Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last full day on Lewis

We trekked down the length of the Lewis and Harris island to Rodel today to see the St. Clement’s church in Rodel today. Marg and Gretchen describe the trip through Isle of Harris very well so I’ll leave you with their words on that. I overcame my dread of heights to climb the ladders up to the top floor of the tower.

Marg and I spent our last evening on the island with a couple of Tennant ales watching the sunset over the North Sea. We found a nice rock to sit on at the base of the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis. Absolutely stunning.

May 31, parking lot of the Doune Braes Hotel

Day 8 - Thursday May 31st Lewis, Scotland

This is our last day on Lewis. Meg and I are sitting at the Kitchen table saddened by the prospect of leaving it behind.

Today we are bound for Callenish to see sites 2 and 3 (lesser standing stone circles in the vicinity of the first) and on to Rodel to see a church that Mera
the eye-rolling waitress from Glasgow promises us will have naked ladies hidden in the architecture. The Borve Pottery lady 
( directed us to a wonderful walk along the
peninsula below the chapel. We expect it to be another day filled with discovery.

Dad, you'll be happy to know you were wrong. We haven't been bored for even a moment.

Today so far is Sunny and much warmer than yesterday which as the Scots would say was a bit soft. Which of course means that it was raining pretty good most of the day. But they do have a sense of humor about it here. A nice lady that was taking a pot of soup to the tea room as we were coming out of St. Molag's temple yesterday smiled and said "Ooooh isn't this a fine summer day we're havin'"?

So yesterday we didn't expect to get very far as it was expected to rain all day. We went first up towards the tea room with every expectation of making it to St. Moluag's first but we went the wrong direction (upon my suggestion) and ended up going out to a rough and rocky cliff to

Dun Eistean. This is an ancient fort which simply means that it was a defensible place to escape to when somebody was after you. (Like your mum when you were particularly naughty). They (the people who do such things - probably peat cutters) did discover a structure there and if I remember correctly it was about 4 ft square. The legend is that the escapees would access the place by climbing hand over hand along a rope bridge between the island and this fort island. They are separated by a ravine.
Here's a view of the Butt of
Lewis Lighthouse from the Dun. Now later in the day we met Mr. Robeson a local historian
(more about him later) who assures us that it is in fact not a ravine being only 35 or so feet down.
Surely a ravine would be 50 or 100 feet down or more.  He has on several occasions climbed down and back up in order to access this dun prior to the installation of an
odd metal bridge that was placed courtesy of the Morrisons (much to the relief of overweight American tourists everywhere, thank you very much, ooooh that's lovely).

Though the rain came down all day we were actually fortunate that the wind was not stiff and we were able to use umbrellas most of the day.

So once we left this impressive site we hopped back in the car and headed for
St. Moluag's church again. This is an active church in the
Church of Scotland and the nice lady who made our wool hats is the preacher there. I think it probably suits her,
there was a three inch platform in front of the lecturn, we have heard she is a
tiny lady. The church is very small. It probably has eight pews no more than 8 feet across in two rows of four. The walls are stone and un-painted or otherwise adorned. There are small narrow windows on each of the four sides. It's quite old, I can get you the details later. There is a
very old baptismal font that is carved from stone with a wooden lid and a
donation box that looks to be late 19th century at the latest. The church stands alone at the
end of a long path that is well marked and bordered on each side by - who would have guessed - sheep.

So having dropped our requisite pound in the collection box we wandered off to the tea room to see what was in the pot that the lady with the
Scottish sense of humor had delivered. It was a lentil soup this time. I have a theory that traditionally the
Scots didn't have teeth as all their homemade soups are pretty well blended. Of course the truth is probably more towards the fact that for a long time they didn't have much of anything and if you blended a soup it could go a lot further.

Anyway, we sat in the tea room, had a bowl of lentil soup and a brown bun. Hannah had a scone with jam and picked out the raisins. A pot of tea and we splurged on desserts. The whole time I was
literally steaming. It was cold in there and I was hot from the walk back from St. Moluag's. We should have gotten a picture.

After we left the tea room, Hannah was tired so we dropped her at the cottage for a nap and headed out again. We went to the
Callicvol quilt shop in Nis and had a lovely visit with the Robsons. First
Mrs. Robson told us all about her quilt shop, showing us pictures and talking about the area.  
She didn't have any quilts to show us because her business was so successful
that she spent all her time working on consignment pieces mostly for people who
had visited the area.

She cleared up any misconceptions about crofts she thought we might have had.
I will do the same for you. A croft is a piece of land sized about 5 acres to
about 12 ish that should be enough to sustain a family. It is not
necessarily a farm. Fishermen generally have crofts which are smaller than
those of farmers because they don't need as much land since they're presumably
getting part of their subsistence from the sea.

She also gave us the low down on the whole peat thing (her loft was heated with a peat stove).
She told us how they stack the peat and how the peat gets a hard skin on it .
They will then periodically go and stack the peat higher as it gets harder so
that fewer and fewer of the peat squares are in contact with the ground. Apparently each town has an allotment of the moor and each croft within the town has it's own allotment within the town allotment. Everyone just knows
where their peat is and no one encroaches upon the other's peat. Though it is possible to take over someone's peat allotment if they don't cut it for three years,
but that is rarely done. It might be your neighbor or someone you know and that's apparently quite an affront. I know I wouldn't want to be considered a peat monger or peat thieving son of a sheep...

When we finished with Mrs. Robson we went downstairs on her recommendation to speak with her husband.
Mr. Robson was equally delightful. He is an older man - a little deaf - who came to the area in the 50's from Northumberland after being sent to Skye for school. He started by announcing the beginning of the lecture by telling us how he came to purchase his first book which as it turned out had been previously owned by famous people in the area with a historical significance. Mssrs
Carmichael and Matheson or other who studied St. Kilda and owned most of Lewis
respectively. He went on to purchase other books which eventually resulted in
his collection that is now the Nis book trust. If you ever have a question about
the Outer Hebrides he's your man He had some wonderful information about the area having become quite the historian over the years inspired by that first book. He prophylactically corrected all the misconceptions he thought we might have about the area from the mis-nomer "western isles" to the notion that Morrisons were "from" Lewis. He had several books on the area that he had written. I purchased one and Meg & Terry purchased two others. He also had recommendations on places to go on Lewis as well as told us some of his childhood memories from his time in the Cheviot Hills. Apparently there were wild goats there who "were ancient, like they were made of stone and clouds". When they came close he would don his indian chief headdress, grab his bow and arrow and stalk them. Whenever a goat presented his backside within range he would let an arrow go and nail those suckers (my words not his). The arrow would bounce off the butt of the goat and it would bound away.

When we finally were able to get away (and I say that in the fondest way, he really was a treasure but might not have ever let us go) we headed to the cross inn for an ale in the old barn tavern out back. We enjoyed a couple of pints before heading off to home and a warm dry bed. This was unexpectedly and thoroughly a wonderful day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Around Lewis - The Robsons

We met a couple, Mike and Janet Robson, who had “diversified their croft” by going into a couple of businesses. Janet ran a quilt shop upstairs which did mostly custom work for visitors. Downstairs, Mike had a for-donation historical research operation called the Lewis Book Trust. He sold copies of his own books there as well. Mike was quite the talker, and it was all very interesting. He told us that the Souterrain structure we found was a World War II bunker, but that there was an ancient underground passage there as well and that he believed the bunker was actually built atop the older site. He also told us that Teampall Phaedair was historically at least as important as the restored Teampall Mholdaith (St. Moluag's Church) we had had visited.

Quite coincidentally, Mike was from our next destination, Northumberland.

May 30 - 6am

30th May 2006 Kitchen Decca Cottage, Lewis, Scotland

I do some of my worst thinking when I'm drunk or early in the morning before conventionality has a chance to settle down upon my shoulders like a mantle of lead. This is one of those mornings I think, so bear with me. It's a fine soft day (as are most days here) and the sheep are grazing outside the window as if all the fine softness in the world couldn't seep into their heavy coats. Most of them have bits of wool dragging along the ground like streamers. Though I never thought of sheep as shedding a winter coat I guess they do. Ok, honestly when have I ever thought much about sheep? There's a few of them around here that are really in a bad way. There's this one poor guy who managed to get out of the fenced area and seemed quite distressed about it. He looks very much like someone TP'd him. I have to say it makes them look kind of nutty, with the stringy wet wool hanging down and dragging through the wet grass. There are two in the garden behind the house that I've named Mutton and Haggis. Apparently they are headed for the abatoir later in the season for particularly bad behavior.

So I was sitting here looking out the window and got to thinking about all this wool just lying around on the machair (fancy scottish word for pasture one of the few we can pronounce - it refers to the composition of the soil for you Jones's out there. High shell content) and it occurred to me that since the grass is kept fairly short by the sheep you could run a mower across it and collect all the wool in a bagger. It would have to be dry though or the wool might get caught on the blade. I think if it were dry it might be chopped up a little but it still might work.

As for what we did yesterday. Well, Meg and Terry tried to go for a walk in the morning but it was raining too hard and it was cold out. Hannah was out of clothes, having had them confiscated by the laundry lady the night before and I was seriously thinking about walking up to St. Moulags before I discovered from Meg and Terry that it was too cold and too rainy to make the attempt. Instead we drove around to a pottery shop (left my purse there - clever that), then into Stornoway where we found wifi as we sat in the car parked across the street from the lifeboat station.

Hannah and I went into a proper Fish and Chips take away place to buy some water and Hannah was nearly run over coming out of the place by an enormous truck that was driving down the alleyway. It literally had wheels on both sidewalks it was so large (or the alleyway was so small - more likely).

In the meantime Terry and Meg were off looking for the tourist office and for a post office. Once they returned we headed back for Lional (Gaelic for Lionel - where they don't have the toy trains) stopping by the grocery and the post office on the way.

Terry stopped at the gas station where we puzzled over an indicator light on the dash it was squarish and seemed to have some kind of a spout sticking up, with an exclamation point which made it seem rather urgent to us but we never did figure out what the car was crying about. We checked all the fluid levels and clicked the cap on the petrol door (fancy scottish word for gas - 'course you watch bbc America don't you. You probably knew that one) shrugged our shoulders and headed off home. Nothing fell off or blew up so we think maybe it was time for an oil change. Anyone knowing the purpose of the aforementioned indicator light can insert a comment in this blog which we will read next time we can find a connection. By the way the car is a Ford Scorpio. (For you Jones's out there - no we don't have an owners manual).

Later we went to dinner at the Cross inn and tavern. It was Lovely, Quite nice actually. We had a that's fine lovely thank you time, a waitress named Suzanne who apparently could do without the rain and cold living on Lewis, has exceptional hearing and punctuates everything she does with "that's fine, lovely, thank you". The food was good, the single malt excellent ("Highland Park"), the service remarkable and the company extraordinary. We had a wonderful time and then a really drippy wet couple wandered in from a four hour walk in the rain.

They were from Reading (outside London about an hour I think) and we sat talking with them for quite a long time. Had a good bit of Bush bashing, Blair bashing, compared notes on what's wrong with our leaders, speculated on who the next ones might be (on both sides - though it seems much more certain on their side. A Scot named Smith is apparently a shoe in for prime minister). These two really were so much fun. They showed us on their maps (that were of course better than our maps - who knew) where they had walked, suggested where we should walk and just enjoyed ourselves. Margaret and I had several glasses of single malt, Terry played it cool. It's tough enough driving on the SIDEWALK SIDEWALK DITCH! side of the road without being schnockered, Hannah of course rolled her eyes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Around Lewis - Walking

Had dinner at the Cross Inn. Nice enough place. There we met a couple from Redding, England, who were doing a walking tour of Scotland. Mike and Fiona were their names, and the conversation was very interesting.

Later, Hannah and I went of on a hike. We took of on a path that started between the police station and the school, heading for the cliffs. One place we passed must have been where the sheep were accustomed to some sort of attention, because the all ran up to the fence to greet us, and bleated angrily when we didn’t stop. They sounded like parliament in session. We went to Teampall Phaedair and got some photos of the place. The cemetery was lousy with snails; they were absolutely everywhere, millions of them. Hannah, being the animal lover, found an empty shell for a snail that had none. We hiked on farther till we found the lane heading from the cliffs into Cross. So we followed roads home, admiring the walled gardens in front of the houses in the four villages along the way.

I find the walking is doing me a lot of good. I’m a belt-notch thinner in just a couple of days.

From along the A857 Stornabaugh parked along the curb across from the Lifeboats store.

29th May 2008 Various sites down the west coast of Lewis yesterday

We saw a lot of Lewis yesterday. Two Blackhouse sites, a Norse mill and kiln, Whalebone arch (Wife says, "You need to do something with that damned whale bone or get it out of here"), found wifi in a hotel, visited a gallery, had an adventure in the grocery store with two pounds of chinese streaky pork (what IS that they put on it). I saw so much stuff yesterday my head is till spinning. Today is a rest day since most of our clothing is in the laundry with the land lady.

I plan to maybe walk up to St. Moulag's church today. I haven't been out by myself at all since I've been here so today I'll go walkabout. Maybe I'll work on Maxine today. Hey, don't laugh. It could happen.

It's a windy cold rainy day out there. Much more what I expected to find here than the last four glorious sunshine filled days. Granted a cloud would gradually swing in and rain on us but it was never for long. Today's weather looks like an all day long drippy kind of day.








Dun Carloway Broch 1

Dun Carloway Broch 2

Dun Carloway Broch 3





Monday, May 28, 2007

Around Lewis - A busy day

This was a very active day. It didn’t seem so until we counted it all out in the end that we realized how much we’d done. Points of interest included:
• The Arnol Blackhouse
• The Whale Bone Arch
• The Gerranannan Blackhouse Village
• Dun Charlabhaigh
• The restored Norse Mill and Kiln

We found wi-fi at a little restaurant and hotel called Doune Braes. Lunch too.

We made two stops for groceries because we couldn’t remember everything at once. Along the way we stopped at a little country shop called Butt View Stores. At that point someone remembered we needed toilet paper. This made a great photo opportunity. Later, passing through Cross on the way home, we remembered the rest of what we needed.

A Little WiFi - A Flood of Posts

It's Monday and we're touring the island again today. We've seen Arnol Blackhouse, Dun Carloway, the Whalebone Arch, and now we've stopped for lunch at a hotel with free wi-fi access, so we're lingering over a long lunch so we've got time for everyone to publish a few of their entries.

Not many pics today, I'll try to figure that out when we have more time.

Love to all.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Around Lewis - Beaches and Standing Stones

Very nice day today. We spent a great deal of time around the nearby beach, which we found at low tide. We could reach some of the cliffs and stacks that were inaccessible on the last trip, so there was climbing to be done. I’m terrified of heights, but fears are to conquered, and besides I couldn’t wus out while Hannah was climbing around like a mountain goat. So up I went. Hannah and I met at the top of the cliffs and wandered off to a cemetery that was just visible on the nearby hill. Next to the cemetery was a mysterious little structure with its top poking just above the surface. It was made of red brick with a concrete top, and had little stairs running down into it. The Ordnance Survey labels it a Souterrain. It looked a little spooky, but not enough to keep me from climbing in. There were some insets in the wall that looked like closed-up passages, although the could have just been little nooks for stowing things in.

After a while we took off in the car to see some archaeological goods. There was a minor stone circle called Steinacleat just a little way down the A857. It was quite a hike from the gravel car park up to it. After pulling away we noticed that the stones could be seen from the highway if you knew where to look. We also went a bit farther to see the Truisell stone, a single standing stone which is the largest in the islands. 9 meters tall. Pretty big chunk of rock.

Later I took of on a walk all on my own. I passed the Souterrain just as a little hailstorm came through. Just before things got wet, I got a great view of a rainbow, but had to hide in the Souterrain to avoid getting pelted. Then I went down the hill where I found a ruined chapel with its cemetery on the slope. The OS map calls it Teampall Phaedair, St. Peter’s Church. It was getting dark so I didn’t stay long. Wandered around the cliffs just a bit farther till I found the road in to Suainebost, and followed roads home

Sunday - THE Sabbath - May 27th (Meg, Hannah, Gretchen collaborate here - Terry was off driving...)

We tried really hard today to respect the SABBATH as it seems to be a REALLY big deal around here (as in please respect the Sabbath signs at the play park - what the heck does that mean?). We decided not to have sex there anyway because there were kids there playing and well, frankly it was too cold. We are if nothing else a practical people.

But then we also knew that today was Frigga Blot's day, which celebrates the FABULOUS wife of Odin, Sabbath or no. In honor of her we went to see a stone circle, standing stones and made a serious and serial attempt to steal wifi for you gentle reader - so we might update this venerable blog (spelled Blhhhni). Sigh...

Let me set the scene for this afternoon's adventures Terry is driving around on wrong side of the road which is right over here, I mean left. No wait no that's right - I mean left. Hannah is occasionally assisting with the navigation by hiding her eyes behind the map and suddenly and frequently shouting SIDEWALK! SIDEWALK! DITCH! Meg has a map open in the back attempting to read gaelic so she states we're going through Brdlsnaidghs (pronounced Blhhhni) and we're looking for something called clervbuaigh (pronounced Blhhhni) I'm is in the other seat attempting in vain to lock on to any wifi signaL shouting WHOA, WAIT A MINUTE, OH THERE'S ONE...IT'S UNSECURED...UNSECURED...SLOW DOWN...Terry just keeps driving and driving and he says ...Oh look there's the Linux center...wonder if they have wifi...All in honor of dear Frigga Blot.

The best we could do to honor poor Frigga was to not make her cook dinner since she's been dead for 2000 years or more. So we had Hannah make us frozen pizza (Three varieties and no 3rd degree burns! I'm still getting over the last one from the cookies I made a week ago) which we washed down with a couple of bottles of cheap "Stowell" (Jones's feel free to chuckle now) imported italian white table wine watered down by the British (4 bottles for 10 pounds sterling! = $5.00 / bottle) Frigga, here's to you dear!

On the other hand we did have a wonderful day out at the
beach. (This was earlier before we remembered about Frigga, about 3am your time - when you corn shucking morons were sleeping your lives away (slur for flatlanders courtesy of Meg) - we busy people were doing warming our corpulent bottoms on the black (also pronounced Blhhhni) gneiss rocks along the beach. Hannah on the other hand, today became a swinger. Her mother was very proud.

Then as we (Meg and I) warmed our still corpulent backsides on the broad black bottom befriending gneiss Hannah made here way up the scary looking dangerous rocky cliffy thingy place which was beyond our viewpoint so Meg and I didn't have to watch and worry as Hannah hurled her body into the morbidly icy freezing like surf. Terry (bless his heart) finally got curious after an hour or so and went looking for her remains. Later when we flipped (so as not to burn only one side of the back bacon), we saw them both descending from what appeared to be a truly goat worthy altitude.

They CLAIMED to have met up in some tomb in some ancient burial ground some kind of ancient clannish cairn, but Meg is skeptical and believes it was more likely a clandestine location for some still, or maybe a fancy big rabbit hutch.

(background music - WAGNER flight of the valkyries) Hunting da wabbit...hunting da wabbitt...da duh duh da~

I guess we didn't tell you about the wabbits but dere wily and dere - Meg wanted me to remind you dere wascally and dere everywhere...fwalliking (pronounced Blhhhnbi) across the Machair (that's the part under the sheep). (You have no idea how
funny this really is)...

Ok so now I go walking toward Habost spelled Tabost not Swaihbost (that's down the road doesn't taste like melba toast) (pronounce Blhhhnbi) still in my unquenchable search for an unsecured wifi connection....just five minutes...just five minutes....Meg tried to tell us to unwire, unwind, disconnect, let go...about that time we fed her to the wabbits...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Day Three - Saturday

Day Three 5/26/07 - Saturday
Early Morning:Ah. Much better. An early bedtime last night resulted in waking this morning at about 5, which seems pretty good. A couple of cups of coffee, and I seem to be feeling pretty good again. Although, it's strange. I see the clock says it's 6 am, and then think "that means it's about midnight at home" and suddenly I feel as if I could crawl right back into bed and sleep for several more hours. I guess I'll just try to not think about what time it is at home anymore. It just confuses me.
I believe our plan for today is some shopping, and we might go ahead and pop down the way and peek at Callanish and Arnol Blackhouse today. I hope so. I'm looking forward to seeing them. I'm looking forward to feeling warm again, too. The wind seeps into everything. The house is chilly, even with the radiators going full blast. I think the wind just sucks the heat out of everything. I want to get one of those thick Irish knit sweaters, and a Harris tweed wool hat and maybe some gloves, too. I then plan to wear this ensemble until we leave.
Ya know, it's funny. When we were in Glasgow, people would ask where we were heading, we would reply "Stornoway" all excited, and we would get very funny looks. Even some rolling of the eyes. Waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel employees... no one could understand why we might wish to spend some time here. "Nothing there but sheep", I think our taxi driver said.
After getting here, I suppose I understand a bit better. We were in one of the two major cities in the whole country, declaring excitement at leaving to go to a very quiet country place. I suppose it would be a lot like coming all the way to the US from Scotland, landing in New York, and stating excitedly "We're heading to Kansas!" to the New Yorkers. That might get you a few funny looks, too.
We all seem quite contented to be here, though. Hannah particularly seems thrilled with the place. Within the first few minutes of being in the house, she declared the this place was EXACTLY what she'd been hoping for. It's very quiet. Our window looks out onto sheep grazing in the foreground, with the ocean in the background. Long walks. Staring at the waves breaking onto the rocks. Watching for seals and dolphins. Birdwatching. These are the kinds of things we're hoping to do all week. All interspersed with many naps and quiet hours curled up with a book. Hannah was actually quite happy to find out that we didn't even have phone service out where we are. Knowing that she can't call anyone just makes it easy for her to not call anyone, so she can just worry about pleasing herself and not others.
I think we all are just worn out. This first week is just for us. Nothing to do but sleep, walk, rest, enjoy the sea, eat and drink.
Saturday was just a wonderful day, I must say. We didn't actually get moving until around noon, because Hannah went back to bed with a "maybe I need just a *little bit* more sleep" about 6, and slept until almost 12. I tell you, this jet lag thing hits hard. She woke up around noon, though, as I said, and quickly got ready to go. Our first stop was a little shop near the Eoropie Tea Room that advertised Harris Tweed hats, scarves and jumpers. Gretchen had to translate and inform us that "jumpers" were sweaters. "Hurray" I hollered, and we all piled out of the car and into the teeny shop, stopping to greet the charming orange cat lounging in the path.
We found a small collection of 8 or 10 hats, a small pile of wool socks, a few sweaters and several scarves. We each, even Terry, quickly picked out a hat, and Gretchen and I each bought one of the beautiful hand knitted sweaters. We were all even happier with our purchases when the fine vendor informed us that these items were all made by the lady priest from St Moulags, who sold many of her wares all over the Nis area.
If I understand this correctly, the whole Harris Tweed thing is an example of crofting in action. The local wool is gathered and spun at a central processing facility, and is then delivered to the weavers, who all own their own looms and weave the cloth in their own homes. After weaving, the cloth is delivered back to the processing facility for cleaning and finishing. I'm not sure at what point the local artisans get the wool and make their own creations, but at some point they do, and there are little shops all over the place offering local artists' hats, scarves, and table mats, etc. It's all just beautiful, and warm as can be.
I think we might have made that lady's week, as we piled into her shop, (actually, I think it was her husband's shop, but she was watching it that day) all picked out a number of items and paid, then quickly piled back into the car to head off for further adventures. I think we dropped over a hundred pounds there within just a few minutes.
Our heads properly wooly, we headed south toward Stornoway, stopping along the way to goof around one of the beaches Terry spotted. We had to pull through a sheep pasture to get to it. The signs said "cattle gate. Please close after passing" or something like that, so Hannah would hop out of the car and operate the gate, and we'd drive through, then she'd shut it after us. The beach was stunning, with many many big round rocks strewn all over the beach. We clambored around the rocks, picked out a few small souvenirs, took lots of pictures, and toodled back to car, stopping to greet the sheep with their baby lambs that greeted us along the way.
The day was absolutely gorgious as we pulled into Stornoway. The sun was out, just a little bit of a breeze. Everyone was smiling. It was great. It was a lot less stressful driving in this time, as Terry was a bit more comfortable with driving on the left side of the road, and kind of knew where we were going. We found a good spot to park near the city center, and walked from there. We stopped at a little shop sort of like what would be a "dollar store" at home, and I found an inexpensive watch, so now I don't have to look at my cellphone, see it's display of US Eastern time and try to calculate what the time here should be. A little farther down the way we found a shop selling Scottish garb, and I picked up a wonderful cashmere scarf, woven in the colors of the Black Guard. I found a couple of Mackenzie pins, too, which I hope Mackenzie will enjoy when we get home. We toodled and shopped our way up the road, and then we came upon the Harris Tweed Authority shop, tucked down a little alley way, it doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside, Oh My! There was so much to choose from. I think we all went a little bit crazy in there. The shopkeeper was just friendly as can be (see photos), and we chatted away about everything from the Kansas City Chiefs to American Idol (he had watched it last night, not us). Terry bought a beautiful tweed jacket and hat, which I think makes him look very British indeed. I found a few pairs of gloves and mittens, as well as a stunning shawl. Gretchen almost bought the place out, she had so many filled bags. Even Hannah found another hat, and I think a pair of mittens, too. He was so nice, and wanting to make sure we had a fine time on the island, he walked us out to the street to point out features worth seeing (like the seals playing in the harbor) and which way to his favorite restaurants. We took his advice on the restaurants, and after stopping back at the car to drop all our purchases, we stopped in to a couple local jewelers, (I found some earrings, Hannah found a ring) then had a late lunch at HS1.
After lunch, we decided to meander our way back home via the long way, toodling past some of the local sites on the way. We drove through the Lews Castle grounds, which are a beautiful local garden woodsy area right along the water. There we found a place to stop and watch the seals playing in the harbor.
Not too far out of Stornoway, we found some HUGE wind turbines, which are apparently making a bit of a political stink on the island, as there are plans to put in a huge line of them all the way down the island.
A beautiful scenic drive through parts of Harris finally took us around, and we stopped at Callanish standing stones. It was after 6 by the time we got there, so the visitors' center and tea shops were closed, but the stones themselves were available and we climbed up and took many pictures. I called Mary from the center of the circle, just because I knew she would want to be there. It is a fascinating place. I would like to go back again some time this week and see what's in the visitors center.
We drove along the coast for most of the way home, and every bit of it was just beautiful. From the peat bogs to the machair to the rocky beaches, it's all just beautiful.
We got home about 7:30, and just lazed around for the rest of the evening. I fell asleep on the couch watching some strange Glasgow "American Idol" kind of show where the winner would get a part in the musical production of "Grease". Weird.
After my little snooze on the couch, I felt energized and refreshed enough to decide to go for some full on hard-core sleeping, and I was snoring in my bed like a champ by 9.

May 26th, 2007 Lionel, Isle of Lewis, Scotland (near Eoropiadh)

May 26th, 2007 Lionel, Isle of Lewis, Scotland (near Eoropiadh)

No, they do not have toy trains here, well, they might but not so's you'd notice. There is a bus that goes through though.
It looks cold out there with winds out of the west southwest at the usual gusty 20mph or so.
Our fun promised to be spoiled today by the marathon or 10k run (don't really know the distance)and all the streets will be closed in Stornoway. Thought it wouldn't be prudent trying to drive
on the other side of the road when we don't know where we are going anyway. Might take out the whole of the Stornoway 10k club. Then we'd have to do time or pay a large fine and it would really screw up the itinerary. Might get us thrown out of Scotland too, and that would really put a damper on the rest of the vacation.

We had plans to go in and shop today but we may have to put that off until tomorrow.
It turns out that I didn't bring enough clothes. At least not the right ones. Just before I left I did decide to bring my down vest after all which was a lucky thing. It's been in the 40's with a strong wind blowing every since we got here. There is a local gal that weaves hats and scarves, we may go see her today. I also saw a sign in front of a house that promised hand knit jumpers but that was a little closer to Stornoway than where we are.

Terry and I went out last night looking for a wifi signal. We found one that was probably strong enough but it was locked down. There was some speculation on what the penalty would be for theft of bandwidth from the local constabulary but we restrained ourselves. Well, that and we couldn't figure out if the local constabulary had any bandwidth to thieve.

So we expect we'll drive around in our rental ford with our tin foil hats and laptops open trolling for wifi sometime today. It'll give the locals something to worry about.


Well, we did go shopping today and met the most wonderful guy at the Lewis Loom Center which is a local distributor of the rafters goods. They had jackets, coats, hats, mittens, gloves, blankets, and sweaters me jumpers of all styles. I bought a few things as gifts and a few things for me. The best part was the guy that runs the place. He was just wonderful colorful character who was just exactly the type of guy that my father would love. He could tell by looking at you what size jacket you wore and gave us the low down on all the local restaurants, what sights we should see, which butcher in town he used and that the other one charged too much. He was delightful. We returned his enthusiasm by purchasing a bunch of products. If you're ever on Lewis in Stornoway stop in at the Lewis Loom Centre and take your credit card fully charged and ready to go.

He was a solid man he claimed to be about 14 stone, maybe in his late fifties and stood probably 5'6". His thick wavy white hair went it's own way as he talked. He buzzed around from room to room as if he'd just forgotten where he put something and couldn't quite remember what it was he was looking for. He spoke rapidly with a brogue that was entertaining but not too heavy to understand. Oddly he was interested in American Football and actually knew who the Kansas City Chiefs were. Usually we get that whole Dorthy TOTO thing, but not from him. The store was dark and he took care to point out the several locations where the floor bumped up from joining another building. It was crowded with tables stacked with beautiful tweeds and knitted goods. The sweaters were heavy hand knitted ones that would fill a suitcase on their own. In fact when we left the owner recommended that we stop by "Woolies" (Woolworth's) to pick up a luggage set to take home. We're only on our third day and already I've nearly filled a new suitcase. I'd tell you what I picked up but some of the things are gifts and I'm not ready to give it away yet. Look for a photo to come from Terry or Meg with several of us out front of his store. It really was an awful looking place from out front but the moment you entered it you knew you had hit the jackpot. The prices were very good values. I guess I spent upwards of $400 dollars on woolens. Now, watch it will be hot the rest of the trip...

While still in Stornaway we stopped at the Lews Castle park. It's a pretty site that gives you access to the water in Stornoway harbor. There were some interesting things to see there. The views were really spectacular though as usual the
road signs were confusing.

We also took the long way home. We got to see some of the power generating windmills that the bloggers have been talking about. Two of the three were running. You can see them
here and here.

We also stopped at the Callanish standing stones and had a look about.
It's an interesting site. I think we plan to go back. On the drive we had a chance to go past most of the signs for the sites we plan to take a look at so all in all it was a very pleasant day.

Oh, and about the wifi? The two bars we were able to find but couldn't connect with are from our land lady (Ellspeth) next door.
She has graciously offered to let us come into her kitchen and use her wifi.
It seems that the house is so well grounded or wired or something that we can't get the wifi through the walls between the units. She explained that the house having previously been the wireless operators cottage was fairly well shielded as well as being connected to a grounding web of copper that stretches out under the machair behind the station. The tall radio towers used to be located out there. Now it's just sheep but the copper webbing
remains and the wifi is blocked.


Visiting Steòrnabhagh was the main order of business today. But first, we wanted to buy some of the local woolen goods. We were pretty chilly yesterday, especially on the beach. As it turned out today was a good deal warmer, but the tweed is still going to come in handy (and besides, it looks good). The fellow we bought most of the Harris Tweed from told us you wash them in regular dish soap, Fairy Liquid is the big brand around here. We have some Fairy Liquid back at the cottage. It prompted all the usual jokes about how you get the liquid from the Fairies. I’d made some comment about how it was all very funny until some Fairy was found abused. After Marg and Gretchen worked on that a while it turned out to be even more funny that way. There’s no quarter from those two, even if you are a down-and-out Fairy selling your liquid to feed your little Fairies.

Steòrnabhagh is a pretty nice town. We shopped for wool and jewelry, and then we had lunch at a café/bar called DS-1. Good food, beer selection a little weak. I wound up having a Guinness. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Guinness, but wouldn’t come to the Outer Hebrides for one. After the beer we went over to the castle grounds side of the inlet to watch seals.

On the way home we decided to take the long way around, up the A858. We plan later to tour this route because of its many historical sites, but today we were just whipping through. We did stop to see the standing stones at Callanish. Quite a sight. We’ll be back here, since it was late, and the visitor’s center and tea room were closed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Day Two 5/25/07 - Friday

Or three. Or is it really still two? I'm so confused. Friday morning we all awoke very early (like 3am local time) because our sleep schedules are totally messed up. However, it allowed us to enjoy several cups of nice coffee before having to go take our baths, etc and get ready for our 7am flight to Stornoway.

Flight to Stornoway was pretty uneventful, really. The car hire place met us and we found the grocery pretty quickly. We stocked up on staples and headed for the cottage, which we found and were installed into by 11am.
At which point I became suddenly completely and totally exhausted (after bragging all morning that I thought I was just fine now as far as this whole "jet lag" thing goes). I laid down for a "quick nap" about 11:30, and didn't wake up for over 4 hours. We all then took a fabulous walk to Eoropie beach, then stopped at the Eoropie Tea Room to recover from the cold wind. The hot soup and pot of tea was just what the Dr ordered, and we were back in action. After walking back to the cottage, we hopped into the car to explore the island a little more. We drove up to the Butt of Lewis and wandered around there for a bit. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.
We're now back at the cottage and I realize that I have absolutely completely not one smidgeon of an idea about what time it is, which is an odd feeling, really. I look at my cellphone, and it says 1:32, and that seems like it might be right. I look at the clock on the wall, and it says it's 6:32pm, which also could be right. The sky outside is a hazy, cloud covered sun, so I really have no idea where the sun is in the sky, or what is normal for a sun to do this time of year. It could be anywhere from early afternoon to early evening. I'm not hungry, because we just had tea at the tea room. But I am tired. Like I have been all day. I am exhausted. Stupid in the head tired. People ask me simple questions, and I have no idea what to say tired.

So I'm working on a wee dram, then back to bed by 8:30 or so.

Our plan for tomorrow is to head back to Storonoway for a little shopping. After feeling the intense cold wind here on the northern tip of the island, we all immediately appreciate that new thick sweaters, hats, scarves and even perhaps gloves are a good idea, if we're really hoping to walk around a goodly chunk of the place.

Will try to post this from Stornoway, if we can find a wi-fi outlet.

Decca Cottage

We're on Lewis Island now. The adjustment to the time zone change is better, but we're still all sleeping at odd hours and for odd intervals.

We knew that, for a long-acclimated American driver, driving in Great Britain would be a bit of a challenge. Taking that on was part of today's adventure. We were picked up at the airport and given a ride to our car hire, a wine stain red Ford Scorpio, at MacKinnon Self Drive in Steòrnabhagh. Steòrnabhagh has the most wonderful narrow, sporadically marked streets. And traffic circles too, I love those.

Our first task was to go just a few blocks to the Somerfield supermarket. Piece of cake, finding that. Also, it was a nice supermarket. I didn't know exactly what to expect so far out, but it was quite well stocked. We found pretty much all we wanted. Next we wanted to go a few more blocks to the visitor information center, to pick up some Ordnance Survey maps, walking guides, and possibly start the souvenir collection. That was just a little more challenging. We didn't have a good street map yet, just the little quasi map from the car hire office, and no idea about what streets might be one-way or closed to automobile traffic. We wound up parking a little jog away, and from where we were, actually facing the rear of our destination for a while without knowing it. We nearly gave up before one of the ladies spotted the "i" sign. But it was ok, as we got a little look at downtown, learning where a couple of the essentials were (an ATM machine and a Woolworths). Soon we were ready to leave town and head for our cottage.

Now, I get tired quickly driving in an unfamiliar place in the US. It should have been obvious to me that driving on the "wrong" side of the road was going to wear me out even more quickly. For those that haven't had the experience yet (switching in either direction) let me just say, it is draining at first. Don't try it while already exhausted or otherwise impaired.

All that said, the drive from Steòrnabhagh to the Ness was fascinating. The peat moors are an otherworldly sight, but full of life. They are, at the same time, forbiddingly alien and speaking straight to the adventurer inside. We took the A857 highway northwest from the east coast of the island to the west, cutting straight through the heart of the moors. It takes hardly any time at all; even driving as slowly and erratically as someone twice my age, I got us across the island in around a half hour. As we got to the west side, the moors gave way to the marchair. This landscape seemed a lot more familiar: open grassland full of sheep, birds and rabbits. Occasionally, on the left (or the European right, as it began to feel to me), there would be a glimpse of the Atlantic against black cliffs.

People joke about there being no trees in Kansas. I can say now that I have seen a place that has Kansas beat. Just as it is back home, the statement isn't completely true of Lewis Island. There are a few stands of trees, but you won't find them growing wild. For the most part, the marchair has its grass and wildflowers, and the moor has its heather, cotton grass and bog beans. No wonder sheep like it here. But there's not much with a woody stem around, so goats would probably be less happy.

We are staying in a cottage in the rehabilitated Decca Station, in the village of Lìonal. After getting to the cottage we needed a rest. I'll write more about the cottage later. But at first, the beds were what we needed most. Still suffering from the time change. We got there around 10:30 am, but didn't get out again until about 2:00 in the afternoon. That was when we headed for the beach, via the nearby village of Eòropaidh.

I'd studied this place some on Google Earth, so finding the beach was an easy one. Also, it was only about a ten minute walk. But of course, satellite photos can never really prepare you for a truly beautiful place. We found the beach at high tide and didn't see everything, but still it was great. This was my first look at the Lewisian Gneiss, the rock on which the island is founded. It is a metamorphic rock thought to be in the area of 3 billion years old. The folding patterns in the stones are very interesting. However, the wind was in straight from the west and pretty cold. I hadn't brought a hat, and none of us had gloves or scarves. It had been in the eighties in Kansas when we left. So after a short while we left the beach and found our way to the Eòropaidh Tea Room for some hot soup and a sandwich. In the tea room we also got our first look at the Harris Tweed goods made by the island's best-known cottage industry. Being in need of a hat and scarf, I found this immediately very interesting.

After tea, we decided it was time to head back to the cottage. After a short rest we hopped into the car and drove around the north side of the island. We got out a few minutes to take pictures of the light house. Other than that we just made note of places to visit later, and eventually circled back around to the cottage.

We're Back....

Today we flew out of Glasgow for Isle of Lewis where we have rented a house for the week  Decca Cottage We walked down the the beach area and suffered the cold wind and a little bit of driving rain which would have is where we are staying. just been a bit of a soft day if there wasn't a 30 mph wind blowing the rain through our clothes. (Hannah). It really wasn't bad though, just a bit cold.

The Glaswegians kept rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at us when we told them where we were going. Even my Dad predicted that we would be really bored but so far that is not the case. Meg, Terry and Hannah should cover the rolling of eyes topic
on the blog ( next chance they get.

The drive up from Stornoway to Ness reminded me of Kansas a little. The rolling hills were not unlike those near Wichita. We are in full oooh and ahhh mode now. The only issues are those of connectivity. Someone nearby has unsecured wifi but we only get two bars in the house so we can't connect, which may make it difficult to post with any regularity this week.

I've always loved wild places and as domesticated as this place is it still
retains the wildness around the edges. I've mixed in some pictures to prove it
and more links follow.

(Cairn and cliffs at Butt of Lewis)

(Cliffs Flowers Surf at Butt of Lewis)

(cliffs at Butt of Lewis)

(Eoropie Beach Crashing Waves)

(Terry at Eoropie Beach)

(Meg at Eoropie Beach)

I was there too but I took the pictures so...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jet lag.. Sucks

So guess what!

Its 9:45 pm at home..

AKA 3:45 am here..

and GUESS who is wide awake??!



And i was the one who was dead tired all day yesterday... Stupid jet lag, stupid stupid!!

We leave in a couple hours... i think i will just have a cup of coffee and call it good.


So we have done what amounts to a one-day layover in Glasgow on our way out to the Western Islands. I imagine it will, in the end, seem like a pleasant dream had during the long sequence of plane rides. We'll come back to Glasgow for a proper visit before heading home.

Our first meal on Scottish soil was at the Palm Court Carverie, here at the Glynhill Hotel. Marg and I stopped in for lunch while waiting for our room to be ready. We were a little afraid of looking like a couple of ignorant Americans who had to be told everything. Luckilly, our good-humored waitress, Mera, helped us just embrace being a couple of newbies and just dive in. The food and the bitters were terrific. Also Mera happens to have spent a good deal of time at our next stop, and provided us with some great information.

Got a few good photos, but am not able to find the USB cable for my camera just now. Why there have to be so many different ends for USB cables is something I can't quite figure out, but there it is. Maybe after we get where we're going and actually unpack it will show up.

Don't worry. We finally fed Hannah.

Ok, you all don't have to worry any more. The girl has been fed.

After napping for a few hours, we met up for a nice supper (with Mera the eyerolling waitress), then taxied down to Central station to get our train tickets figured out for next week. We've walked a bit about central Glasgow, and decided that we're all still too loopy to really want to do much of anything. Hannah and myself are back to the rooms, and Gretchen and Terry have headed down to the bar for a pint or two before bed.

I see that it's only 3 in the afternoon back home, but the sun is setting here, and I am exhausted, so it's back to dreamland for me.

We flip you off... the stick their tounge out at you!

It was the funniest thing ever!

We were riding back from the town center, and I looked over at this mint green car. My mind ran, what an UGLY color... and then the guy honked and stuck his tongue out at me!! It was SOOO funny!!!

I'm exhausted, I believe it is bed time soon...

How to follow that up...hmmm

Well, my impressions were somewhat different than Hannah's. I have to agree with her about the uncomfortable seats but I'm over it already. Sleep was what was on my mind upon arrival.

I have to say that Glasgow upon our arrival reminded me of every other British town (sorry Scotland) I've ever visited. I've always had a problem with visiting cities. They all look pretty much the same to me on first glance. I suppose once we get away from the airport it will make a difference.

I have tried to blog twice today so far and found my brain malfunctioning and unable to produce anything worth reading.
The only thing that comes to mind now is completely inappropriate and though in other circumstances I wouldn't let that stop me I think today I will. So you'll just have to wonder. Ok I'll give you a hint just to drive you involved a fella who appeared to be a brother of some sort wearing a long white robe.
Ok now this was a bit of humor I came across. I was looking for the name for such a garment (long white robe worn by a monk etc.) and put "monk robe" in It came up with "beer and skittles" - def. a situation of agreeable ease. Now that's almost as inappropriate as what had crossed my mind in Jersey...
I did manage to get this pic of Meg, Terry, Hannah uploaded. Blogger wasn't cooperating to upload the file but I outsmarted it. So now everything's beer and skittles here in Glasgow. Hope they're as good where you are.
gj one.. no food.. humanity..slipping..out *fades*



.. or.. they hurry and try to let you check into your room way way early, even though they really arn't supposed to ... (and you were too late for breakfast) and then get you into this gorgeous room with pretty smelly good all through out it... and let you come down and eat in the restaurant at noon.. ( 6 minutes till noon )



Invasion Success!

Well, the Brits definitely seem to like to keep this place hidden. Couldn't even get a peek from the plane until the very moment we touched down. But the invasion is considered successful so far, in that we are now officially in Glasgow. They've asked us what we're up to and stamped our passports, so we're legal, too.

Most of yesterday's travel was better than expected. No weather delays, and we had pretty good seats as far as economay class goes. I do admit, though, that 6+ hours in a sardine can is difficult, and we're all just a bit cross and quite tired. We're waiting in the hotel lobby now for our rooms to get ready. The order for the day is a long nap and then meet up for supper. After that we'll discuss our strategy for conquering the island.

Love to all. I'll write more later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I too am running away...

Or perhaps running towards something, I'm not sure which. This will be the first time I go to Britain without the prospect of standing in a suit in front of a group of clinicians and materials managers who really don't want to buy a product that I feel guilty trying to sell.

No this time I will go and drink the single malt, I will laugh and carry on and see the sights and wonder just exactly how I came to be on a different side of the planet. (there are four sides I figure if you quarter the earth like an orange. I'm not sure yet whether the artic or the antartic is the blossom end. I hope with enough single malt I will be able to determine that absolutely.) All we have to do is get on the plane and off and on and off and on and off and we will be in the land of men in kilts. It will be a very fine thing to share this time with some of my very favorite people in what promises to be a very rainy place. I really cannot wait. Sigh (arm dramatically draped across my forehead) ...but alas, I must wait....15 hours till departure, FAA willing...

Here's a webcam I've been watching on the island in the Hebrides we will be visiting first. (How I know it's a very rainy place)...Every time a truck or bus drives by it cracks me up...If you sit and watch it every day all day maybe sometime during the next week we'll drive by and wave at the web cam. (no, you really don't want to do that)


...lets run away...

My biggest excitement about this trip is the fact that I get to run away. I am running away from everybody and everything; in a healthy way. I get to hide from all of these crazy ass people in my life. While also expanding my knowledge, growing, reading, meditating, rediscovering myself.
No more drama from school. No more drama from family. No more drama from animals (yes, copper drool IS drama. ;) ) We just get to be.

Also, WE GET TO GO SHOOOOPPING. =) *Glasgow here we come*

Finally, I am really excited about the plane rides too. Nervous, but excited. I like traveling. It will be quiet time, while rush time... AT THE SAME TIME; and a new experience.

We leave in 14 hours and 40 minutes.

Almost gone

Tomorrow we leave for the UK. It will actually be sometime the day after tomorrow that we get there from Kansas City. We will be approaching from the direction opposite that taken by Caesar, which will hopefully bring us better luck. Although, I imagine Caesar found a more favorable exchange rate.

From Plutarch's "The Life of Julius Caesar" 23.3 regarding Britain:
The island was of incredible magnitude, and furnished much matter of dispute to multitudes of writers, some of whom averred that its name and story had been fabricated, since it never had existed and did not then exist,,,
No problem there. My wife has been on the phone in the past few days with people who attest to actually be in Britain, so I am confident we will find it just where it is reputed to be.