Tuesday, 17 June 2008

So long

Yesterday's "Thank You"s for the welcome and hospitality received on Lewis purposely left out the most important one. He deserves a blog posting all his own.

When you listen to the radio and they have dedications to "The best Mum in the world" and such like, the phrases always sound so crass. But how else can one express one's love, affection, and appreciation to a relative who is, in one's own world, beyond compare. So, here is an enormous thank you to the bestest brother in the whole wide world, GB.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Stornoway for the last time... (for now)

Monday 16th June 2008
Although it was a grey start to the day, even the grey skies can be beautiful here.

But the barometer is dropping drastically. Having claimed that the good weather throughout May and early June was due to my presence I decided it was time to depart before my reputation got damaged. So tomorrow I leave the island.

As if to confirm the decision the rain began in earnest.

We went into Stornoway and the rain stopped long enough for me to photograph the seals and gulls in the harbour.

On the quayside the fishermen had their nets laid out and at first I thought they were mending them but then I realised they were measuring them for some reason.

Most of the fishing boats in the harbour are registered in Stornoway (SY) but this was a visiting Ullapool (UL) boat.

Pastel shades around the harbour.

Ever since doing blog postings about the cast iron railings and gates around Stornoway I have noticed ever more and more. Even the railings at the harbour where we parked the car today had three different types of spike.

For the past week or so, each time we have gone into the castle grounds we have passed some Jackdaws. Today this one posed for me.

And a Starling did, too.

Despite all my trips into the castle grounds I have not mentioned the Rhododendrons. There are plenty of them in the grounds. Although they can be a nuisance, blocking out the light and thereby killing all the native flora, I like them and at this time of year they add a wonderful splash of colour to all the castle pathways.

At the Woodlands Centre we had the table by the bird feeders again. Collared Doves were there and our white-cheeked Blackbird who was chasing a female around. A Siskin, a Robin and a Blue Tit also came but not as many birds as the other day.

The Thrift on the Briagh was so good today that I got out of the car and photographed it in the rain.

We're off on the early ferry tomorrow. Our journey to the Wirral down the mainland of Scotland and Northern England will on my Pensby et al blog.

In the meantime, Lewis will not be forgotten in my blog postings on Rambles from my Chair. There are still pictures I haven't posted and blog ideas floating around in my brain somewhere.

The things I shall miss most when back on Merseyside will be GB's excellent company, the sky, the sea, the calm, the quiet, the countryside, going out in the car most days (even if it's only into the castle grounds for a coffee) and the people who have been so hospitable. This five and a half weeks has been by far the longest holiday I have ever had in my life. I shall miss Lewis enormously. In the brief time I've been here I have been made to feel so at home. Where else could you go and be recognised and made welcome by someone who works on a till in a supermarket serving a population of 20,000 people.

So here is a big

to Pat and Dave (and Briagha), Fiona, Carol & Iain, Christine and Norman, Barry and Ena, Ann, Steve, and everyone else who has been so hospitable and made the holiday so brilliant.

I don't know if this is a threat or a promise but I'LL BE BACK!

Stac Pollaidh

Sunday 15th June 2008
When we got back home tonight the mainland was clearly visible. These summits are Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag. According to Google Earth, the summit of Stac Pollaidh is 39.18 miles from GB's house.

The Airidh

Sunday 15th June 2008
After lunch - despite being full to bursting - we went to see Fiona's Dad's airidh (the Gaelic for shieling) on the Pentland Road. Only twenty years ago this sngle track road was designated an A road and was the main road from Stornoway to Garynahine. That is the airidh on the horizon.

On the walk from the road to the airidh Fiona pointed out some deer hoofprints.

The airidh.

Views from the airidh.

As I have commented earlier this holiday that the Bog Cotton has been fantastic throughout the island. Fiona said it had been an exceptional year for it. Here at the airidh there were two separate species side by side. This is the less common single-headed species. Although the cottony heads were collected in parts of Scotland to be used for wound dressings during the First World War, the fibres are too short to be of any commercial use.

This little lochan is almost outside the door of the airidh,

It is far too early for the heather to be out yet but there are occasional plants of Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) in flower.

As on Iain and Carol's croft the Sphagnum was completely dried out and white here.

This is Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). This tiny rosette of scarlet round leaves is no more than a couple of centimetres in diameter. It is found in wetter areas of moorland, often amongst Sphagnum bog. The plant is insectivorous - the leaves are covered in hairs each bearing a sticky gland at the tip. Insects become trapped by the hairs and are digested by secretions from the leaves. In this way the plant augments its supply of nitrogen, vital to life but otherwise very scarce in this nutrient deficient and often waterlogged environment. The early herbalists believed that the 'dew' on the sundew leaves, which persisted even in the hottest sun (hence the name!) possessed the property to endow longevity and youthfulness to those who drank it.

This is Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) - an aggregate of many different forms, this is a most variable species.

These are just a couple of the many lichens on the rocks on the moorlands.

The remains of a neighbouring shieling.

One can travel for ages across seemingly endless peaty moorland only to suddenly come across a little gem like this gorge.

There has been a fair amount of afforestation just off this road between the shielings and Stornoway, as can be seen on the horizon in this picture.

This is Loch Airigh na Lic, just s one enters the Marybank side of Stornoway. The gulls are perched on the remains of a crannog, which can be seen in the summer, when the water level is lower. This is an artificial island, which would have had a house or houses built on top of it. When it was first noticed in 1902, there were wooden logs surviving, though these are no longer visible. It’s likely that, if the buildings were wooden, this crannog might be early prehistoric, from the Neolithic or the Bronze Age, there was more wood available on the islands at that time. This is the only prehistoric settlement that is known to be in the area of Stornoway itself; though, given the number of prehistoric finds and ritual sites, there are likely to be others.