The alarm woke me up at 4:30am. I lay there in the dark listening to wind gusts drive rain against the window above my head. “What a perfect day to head out to the Islands!” I said sarcastically to myself. I’ve been talked to myself often lately since being on the road alone for over a week now. I drove to the Uig ferry dock in blackness. We were delayed for half-an-hour because someone fell overboard and needed to be fished out.
The ferry ride to Tarbert, the port between Harris and Lewis Islands (northernmost of the Outer Hebrides), was actually comfy. It’s a large ferry and the heat was cranked up inside the passenger deck. By the time we docked, the skies seemed to be clearing in the west. It was only 7:30am when we arrived. I had a tough time finding a place that was open and serving breakfast. Persistence paid off, however, and I found a place down by the docks.
After breakfast, I drove to the west coast of Harris to check out what is supposedly caribbean-like beaches hidden on this Island. It took me a couple of tries to find the correct turn off the main road, but once again, persistence pays off. I sat in the parking area listening to the BBC until a rain shower passed. But as you will see in the photos from this beach, it was worth it. Believe it or not, I was the only person there. I had miles of the softest, golden sand, beach to myself. Well, actually I was sharing it with sheep. What a well-kept secret this place is! I spent nearly 2 glorious hours basking in the sun and walking along the beach.
The fact that I had to be an hour north on the Island of Lewis to check into the B&B by 2pm is what forced me from this paradise. Although these two Islands are technically one land mass, their topography is very different. Harris looks like the surface of the moon until one comes to the “tropical” beaches. Lewis looks like the plains of North Dakota until you come to the oceanside cliffs. On both Islands, sheep are literally everywhere. They even lay down on the roads and soak up the warmth from the pavement, forcing drivers to go around them. Amy wanted to know if I was seeing many sheep; probably because I haven’t featured many images of them on the blog. Believe me, unless you’ve been here, it is difficult to understand what it means when I say, “they are everywhere!” I took a few more photos for Amy today.
After checking into the B&B and resting a bit. I headed back out on the road. There were 2 destinations on the list: 1) The Calanais Standing Stones near Callandish. And 2) The Gearannan Blackhouses on the west coast of Lewis.
The Calanais Stones have been there for over 5000 years. This is the largest example in the area, but there are hundreds of them on the Outer Hebrides and throughout Great Britain. Speculations abound as to their purpose; celestial, spiritual, religious, burial, etc. but nobody knows for sure.
The Gearannan Blackhouses were some of the last remaining of their kind on the Hebrides. The most recent residents moved out in 1972. Fortunately, funds to restore and preserve what remained. A couple of them serve as a museum now. Others are able to be rented for a holiday stay. How cool would that be?! I really enjoyed visiting these blackhouses. And one of them had a peat fire going in the fireplace. The whole area smelled wonderful! In this same blackhouse, there was a guy demonstrating how the local crofters (farmers) make the world-famous Harris Tweed.
That’s another interesting thing about the Outer Hebrides. The Harris Tweed comes from these very islands and it’s sheep. And…this is cool…much of the product comes from locals weaving the tweed in their own homes, on their own, historic, looms. When they have a roll of a particular weave finished, they set it out by the road to be picked up by the company.
On Amy’s (and the previous B&B host) suggestion, I had lamb chops for dinner tonight. Guys….this is why we should listen to women. How right they were! The B&B host from Dornie explained that sheep in the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides eat heather their entire lives, unlike sheep from other regions. And as a result, their meat is exquisite. I am a witness to this truth. They were, by far, the best lamb I’ve ever tasted. And they were served with potatoes, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots all basting in a brown broth gravy containing micro-pieces of mint. Can we grow heather in Wisconsin?
Here are a few more photos from the day. You can click on any image to enlarge it.