Wednesday 21 May 2014

The Outer Hebrides: Stornoway on Lewis Island

We enjoyed a cultural morning in the midst of fantastic scenery.  This morning we had two different tours by motor coach available.

The first two motor coaches went on a circular tour over the moors between Stornoway and Barabhas to the standing stones of Callanish and the black houses at Gearrannan.  We traveled through a large area which is famous for its breeding birds in summer.  Solid grey skies and rainy cold weather added a sombre touch to the wind swept moorlands.  Highland cattle grazed beside the road and raised their heads ruminatively when we stopped the bus to admire the hardy shaggy bovines.  

Callanish Stone Circle
Photo © Steffen Biersack
Our first stop was at the Callanish Stone Circle (or more accurately, Callanish Stone Circle No.1 since there are a whole group of them).  We all enjoyed seeing this mysterious group of standing stones, contemporary with the Pyramids of Giza and built for reasons which are still obscure.  Many passengers found the visitor centre and its hot coffee particularly welcome.

Black Houses
Photo © Steffen Biersack
We then moved on to the small village of restored black houses at Arnol, where we marvelled at the resilience of the people who lived an incredibly tough life. The distinctive smell of a peat fire permeated the damp air.
Inside a black house
Photo © Steffen Biersack

The third motor coach went on a tour into a remote area in the north of Lewis to the Bostadh Sands and a replica Iron Age House.  The rain continued through out the morning so it was a welcome relief to shelter inside the “ancient” stone longhouse where a local guide described in detail how the longhouse would have functioned and what life might have been like way back then.

The two different tours managed to be back at the pier at 12:30 which gave us time for a stroll through town as all aboard was not until 14:30. 

We departed the pier at 15:00 and headed out into the increasingly stormy weather.  As evening approached Fram pushed solidly through the heavy seas.  It seemed many people were unfamiliar with the unsteady footing and rolling of the ship as the dining room and ship seemed somewhat subdued through the course of the evening.