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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Island Hopping with the Glebe-Days 11,12 and 13.

It's Sunday the 5th of July,and i'm sitting in my wee house in Newton Stewart writing the final chapter of my Island Hopping trip having cut it short for the sake of prudence.

Day 11.
It's Day 11,and i've gained a companion.
A request from a fellow hosteller for a lift to the morning ferry to Harris.
Since we're both hostelling on Lewis,i suggest i take her in my car.
Lena is Swedish and from Stockholm,and young enough to be my daughter.Our two days together were purely platonic(Lena laid down the rules early enough on the car drive,and i hope i behaved as the perfect gentleman),and it was great to have the company to end my trip.She'd never heard of Thunderbirds,but she became Lady Penelope while i was 'Yes M'lady' Parker.
Here's a link for you Lena.

Having made enough room in the car for Lena's rucksack,we're heading to the ferry terminal for the 09.40 to Tarbert.A light mist hangs over the port.
The crossing took one hour and forty minutes,and was fairly uneventful inasmuch that there were no dolphins whales or other marine mammals showing themselves.Tarbert comes into view.
A steady exit from Tarbert,and we're among the hills of North Harris.It's very sparsely populated with only the odd building to be seen.I stop frequently to take pictures.

Here the view is of Loch Seaforth (Shiphoirt)stretching out into the Atlantic.

Still heading north towards Stornoway (Steornabhagh) we stop to look at the Land Raiders Monument at Balallan (Baile Ailein).One of three of an art project of memorials to commemorate the crofters struggle for land law reform and to generate an appreciation of the social history of land reform in the Gaeltacht.

Further on i think i'm seeing things when i spot what looks like a spanish bull just down a slope from the road.I reverse the car and there he is all alone and looking kinda pensive.He stood up,but wouldn't look at us.Lena compared him to Disney's Ferdinand.
Finally we reach Stornoway,and after parking the car,i head up to look at the magnificent war memorial. There are a lot of Murrays (My fathers mother's maiden name) on the names roll,and i feel a kind of affinity with the island folk who made the ultimate sacrifice in the two big wars.
Stornoway looks like an interesting and diverse town,and i'll explore more the next time.After a vist to the towns tourist centre we have a coffee at the library's cafe.There's heavy rain as we head to Tesco for Lena's provisions for the weekend.

Shopping over and it's time to head west and find Garenin where the hostel is.After initially missing the turn off we're on the Rathad a' Phentland (The Pentland Rd)the road over the moors.This sheeps wooly coat was so long and heavy it was falling off.
We made a couple of trips over here,and each time came across the biggest pair of ravens I ever saw.Got no pictures though.The rain has cleared.

We reach Carloway (Carlabhagh),and find the short lane to Blackhouse Village.The hostel is the first on the right.There are two bunkhouses,one of six beds and one of eight beds at either end.The shower,W.C.,and kitchen occupy the middle section.It's fairly cramped,but has all anyone needs.
Na Gearrannan as well as housing the hostel is also a museum and the restored crofting cottages are available for self catering holidays.More info at

Having claimed a couple of the remaining beds and a welcome cup of coffee it's over to the bay for a walk and a look along the southern shore.Lena doesn't know anything about the clegs on the Outer Hebrides but soon becomes acquainted after a particularly savage bite.From now on she keeps a count of her kills.

I'm told this is a Golden Plover,but it seems a little small.Can anyone confirm this.(Having now looked in the bird books,i'm now of the opinion that this is a ringed plover.Is that right? )

It's back to the hostel and meeting some of the other hostellers.
During my two weeks,i've frequently run into the same folk in different locations.
I suppose it stands to reason since they're like minded and move around.
There a couple here from the thatching group from Bernerey.As i'm at the car park getting something from the car,i bumb into the family from Howmore.Earlier i'd bumped into the folk from Ayrshire on the ferry.The two swiss cyclists from Oban i met again on Skye,and other folk have looked familiar.Eleven of the fourteen beds tonight are occupied.

Now as the sun is setting i head out with Lena along the northern path from the village...

...and she sits for a picture.After a review she tells me it's ok to blog it.Yes m'lady !

There's very little wind as we watch the sun sink and a small yacht sails ever so slowly from north to south.It clouded over before the sun had set completely,so we carefully made our way back to the village swatting clegs as we went.
End of Day 11 and a good nights sleep.

Day 12.
A quiet start to the day.I take a look around the village after my porridge.
Lena intends to make use of me while she can,and will accompany me on my days exploration.
First stop is just a little way down the road at the Callanish Standing Stones and Visitors Centre.
Back on Skye we'd seen these classic cars getting on the ferry.It must be a club outing.Anyway they're here at Chalanais.

I guess these are the most famous standing stones in Scotland-they're certainly very impressive.It's amazing they're still standing after two and a half thousand years.

I get my picture taken without the need for the ten second delay function...

...and someone in the lotus position is trying to get some good karma.

A short circular walk back to the car,and this thistle has a number of different insects on it's flowers.

A lovely collie dog and a couple of porkers are also en route back to the car.
It looks like the old tractor is there to act as a backscratcher for these friendly pigs.They didn't answer to Babe or whatever swedish endearment Lena called them.

Now we're heading out to Uig.We pass the road that goes to the Doune Broch.One of the reasons i want to go back to Lewis is to see the Doune Broch,but there is so much to see on Lewis and not enough time to explore.
There's an interesting piece on Carloways own website at
Doune Broch

Reaching Uige and Timsgarry,we drive around for a short time while the community shop opens at 1 o'clock.It's been closed for a funeral,and judging by the amount of cars that go past in procession it looks as though everyone from this community had been paying their respects.

And now we head out to Aird Uige,and the name sounds familiar to me.
Here at the Gallan Head Restaurant we have a cup of coffee.This is the most north-westerly restaurant in the u.k.
Gallan Head
Now looking back down at the station it seems my instinct that i'd been here before was wrong.I and my brother visited Lewis when i was six months old in 1943 while my dad was in the RAF.And i'd seen or thought i'd heard mention of Aird Uig,but since this base wasn't built till 1954 i couldn't have been.The RAF Station at that time was at Stornoway.

This certainly looks like the background in the photo,but unless they caught a bus from Stornoway,then i can't be sure.Everyone before they die should be made to have a brain scan,and all their knowledge recorded and saved for posterity.

Now back to Miabhaig or Miavaig,we'll do a circuit of a peninsula with lots of beaches.
This particular one was at Cnip.Taking a walk on this beach,Lena got herself a handful of shells to take back to Sweden.Lots of Jellyfish as well as the shells.

Sometime during todays travels we'd seen a bird of prey that i thought resembled a hen harrier.But having since been told that there are no harriers on Lewis,i wonder at what age a golden eaglet would fly.I've seen enough buzzards to know it wasn't one,so it'll remain a mystery.Pity i didn't get a picture.

Now as we leave Miavaig,and head back the way we came,(There's a wonderful lack of roads on Lewis,they need to keep it that way),i spot some more standing stones and head off to investigate.This is the Garynahine Stone Circle overlooking Loch Roag here.
A run back to Stornoway now,more provisions are needed.
Tesco's have cooked chicken(of the three portions,i ate one in their car park) which i'll have later with my Uncle Ben's rice,but no Flip-Flops... we'll try the co-op.
It's good to see that the Co-op here is doing as much if not more trade than Tesco.They're much more environmentally friendly.
Note the palm trees.
As we head back to Geranin,I've decided,that since the weather forecast is good,i'll stay another night.Tomorrow we'll head up to the Butt of Lewis.What do i know.
I've had my chicken when the warden fella comes to see who's at the hostel.
I pay him for my three nights,and tell him i'll get a boat on Sunday.
I get my third nights lodging money back from him when he tells me there are no ferries on a Sunday.(That's not strictly true.There's a ferry from Leverburgh to Bernerey.Then a long run through North Uist,Benbecula,to Lochboisdale and the ferry to Oban.)
I mistakenly thought the booking office was 24 hours,but a recorded message tells me to either book online.Ha ! or ring back at 8 in the morning.
So my choice is simple.Try to get on one of the three Saturday ferries,or take the chance on waiting till the last moment.
I decide to try and get on the early ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool.
So it's goodbye to Lena and the other hostellers.

Day 13
I'm awake at two thirty am,and i'm not taking the chance of falling asleep again.
I'm at the gates at half past three.

Daylight shows the boat in waiting.I've had a stroll around,and the odd forty winks in the car.

The gates finally open.I'm placed first in the row of non booked ticket holders.Three others are behind me.Stornoway looks good in the morning light.There seems to be a lot of cars going on,and i'm fearing that we might not make this trip,but we all got on with a little room to spare.

On board and after a few naps and breakfast,there's an announcement of a helicopter approaching with a message for someone.It's a coastguards helicopter with a 50th birthday message.

The sea looks so clear as we reach the mainland.The ships wake making uniform patterns...
...It's a beautiful morning coming into Ullapool...

...and having driven off the ferry,the Summer Queen begins it's days work.
Now here in Ullapool i suppose i should have stayed over,but now i'm back on the mainland i've the homing instinct,and decide to drive home.
Six and a half hours later after numerous traffic jams and lots of brilliant scenery,i'm home in Newton Stewart.
I've had a fabulous couple of weeks.Amongst my favourite places would be Arran nearly on my doorstep,Skye of which i've only had a tantalizing glimpse,and my no 1 favourite the Outer Hebrides even with the clegs.
Here endeth Island Hopping with the Glebe.


  1. Hi Dad, I am fimally on your blog. It is very interesting. The pictures are very good. It really is beautiful. A lot of the sights are in our stone cirles book. I am going to do some work now. Bye

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. It looks like you had a great trip indeed Jim. When the weather is on your side you can`t beat the western seaboard of Scotland.
    Bob and I are hoping to visit a few of the Inner Hebrides over the coming month or two.Colonsay,Coll,Kerrera and a return visit to the hills of Arran are on the cards.


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