to be the best preserved in Scotland.
16th and 17th century grave slabs of various MacLeods.
A Sheela-na-gig carved on the outside of the tower. They were supposed to distract the evil so that the faithful could continue with their devotions, free from earthly distractions.
A few views from the church.
The ubiquitous power poles, always spoiling a good shot!
Heading back the way we came.
Harris has sandy beaches too.
The landscape is relentlessly rocky. The last time we were here it was misty and looked like the setting for a Dr. Who planet. With background scenery it is no longer as 'other worldly' as I remember.
We take a little detour off the main road towards Huisinis, which we did last time. Unlike Barra and the Uists, the term 'main road' does actually mean a road with room for cars travelling in both directions. The main roads on Barra and the Uists are single track with passing spaces.
We go as far as Meavaig and park. There are twenty pairs of Golden Eagles on Harris and an observatory a couple of km up the valley. I am distracted by a very loud Oyster Catcher...maybe it has spotted an eagle?
View up the valley. We chat to a guy returning from the observatory, he says that no eagles have been spotted for a couple of days, so we decide to move on. Note the pole on the left sneaking into shot!
I take another photo further up the valley where there are no poles.
The cows are reluctant to move off the warm tarmac.
We stop for a drink in Tarbert, but there is not much to see so we head on to Lewis. (Harris and Lewis are joined) View down to Loch Seaforth.
We stop at the Callanish standing stones.These monoliths, nearly 50 slabs of gnarled and finely grained gnieiss up to 15ft high, were transported here between 3000BC and 1500BC, but their exact function remains a mystery. The ground plan resembles a Celtic cross and there is a central burial chamber.
The stone next to the burial chamber.
Looking down to Loch Roag and the Visitor Centre, which was not here the last time we came. Time for more coffee and cake!
We have booked a place in Carloway for two nights, next to a small loch.
To make the most of the good weather, after dinner we take the short trip up the road to Dun Carloway. One of Scotland's best preserved brochs, or fortified towers. it is up on the hill so we should get some great views to our surroundings. Looking down again on Loch Roag.
The broch, which dated from between 100BC to 100 AD, consists of two concentric walls, the inner one perpendicular, the outer one slanted inwards.
The walls are fastened together by flagstones which make a narrow stairwell, which you can walk up, but these days leads nowhere, but originally led to lookout galleries.
We head further up the hillside to the cairn.
Great views across to Great Bernera and the surrounding small islands.
View out to sea.
On the north side is Loch Charlabhaigh.
A fishing port.
Note the thickness of the walls of the ruined Blackhouse. Plus a rather nice modern wooden house.
We continue on to the Blackhouse Village of Gerenin. Here there are nine restored thatched crofters houses. The last one was abandoned in 1974. They have been put to a variety of uses, cafe, museum, one shows the conditions inside at the time of abandonment. Others are self catering cottages and one is a hostel. It was closed when we went in the late evening, so we just looked around outside.
Next morning we visited the Arnol Blackhouses. We were here 27 years ago when they were first being restored.
Cut peat on the left.
The blackhouse was full of peat smoke. In order to retain the heat they were built with no chimneys, as a result of this the health of the residents over time would have been severely affected, but it did kill the midges! The old lady who lived here moved out reluctantly in 1964 into a new house which is now the ticket office.
The animals were kept in the blackhouse too, just separated by a partition. The trench was to remove the manure.
Opposite is a ruined blachouse that was abandoned in 1920 when the family moved into a new house built next door.
All along the road to Arnol you would see old abandoned blackhouses with new homes built beside them.
In some even the newer homes had been abandoned.
We then drove to the Port of Ness at the northern tip of Lewis. Ness has the highest percentage of Gaelic speakers in the country with 75%.
We had coffee and cake at the cafe (white building on the left) which wasn't here the last time.
It has a great little beach.
We head for the Butt of Lewis, well known to devotees of the BBC's Shipping Forecast.
The lighthouse. First lit in 1862 and fully automated in 1998. The Guinness Book of Records says that this is the windiest place on the coast of Britain......I bet they haven't been to Walney Island!
We have a walk along the cliff tops.
There are no fences! I'm not in the least surprised to come across a gravestone to someone who has fallen. Not a walk to do after dark!
We head for Port Sto, a tiny cove hidden a half a mile from the lighthouse which we found on our last visit. I remember from last time that the water is so cold it burns!
Nice to have it totally to ourselves.
I can't resist a cave!
Nesting fulmars on the cliffs surrounding the cove.
Next we take a walk to St. Moluag's Episcopal Church, the oldest place of worship in the Western Isles that is still in regular use. It dates from the 12th century.
St Moluag's remains without electricity or water. Lighting is by oil lamp and candle.
To the side of the altar is a squint. The church was a centre for pilgrimage by those seeking healing, and it seems likely that the squint from the side chapel was constructed to allow pilgrims with communicable diseases (such as leprosy) to take part in services without coming into contact with those in the church itself.
View into the small side chapel.
We head for Uig on the west side of Lewis.
We visit the Uig Museum at Timsgarry. Outside is a giant wooden statue of one of the Lewis Chessmen. 78 pieces, eight sets, but none complete, were found in a sandbank near Ardroil in 1831. These were carved Walrus ivory from the 12th century, from Norway. They are now in the British Museum and the National Museum in Edinburgh. This museum has an excellent tea room......lovely cake!
Our route ahead to Ardroil. On the left is a petrol station, the first one we have seen all day, and a most welcome sight!
Ardroil beach is huge.
It is an extremely gneiss beach!
On the other side of the dunes is another chessman.
We drive back through Glen Valtos, an example of a glacial melt water channel.
We take a small detour around Kneep before heading back to Carloway.
Ducklings in the small loch by our hotel.
Looking back to the hotel at sunset. Off home tomorrow.
Lewis Castle in Stornaway. Our ferry is at 2pm so plenty of time to have a walk around the harbour and visit the shops.
I looked at this and thought "Harris Tweed brides? I know it's cold here, but who in their right mind.....?" Then I realised that the post was obscuring the letters H and E .....D'oh! Well, it had been a long nine days!
We wave goodbye to Lewis. The ferry to Ullapool took two and a half hours. We drove home through Scotland in torrential rain and got home just after 1am.
Thankfully the weather bucked up on Harris and Lewis. We will have to return in another 27 years….or so. 😉