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Isle of Harris and Lewis


Earlier this year our friend, Stickitoffee, went over the sea to Harris and posted a wonderful blog on 19 June,
My blog is meant to be read in conjunction with this.
At the northern end of a string of islands (the Outer Hebrides) in the Atlantic Ocean is a large(ish) island that is divided into two ‘counties’ for want of a better word. One of these two counties is called Harris and the other called Lewis. No one seems quite able to agree on the correct name for the island but it should probably be called the “Island of Harris and Lewis”.

Lewis and Harris feature two very different types of landscape; Sticki’s blog shows the rugged rockieness of Harris, which even has hills of 800m in height, whilst Lewis is much flatter with huge areas of peat bog and lochans. This is typically shown here with the hills of Harris in the distance.

Last weekend we made a trip to Lewis sailing from Ullapool to Stornoway (or should that be ‘Stormaway’ – we sailed into storm force winds and the following sailing was cancelled!) The two pictures were taken on the return trip – no way was I going on deck on the way out. The sea spray was going right over the top of the ferry and even going to the loo was an adventure.


Ferry – ‘Isle of Lewis’


In the far west of Lewis the Uig district boasts wonderful shell sands such as this one at Reef. The shell sands are formed as Atlantic storms batter and crush the shells that have been washed up, this second picture shows some shells that are partly broken down to a sand.

Accepting that we all have to go sometime, how about this for a final resting place!

I don’t want to duplicate Stickies pictures but have to include one picture of the Callanish stone circle; this was a primary reason for our visit to the island.

Just to the north of Callanish is the blackhouse village of Gearrannan.

This was rather a disappointment to me as it did not fit my knowledge of a blackhouse. A blackhouse is one where there is no chimney and the smoke from the peat fire filters out through a hole in the roof – hence evrything inside the house was black. When these houses were built in the 1700s this would have been the case. As it is they were occupied until the 1970s and, obviously, improved for the villagers comfort. The wooden panelled walls and 1950s ceramic tile fireplace just did not seem right (neither did the barley straw for thatching, it would have been heather). The weaver of harris tweed was interesting, though.

We then drove to the northernmost point on the island, the Butt of Lewis. The main claim to fame of this spot is that it is the windiest place in the British Isles: it has an entry in the Guinness Book of Records to this effect!

Whilst we were standing there a lone sailor was having an epic experience a few miles to the north. One wave washed him out of his yacht and the following wave washed him back again; lucky man (BBC News). Another lucky man was the one who tapped on our car window just as we arrived and asked “Do we have any jump leads in the car?” Yes, we did and I managed to get him started again, but what a place to get a flat battery!
This is the lighthouse with the light some 85 meters above sea level and it is reported that the sea spray sometimes comes over the top of the lighthouse during winter gales!

One unusual feature of the lighthouse is that it is un-painted, just the plain brick walls.
Some of you grow vegetables in the new-fangled ‘raised beds’. You thought that they were a new idea? These are the remains of ‘riggs’, a traditional way of growing crops on wet land and these probably date from the 1700s.

When they were in use the raised parts would have been bare soil for the crop to grow in and fertiliser would have been seaweed from the shore.
On the final day of our trip the ferry departed at lunchtime so the morning was filled with a wander round the grounds of Lews Castle(it is correctly spelled).

We had a good weekend break and I would recommend a trip to the western islands to anyone.

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I've known some wild sea crossings but this was, probably, the wildest of them all. Thursday night it sounded as if the roof of the guest house we were staying on was going to be ripped off the wind was so ferocious.

21 Sep, 2012


Oh thank you Bulbaholic for this brilliant blog ~ thank you SO much. i love to hear anything about these islands and to see it all again is such a treat.

whats even better is that you went to places that i havent managed to go to yet ~ i missed out on the blackhouses ~ what a shame they are not so authentic but i agree, lovely to see the tweed being made; i still havent been to the butt of lewis nor lews castle ~ love the waterfall.

great to see the riggs in your photo; that lighthouse being covered in spray and the ferry with waves over the decks would really scare me but i love to watch the awesome power of the waves [hopefully from a secure place on land]

thank you again ~ i really loved reading your blog and appreciate every photo! i found another good book recently that you may like 'Seasons on Harris' by David Yeadon.

21 Sep, 2012


Wow! Impressive and Wow again, amazing scenery and so so isolated those pictures are wonderful - thank you for a brilliant blog, how on earth did they cope living in those houses. We are all spoiled rotten these days - life is so different to how they lived. I would have been terrified of that journey, hope it wasn't as windy for you coming back home.

21 Sep, 2012


Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.
Brought back memories when I cycled the length of these islands from Tarbert to Lochboisdale via Berneray.
The grandson of the lady I stayed with on Berneray had a shock when I told him " I know you. I have seen you on television in London !" It was a news item when the children at the school were told Prince Charles was going to visit them. This boy was so excited he jumped up. I remembered his face.
Had chosen to go north - south, met lots of other cyclists having a rough ride going the other way. The treeless landscape was a shock to me. Often passed people sitting on the side of the road outside their crofts waiting for the shop-bus. Saw tons of Peat cut in blocks stacked up, drying for the winter fires.
Thanks for Sticki's web address.

21 Sep, 2012


I thoroughly enjoyed that Bulba. Sorry to hear of your rather rocky crossing!! I'm pleased to see that MG got you home safe and sound weren't too feird were you?
Way back in my ancestory - part of my family moved from Lanarkshire to Gress Farm on the Isle of Lewis.
Thanks for sharing :)

21 Sep, 2012


Great blog! Probably won't ever go there, so lovely to see - and learn - what goes on in another part of the world. :o)

22 Sep, 2012


very interesting blog i bet it was an awesome place to live in the past i can almost feel how hard it must have been how lucky we are at this tme in what will be history i do think about this from time to time

22 Sep, 2012


I knew the Postmen in that part of Scotland are good contacts for B&B. They even know which lady already has a guest. I was amazed to see the Gannets diving into the sea for fish on the ferry journey over to Berneray Island.
On arrival I went to the bungalow which had advertised B&B. The woman took one look at this cyclist, and said
So I rode up the one street, looking for the Postman. He appeared. Said "Annie will put you up for the night." and told me the number of her house.
She is the mother of the Postmistress, so thats the contact address, the Post Office.
There were free ranging chickens around her door. She said there was a bed if I didnt mind eggs for supper and eggs for breakfast.
It was a comfortable double bed. I would recommend her to Sticki or any other Goyers if they go up that way.
I kept in touch with Annie. Two years later she wrote that Duncan (whom I saw on T/V) was 14 and was driving the tractor up on the machair !

22 Sep, 2012


Thanks Diane! I think at one time the post bus was also the local bus for islanders, an excellent and very necessary service!

22 Sep, 2012


Great reading other peoples experiences of the isles, I am enjoying this.
Thank you all

22 Sep, 2012


Another interesting thing I was told when up there.
The best Policemans' job in the UK is on Skye.
There is never any crime, because on these Islands the people are controlled by their Priests.
So the Policeman on Skye spends all his time directing the tourists !
I cycled by a Golf Course one day. There was a huge noticeboard stating ' The playing of Golf on this Course is not allowed on Sundays.'
Must have been meant for the tourists.
Also saw hills with notices ' In the event of icy conditions this road is not gritted on Sundays.'
Very strict they are up there. Very strict.

22 Sep, 2012


No golf is allowed on harris or lewis on sundays either and when you are allowed to play you pay by honesty box if no one is in attendance!

22 Sep, 2012


There are also signs part way along some of the roads stating that "Te road is not gritted beyond this point" Mind you, the roads on Lewis and Harris are MILES better than the roads on Mull!

22 Sep, 2012


Lewis and Harris have had money from the EU, including a lot of money for 'the golden road' down the east coast bays, so named because it cost so much!!!

the roads are miles better than Islay too!!

22 Sep, 2012


This was so very interesting and beautifully illustrated. Really enjoyed it, many thanks.

22 Sep, 2012


Lovely blog Bulba. Very evocative for visits we took to the islands of Scotland many long years ago. We landed on Skye in Skye Week, unintentionally, and had a wonderful time. The celeidhs( spelling) were fantastic and the games day a real joy. Long before H&S, the sportsmen, some of them, were well lubricated. So many muscles and kilts and the lairds in procession before the games started. Everyone had a splendid time. All the way along we saw pipers standing looking out across that marvellous scenery, piping away, practising for perhaps a piping contest.

26 Sep, 2012


Still pretty much the same, Dorjac, (except there is now a bridge rather than a ferry) haste ye back.
And thank you to the everyone else who enjoyed the blog; the writing was nearly as enjoyable as the trip.

26 Sep, 2012


and the reading of the blog was extremely enjoyable too, many thanks bulbaholic, very much appreciated

26 Sep, 2012


How Wonderful. The Place Looks Beautiful. And all The Information Is great. I Have Been To Scotland. And Absolutely Loved it.

3 Oct, 2013

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