Bonnie Scotland - The Isle of Lewis (June 15, 2012)

Friday, June 15, 2012

We couldn't resist another stop at Luskentyre Beach this morning after a peaceful breakfast at Mount Cameron B&B.

The beach makes Kris jig...and the winds were so strong, you can see the sand sweeping across the surface.

This B&B was Kris's favorite. The otherworldly location, the solitude, and the comfort of the B&B made it a stand-out. He said that the Mount Cameron B&B made you feel like you were staying at your grandparent's house.

Then it was time to head to the Island of Scarpay to find a lighthouse we wound up not being able to get there. Oops.

Then north to the Isle of Lewis to a series of three stone circles called the Callanish Standing Stones.

We hit Dun Carloway next. I had no idea what a dun was before stopping here. It's a broch tower, or type of old lodging built upward in a round tower that often served as the center of a defensible community back in the day. If you didn't know better, you'd just think it was a rock sitting on a hill.

Dun Carloway is one of the best preserved duns that remain. It was rather interesting to see how they carefully chose the stones and built the walls in double layers so they could insulate them.

It is thought that life in the broch would have been like that in the photo below:

The doorways were so very short I twice bonked my bean going through and a rather sophisticated stairwell still remains inside showing how to advance to additional floors.

Naturally, Kris had fun finding ways to get where others can't crawl to. (There was no direct path this window any longer. It took some maneuvering.)

Some really good information about the dun can be found on Undiscovered Scotland, a site I loved using for this vacation.

Off we went to the Gearrannan Black House Village. I thought this attraction was covered with our purchase of the Heritage Pass, but it was not. That was another attraction down the road. This attraction had a lot to see in one place though. It definitely showed how the blackhouses held the straw/thatch roof down with stones.

The blackhouse village was a fascinating look at how people lived in the olden days.

They didn't have fireplaces and always kept the peat fire burning. They just had piles of peat on reserve.

This fertilized the thatch roof which was replaced each year and used as fertilizer. They also lived with the animals in the house which helped with warmth and kept from having to create any additional buildings.

Blackhouses seemed to have been used over 1000 years ago, and many still functioned in the 1970s (though the roofing changed).

The Arnol Blackhouse offered a different look at the blackhouses. This site isn't as commercialized as the Gearrannan Black House Village which acts as both a manufacturing spot for Harris Tweed and a self-catering B&B and bunkhouse hostel.

The Arnol Blackhouse had an actual peat fire going. The air was thick with smoke.

After trying to use a few phone booths unsuccessfully to call Anna Macleod (our lodging for the night), I was in a desperate state. Anna doesn't really run a B&B. She is nice enough to let two of the rooms in her home when the local B&Bs are full. I had been trying to get lodging months before we left, but everything in Stornoway was booked full or super expensive. One B&B had suggested I contact Anna, her relative, and she was nice enough to offer us accommodation. She asked me to ring her on our day of arrival after we knew what time we'd be arriving. Here it was almost 3pm, and we still hadn't called her. I felt terrible. But the phone booths wouldn't take any coins...they took credit...but they don't have swipe cards in Europe, so they wouldn't take our card. Ack! Luckily, a gentleman worker at a local gas station was nice enough to let us use the phone - and he even dialed the number when I couldn't figure it out.

Blasted phone booths don't take coins?

Now, relaxed, we were able to venture to the Butt of Lewis, the northernmost point on the Isle of Lewis. The Butt of Lewis has a lighthouse and some amazing views. It also had the hardest winds we'd come across. Temperatures were coolest this day falling down below 50 and, with winds blowing more than 14mph, you'd better believe we were cold. We still had to get the perfect photos though.

To understand the wind, you should check out this video that I took:

All set to head back, we detoured to a local beach at the Butt of Lewis at the Eoropie Dunes Park. Sheltered from a lot of the wind, we enjoyed a good half hour before continuing on our way.

Has anyone ever told you that I'm weird?

Kris found a stone throne. I got sand in my shoes.

Doing the pigeon?  

Next up, Steinacleit. I know the name, but nobody seems to know what it once was (though they suspect it was a cairn or chambered tomb).

Nearby Steinacleit was an island with the remains of a dun dating over 2000 years old. I love how the signs are written in English and Gaelic.

After our stops, it was off to our evening lodging - Anna Macleod's in Stornoway. Anna is such a gracious, kind, hospitable lady. She made sure we knew where to get milk and cereal for our breakfast the next morning since we had a ferry to catch at 6:15am. She left us butter and rolls, and she refrigerated my morning Diet Coke. We also ran out to get take away for dinner, and she provided us with cold water to drink and plates/cutlery. She reminded us a lot of Grannie Ruth, Kris's grandma, in her willingness to please.

At 25 pounds per person per night for genuine warmth, cozy and clean lodging in a beautiful home, wifi, a private bathroom, and free breakfast. This was the best value of our trip. They even moved their car so we could park in the driveway.

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