Day 5: A day on Lewis

STORNOWAY

STANDING STONES/WAR MEMORIAL TOWER/LEWS CASTLE/INVERNESS

I’m happy to report that I slept quite well, given the circumstances. Meaning—doesn’t anyone use just blankets and bedspreads anymore? These duvets—it’s either sweat or freeze. Last night was workable though, because Paul had opened a window a little, and that let in enough cool air to keep me from overheating.

We got up fairly early—kind of surprised our hosts, who were still working on the breakfast. We’d inadvertently done that to the previous hosts too. “Early” seemed to be consistent on this trip.

Every B&B has its own distinct flavor—the first one was very informal, and the breakfast choices were either hot or cold. This place had a menu—plus, the coffee was the best I’d had since we’d arrived in Scotland.

By the way, you can’t spit without hitting a B&B in Scotland. They are everywhere, one right next to another.

Once breakfast was done, we packed up and got on the road again. Our objective: the Calanais Standing Stones.

Our route was a somewhat circuitous one, which took us in a counter-clockwise path. It wasn’t difficult finding them, and we found other cool things to look at along the way.

First serendipitous thing: sheep in the road. Fat white sheep with black faces, that stared at us as if we were about to ruin their day. Well, if they didn’t get out of the road, that could come true…

Second—a Norse mill and kiln. I believe that the foundations are original—of course, the roofs have been redone. Plus, the orange netting to keep the roof together is probably not original—ha!

There was just a small sign pointing to it, and we would have missed it if we’d been driving any faster. There was a tiny car park, and a gate with a pedestrian entrance to it. So many of these points of interest are ones a person just stumbles upon.

There were several sheep around the car park but they took off once we got out of the car.

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It was a bit of a trek to get to the site—up a gravelly path and over a hill.

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Well worth the walk. At one point, I could swear there was a long-dead flattened deer on the path, but I think it was more like some sort of material the builders of the site had put down to keep the weeds from growing. Who knows? Maybe they used deer hide.

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p1070417 A note about the mist at the top of the doorway: There was no such thing when I snapped the picture. Draw your own conclusions…

 

 

 

 

 

We journeyed on, meeting very little opposing traffic. Guess they like to sleep in of a Saturday. Except for the sheep farmers, who were gathered in places beside pens of their sheep. I don’t know what they were planning to do with them, but the word “haggis” comes to mind.

We crested a ridge—and there they were, up on the next hillside—the Standing Stones.

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The visitors’ center wasn’t open yet, so we waited and took pictures of the surrounding area.

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I picked up a couple of souvenirs in the gift shop, then we went up to the Stones.

Kinda cool—but I was into the scenery more. And to see just how artsy-fartsy I could get with my pictures.

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About then, I ran out of room on my memory card…

We were ready to head on again anyway. But as we were leaving, we found a reason to put on the brakes.

We spotted what we thought was a cow, but it turned out to be a huge pig! Paul got his camera and gave Wilbur his fifteen minutes of photo fame. (Actually it was a sow…Wilburine??)

Back to Stornoway—along the route we could see where peat turf had been recently cut out, and the turves left to dry. Unfortunately, we could never find a place to pull over and take pictures. Scottish roads are notorious for being narrow and without easements—even in the middle of nowhere!

Got back to Stornoway, where we stopped at a couple of shops for more souvenirs. I had a number of people to buy for, and these items may be part of their Christmas gifts.

Our next stop was the War Memorial, a behemoth of a tower on a hill overlooking the town. There were sheep all over the land there too, but at least they were behind a fence. This is probably the closest I’ve ever come to free-range sheep. I think I want one…

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We prowled around the grounds and took probably too many pictures yet again, but hey…at least we don’t have to develop film like in the old days. We couldn’t get inside the tower—years of leaks have rendered it unfit for inside touring. But the views from that hill—breathtaking!

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Our next destination turned out to be our shortest visit—Lews Castle. Kind of disappointing; I was looking forward to seeing the inside rooms, but no such luck.

There was a really ugly museum attached to that grand old edifice, and while that clung to one side of the castle like a sci-fi metal slug, there was scaffolding all over the other side. Poor old dame—I felt somewhat sorry for her.

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So we really didn’t get to see much of the inside. We instead took a somewhat half-hearted walk around the outside of the place and went back to the car. I got some pretty good pictures though.

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It wouldn’t be long before we were going to be boarding the ferry, so we parked the car in line and rtook a short walk through a bit of Stornoway that we hadn’t seen yet. Many pictures were taken, of course.

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We also stopped for a cup of coffee, and entertained the locals with our lack of knowledge as to which English coin was which (I have the pound coin down, and the 5p and 20p, but the rest, not so much). I think I may have brought out some US coinage at one time too—nope, that won’t work.

Eventually we made it back to the car, after checking on the plumbing in the terminal—if you get my drift. It wasn’t long before we were back on the ferry and headed back to Ullapool.

We sat aft, and as Stornoway got smaller and smaller, I could see where we’d been. It was so odd to think that, not two hours earlier, I was standing THERE, looking THIS way. What an odd sensation.

Once off the ferry, we got on the road again, and had no trouble getting to Inverness. Pretty much just followed the truck ahead of us, and used the GPS that was part of the car. (We really hadn’t noticed it the first couple of days—too busy working out the streets and just getting a handle on driving.)

For the most part, we liked the GPS lady in the dashoard better—not only did she give us directions, but she knew the street names. Major help there.

At this writing, we are in our B&B, after a trip to a nearby, very crowded pub. We also stopped off at a grocery store so I could get something to eat as well. Too busy in the pub to get food—we could barely get their attention enough to get drinks.

In truth, I’ll be glad to leave this B&B—it reeks of cigarette smoke. Tomorrow we’ll be driving down to Edinburgh by way of Stirling Castle, the Kelpies, and the Falkirk Wheel.

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