Oh, for peats sake!

I left Inverness by bus up to Ullapool, then took a ferry to the Isle of Lewis. As the bus headed north, the forests took turn with heather, and green rolling hills became mountains. I could definitely tell now that I was in Scotland. Ullapool arrived on the horizon, with rocky cliffs on one side of a dark gray fjord and windswept hills on the other. The sun would occasionally break through the clouds to create sparkling diamonds on the water. The beauty literally brought tears to my eyes.

The ferry slowly made its way north, over a two and 1/2 hour journey. I did manage to see a dolphin on the way. I made it into Stornoway around noon, and had the afternoon to explore the town and do some much-needed laundry at the hostel.

The next day was Sunday. For the island, that means that nothing except churches are open. No buses, no restaurants, no grocery stores. Nothing. Luckily I had been warned, and I got groceries the night before.

Having nothing open was a perfect opportunity to walk around nearby Lews castle and the extensive grounds around it. This had the main forest of the nearby area, which was a beautiful place to walk. Further afield I walked along green open hills. I smelled an aroma that smelled a bit like the sage found in the desert. Later I realized it was the peat soil, to which I would quickly become accustomed. I also followed a river with water that looked like Guinness. I later realized that this also was from the peat soil.

I returned around noon having walked ten miles. Enough walking, I chatted with the other women in the hostel in the afternoon. The hostel experience is great, but it’s nice to have a private space to retreat to as needed.

On Monday I made it out to the Port of Ness, which is at the northeast corner of the island. There are remains of an old Clan Morrison stronghold called Dun Eistean there, although not many remains remain. Mostly just a small hill with surrounding lumps in the ground. But being near the shore, the cliffs behind the remains were spectacular, and I spent until the afternoon roaming about.

Today was spent in a whirlwind tour of four other ancient sites on the island. Each one of them warrants at least a full day’s visit, but someone at the hostel had worked out a schedule for the buses in which all four could be visited in one day, so there I was.

The first was Carloway Broch, the remains of an ancient structure once used by the Morrison clan. It’s along northern coast of the island, which is more rocky and hilly than the flat interior of the island. The broch was a round structure, with passages within the walls and wee doorways to duck through.

Next stop was the Callanish stone circle. Think Stonehenge, without the horizontal lintels on top. No one really knows why it was built, but the when dates back to 3-4000BC.

The next stop, Garynahine village, was an open air museum of old crofters cottages. Exhibits included a working loom, furnishings typical of the houses, and a peat fire going. Behind the village were stunning vistas with cliffs venturing towards the sea.
Last was Arnol Black House. Black houses got their name from the lack of windows, and because their lack of chimneys meant that smoke from the peat fires would accumulate on the ceilings. They also had half of the house designated for animals and half for people. I’m sure the animals may have contributed to the grime as well.

Tomorrow I’m off to Ireland to visit another friend for a few days. Since I’m limited to about a dozen pictures per post, I’m working on putting together a slideshow on YouTube. There’s just too much beautiful scenery here.