Friday, 30 May 2008

A calm sea

As the sun rose the sea looked so flat it seemed as though one could walk over to the mainland.

Friday 30th May 2008

A day 'at home'

Thursday 29th May 2008
After a misty start the day “Turned out nice again…” as that well-known underwear salesman, George Formby, used to say. A calm and sunny day.

Around dinner time what little breeze there had been died down to nothing and there were odd spells when the anemometer stopped turning completely.

The sun set and after it had gone below the horizon the sky got even more colourful.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Sandwick Cemetery

Wednesday, 28th May 2008

Last night we had a yellow sky at night. Unlike a red sky it seems not to have boded well. Despite an intermittently sunny start to the day it clouded over and by lunchtime the rain had come in. This is the first rain we’ve had her since I arrived on 8th May and even before that the weather had been good.

We went into Stornoway and I watched a canoeist (or kayakist ? I don’t know much about these little boat things!) enter the harbour. He travelled right through a crowd of Razorbills, seals and gulls without disturbing them.

We called in at the cemetery at Sandwick on the way home and I photographed a few gravestones. The earliest appear to be around the turn of the 20th century such as this one to Colin McIver, Master Mariner, who died in 1914 aged 63. (N.B. McIver is pronounced McEever not McIver on the island.)

None of the others is quite as grand or elaborate as Colin McIver’s but there are a few large Celtic Crosses.

There are also a number of stones that are similar - all being erected to the memory of some of islanders who died in the second world war.

This urn is on the grave of a cooper - shouldn’t he have had a barrel?

The cemetery has a lovely view out over the bay. Seems a bit wasted on the current occupants really… While I was there the Ferry from Ullapool - MV Isle of Lewis - came into the harbour.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Barvas Moor

Tuesday 27th May, 2008

We went back ‘home’ along the Pentland Road - a single track road which crosses Barvas Moor almost the whole way from Carloway on the West Coast to Stornoway on the East.

This huge, low-lying and largely undisturbed expanse of blanket bog is one of the most extensive and intact areas of blanket bog on the planet. The Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA) site contains a large proportion of the blanket bog on the Isle of Lewis. Blanket bog is rare in world terms and Britain has a significant proportion of the total world resource. Within Britain, the Lewis Peatlands are second in extent only to the Caithness and Sutherland peatlands. Associated with these peatlands and open water is a unique and diverse assemblage of breeding birds that is of international importance.

People are forever commenting upon the importance of trees to the environment and the retention of the ozone layer. In fact, peat bogs are equally, if not more, important in that regard. Peat bogs act as an effective mechanism for fixing and storing carbon or ‘carbon sinks’. The bulk of carbon associated with peat bogs is stored in the organic soil (peat). Construction on peat bogs can cause erosion of the peat and a release of stored carbon. This was one of the reasons behind the Scottish government's decision to reject an application for a wind farm on Barvas Moor.

Cutting peat on Barvas Moor.

Loch Carloway

Tuesday 27th May, 2008
After Garenin we went down to the harbour on Loch Carloway.

Garenin Blackhouses

Tuesday 27th May, 2008
Next, we called at Garenin - simply because I needed the loo! Garenin is a crofting township in the Carloway area and has a population of about 30 people. Today the village is most famous for the Blackhouse Village, which consists of 9 restored traditional thatched cottages. These houses were lived in until 1974 and were the last group of blackhouses to be inhabited in the Western Isles.

In 1989 Urras nan Geàrrannan (The Garenin Trust) was established to restore the houses. Over a decade later the project was complete and the restored Blackhouse village was opened by HRH Princess Anne. The Blackhouse Village is managed by Gearrannan Village Ltd and offers a wide range of services to both tourists and the local community. There is a Youth Hostel, four self-catering cottages, a Café, a museum (a blackhouse set in 1955), a resource centre and a small gift shop.

Clouds, a Letter Box and a Blue Whale’s jaw

Tuesday 27th May, 2008
The clouds as we drove through Brue were highly photogenic. The cloudscapes are as exciting as the landscapes when you are somewhere with such open views as exist on Lewis.

At Bragar we stopped to photograph the letterbox at the Post Office. A “Ludlow” box, it is an example I have not seen before so I shall have ro add it to my webpages.

Also at Bragar, outside Lakefield House, once the home of the post master, Murdo Morrison, is an arch made of the jawbones of a Blue Whale which was found in a nearby bay in 1920, floating, dead, with a harpoon in its back. The jaws are each 25 feet long and together weigh about four tons. The apex of the arch is about 20 feet off the ground. The harpoon now forms part of the whalebone arch and its full history can be seen on

Clach an Truisheal

Tuesday 27th May, 2008

Clach an Truisheal, otherwise known as the Trushal Stone, is a monstrous standing stone - the largest in Scotland - and stands in what are now fairly uninspiring surroundings at Ballantrushal, 20km North of Stornoway on the West side of the island, just off the road to Ness.

It is nearly six metres tall. It is 2 metres wide and less than a metre thick. It now leans slightly to the south, so, if you are visiting it, stand on the north side!

The local explanation is that the stone marks the site of a battle, although it is considered by archaeologists to be a genuine prehistoric stone. A very thick layer of peat cut away in the 19th century attests to the stone's age. (The last battle between the Morrisons and the Macaulays is quite close by and may have created some confusion in that regard.)

The Morven Gallery

Tuesday 27th May, 2008

Around lunchtime, GB and I went over the Barvas road.

We had coffee and huge slice of cake at the Morven Gallery. Not the healthiest of lunches - “Naughty but Nice!” The cakes are home-made locally by a woman ‘in the next village‘. I suspect if the person who makes them is married then her husband must surely have a weight problem or excellent self-control.

The gallery, as its name implies, is not just a coffee shop - it's a large, multi-room display area of local paintings, prints and quality gifts for sale.

Some of the artists are exceptionally good. There’s a lot of talent on the Isles of Lewis and Harris.

The Opening Exhibition for 2008 includes works by: Clare Blois, David Greenall, Jolomo, Moira Maclean, Ruth Odell, Gillian Pattinson, Simon Rivett, Donald Smith, Vega, Gareth Watson, Philip Snow and other notable artists. This is one of the many works by Vega to be found at the Morven Gallery.

It would be hard to pick a favourite but one of the original watercolours for the Philip Snow book "Light and Flight" certainly caught my eye. The book itself has been added to my Amazon wishlist since I first saw it in the Baltic Bookshop in Stornoway a week or so ago.