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Scotland's Hebrides Islands, off its west coast, offer a wonderful range of different sights and experiences.

Our Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour takes you 8 islands (via 11 ferry crossings and a steam train ride), giving you a great time seeing much of the Inner and Outer Hebrides as well as time in the Highlands.

Here is one person's account of her experiences on our 2010 tour.

 
 
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Scotland's Islands & Highlands Tour Diary

Day 10 :  Touring around the Isle of Lewis
 

Tour leader David at the Callanish Stones

Up to the northwestern tip of the Hebrides, and then plunging back in time to mysterious pre-history, all on the remote Isle of Lewis.

Part of an 11 day/page trip diary - click the links on the right hand side for the other days in this diary.

 

 

Jeanette and her husband Ken were on our 2010 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour, and Jeanette kept a detailed day by day diary of the tour.

She has very graciously allowed it to be re-published here, so as to allow you an unvarnished view into what the tour was all about.

The text is hers, which I've respected and not changed apart from a few subheadings and extra paragraph breaks and some Americanizations of her English spelling (they are from New Zealand).

I've sourced the pictures and their captions are also from me, not Jeanette.

You can follow along with her narration by tracking the tour on this tour itinerary page and the linked Google maps.

I hope this will encourage you to come on our 2011 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour.

Day 10 – Monday June 23rd 2010 – Stornaway (Isle of Lewis)

Google Touring Map for the Day

I had a very restless night as I woke up nearly every 2 hours and kept Ken awake with my snoring. It is very hard to breath with a sinus infection. I got up at 7am to shower and wash my hair so I felt better after that. I still do not have much energy but my voice is much stronger today.

Breakfast at 8:30am with Ken enjoying a full Scottish breakfast again while I enjoyed scrambled egg with smoked salmon and mushrooms. It was very showery all morning but we hoped it would clear by the afternoon.


Lews Castle, Stornoway; currently empty but possibly to become a combination of a museum and a hotel in the future.

We were on the bus at 9:45am ready for our day's outing on the Isle of Lewis. Opposite our hotel we could see Lews Castle which was built between 1847 and 1857 as a country house for Sir James Matheson who had bought the whole island a few years previously with his fortune from the Chinese Opium trade.

The following owner - Lord Lever of Unilever - gifted the castle to the people of Stornoway parish in 1923. During World War II the Castle was taken over as a Naval Hospital referred to as HMS Mentor. It was used for accommodation for college students in the 1950s but has been unoccupied since 1987. Today the building is owned by the local council and is a Category A listed building.

The island is still very religious so everything is closed on Sunday. Only as recent as 2009 the island council allowed a Sunday sailing of the ferry. As we traveled north, we drove onto a high plateau of peat and heather, with no trees at all. We were heading for the Port of Ness, the most northern point in the islands. 90% of the people in Ness and the surrounding area speak Gaelic as their first language. When we arrived in the town the port was completely devoid of water as the tide was at its lowest point and 2 boats were sitting on the sandy bottom.


The lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis.

We then drove along a single lane road to the Butt of Lewis which is in the Guinness World Records as the windiest place in the UK. We arrived at the lighthouse about 10:45am to find another coach already there.

Those who ventured out had to put on their wet weather gear to visit the lighthouse while I stayed in the warmth of the bus which Jay positioned so we could see the lighthouse.

The light was fueled with paraffin until it was converted to electricity in 1976. It has been automatic since the 1980's and can be seen for more than 30 miles. When we were all back on the bus, Jane told Ken she could see a large black owl on the upper balcony of the lighthouse but after looking through the binoculars he decided it was a decoy to scare away other birds. We all had a good laugh at being nearly taken in.


The Dun Carloway broch

We were away again about 11am, traveling down the west coast for about an hour to visit Dun Carloway Broch visitor centre. The stalwarts of our group braved the weather to climb to the broch while the rest of us took refuge in the visitor's centre. They had a very interesting display showing how people lived in these circular stone multi-story brochs, over 2000 years ago.

A short drive to the north brought us to the most interesting Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, on the wild Atlantic coast. People have been living here for well over 300 years but in 1974 the last residents left, leaving the village to degenerate into ghostly ruins.


A pile of peat at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, used to fuel the open fires in the cottages.

During the 1980's a trust was formed to rebuild the houses, set up a museum and make some available as self catering cottages. As the cottages are very small, our party was split into 2 groups with our group walking around the village before having lunch in the cafe.

There are 9 buildings in the village, 4 are self catering cottages, 1 is a youth hostel, 1 used for public toilets (very modern), 1 is used as an interpretive centre showing a very good DVD explaining Harris Tweed weaving and peat cutting.

The last 2 buildings are being used for the museum showing live demos of weaving and the recreated inside of a croft as at 1955, and the cafeteria with a shop. For lunch we each enjoyed a steaming hot bowl of pea soup and a hot chocolate (10.50).


One of the machines at the tweed mill.

At 2:10pm we had another short drive to the Harris Tweed factory. We had an excellent tour, led by staff member Karen, through the whole process. They take the white cheviot wool and first wash it then dye it, to a specified pattern, before adding oil back into the wool. The wool then passes through a carder machine before being spun onto large rollers. It is then sent to a home weaver.

When the woven material is returned it is checked by a darner to correct any breaks and to replace any pieces of wool that are extra bulky by a thinner piece of the same wool. It is then washed and dried again before being cleaned of extra fluff and then rolled, checked and stamped ready for distribution to the world's markets.

The factory owner, Ann McCullum, had made a beautiful white wedding dress from undyed Harris Tweed. They showed us a photo of this most elegant long dress and train.


The Callanish Standing Stones.

About 3:20pm we were on our way again for another short drive to visit the Callanish Standing Stones. By mid afternoon the sun had come out and the rain had stopped. Ken went up to the exposed field containing the stones while I went into the visitor centre. The 13 primary stones form a circle about 13m (43ft) in diameter, with a long approach avenue of stones to the north, and shorter rows of stones to the east, south, and west. The overall layout of the monument is similar to a distorted Celtic Cross. The individual stones vary from around 1m to 5m (3ft to 16ft) in height, and are of the local stone from the island. We were all back on the bus shortly after 4pm for the short drive back to Stornoway.

Once back at the hotel, we took a quick walk to the local Tweed shop where a fascinating owner went to a lot of effort to tell us how to get to the museum before it closed at 5:30pm. His shop was a rabbit warren of tweed cloths and ancient paraphernalia, all very dusty. We did not stay long before returning to our room (no museum visit). I showered and had a rest while Ken went out to Tesco Supermarket to get me another packet of Strepsils. My cough is not good but my throat seems a lot better.

At 7pm we went down to the Boatshed Restaurant for dinner with the whole group. There were 23 of us plus David, our guide, and Jay, our driver. Ken had a starter of oven backed stuffed haggis and black pudding in crispy puff pastry with a poached egg, spring onions, dauphinoise potatoes and chive gravy. I started with fresh local Loch Leurbost Mussels cooked in white wine, shallots, garlic, flat parsley and cream. For the main course, Ken had pan roasted fillet of Ayrshire pork wrapped in bacon on a bed of sage, onion and mince pork stuffing with sweet potato puree, cinnamon flavored apple compote and ruby port jus. I had Lewis salmon fillet and hand-dived scallops with braised leek and bouquet garni with a mussel bouillon. Unfortunately our table of 13 was served quite a long time after the other table of 10 so they were finished their main course before ours had been served.


David with one of his iPads balanced precariously on his knee, driver Jay slightly visible in the background.

David gave an interesting speech summarizing our journey together – 11 ferry crossings to 8 islands, we stayed in 8 hotels in 12 days and covered 1300 miles with 23 people and a bike (Oren's).

Jay (our Scottish driver) told us that this was a very unusual tour visiting places most tourists never get to see. He enjoyed our company but will be pleased to see David's Sat Nav disappear (too many single lane roads).

David used 2 iPad's to help him navigate our route and to give him important facts and interesting details to relate to us.

As most people were saying good night, Ken and Oren were enjoying dessert – Ken had Baileys and caramel crme brulee with a chocolate glaze while Oren had old fashioned apple pie with orange sorbet and amoretto custard. They had a great time discussing investing on stocks, shares and commodities as well as books to read on Statistics and Mathematics for the layman.

I left them chatting and went to our room to finish packing and ring Mum before, hopefully, getting an early night. We had a 6:30am ferry to catch in the morning. On my way up to the room I saw some seals in the harbour, just their heads bobbing in the water. They come in to this harbour, to feed, every night about 8pm.

Read more in the rest of Jeanette's Diary

See the links to each day of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top right of this page.

 

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Originally published 7 Jan 2011, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
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