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Callanish - visit to Lewis 2013

Arrived on Lewis after experiencing the particular joys of a rough crossing over the Minch. Although slightly the worse for wear made my first quick visit to Callanish on the way to our holiday accommodation on Great Bernera (Friend stayed in the car as was still suffering the after effects of severe sea sickness). First visit was of our Callanish week was a bit wild and windy setting the tone for visits later in the week.
We had arranged to meet Margaret Curtis on the Monday so we spent a beautifully warm Sunday walking to Bostadh with its Iron Age House tucked in at the small sandy cove. The weather was a gift - we saw a pair of ravens straight off and at Bostadh a pair of white-tailed sea eagles circled over the cliffs. Our walk back took us along the narrow single track road and there on the ridge to our left sat a golden eagle – it took flight and flew directly over us before circling back to watch our progress from its vantage point on the ridge. A moment I’ll never forget. Later that evening we drove back to Callanish to try and catch the sun setting – it clouded over while we were there so we just wandered around the stones occasionally chatting to the few other visitors.

Monday … a complete change weather wise, in fact cold and windy, remaining so for most of the week. We planned to visit Callanish II, III, and what turned out to be IV before meeting up with Margaret Curtis -- as it turned out we did it backwards. Our first visit was to a five stone lichen covered stone circle we had seen on our drive past to and from Great Bernera. Wonderfully atmospheric on top of moorland overlooking Loch Ceann Huglabhig and standing in boggy water where the peat had been cut away.
Next we drove to Callanish III – Cnoc Fhillibhir Bhig. Still very much absorbing the unique atmosphere of Lewis, we walked up to the circle then down to Callanish II – Cnoc Ceann A’ Gharrah. (This site should really be visited first when walking from Callanish.) We kept our appointed time with Margaret, ending up spending four hours with her instead of the one we had budgeted for. She charges £30 per hour to explain the astronomical alignments she discovered with her first husband Gerald Ponting. Her early work is condensed in a small book written by Gerald Ponting and published by Wooden Books (I bought a copy of this after our session which has proved useful to help me recap).

Tuesday we visited North Lewis – Carloway Broch; the Blackhouse Village at Garenin (Na Gearrannan) and the Norse Mill and Kiln at Shawbost/Siabost Village by Na Muilne.

Wednesday, still cold and windy but bright with sunny intervals and massive cloudscapes. This was the day we decided to drive down to Harris and had invited Margaret along in lieu of payment for the extra time she had given us without charge. What wonderful company she turned out to be – her innate intelligence and deep knowledge of the island which is now her home added to our trip considerably. The mountains, aquamarine sea and white shell beaches make Harris a spectacular place to visit. We had magnificent views of Cailleach na Mointich aka Sleeping Beauty – the group of hills that resemble a sleeping woman, famously viewed from Callanish at the lunar standstill every eighteen and a half years. Margaret pointed out a burial chamber which stands secluded in someone’s front garden by Horgaborst beach and just a little further along the road we saw the Clach Steineagaidg Standing Stone which is all that remains of a stone circle overlooking the Sound of Taransay. In a way this was one of my highlights – Friend and Margaret stayed the car while I ran down to the stone with the bright wind blowing me along and the sea sparkling in front of me. I think its called being in harmony with the Universe.

Thursday was the one day when the elements kept us largely indoors for much of the day as the wind whistled and gales blew in horizontal rain and sleet.
We did venture out though, back down to Bostadh, though this time in the hire-car. Braved the the wind and rain for a short walk before visiting the Museum of Great Bernera at Braecleit near where we were staying. Small but very interesting.

Friday was quiet, the wind had dropped and it was quite warm - we drove down to Uig and spent some time shell/pebble hunting on the sandy beach at Cliff before heading back to visit the remains of Achmore Stone Circle which has amazing views towards the Sleeping Beauty hills. This circle was excavated by Margaret and her second husband Ron (now deceased). The fascinating information board up there which tells you so much more than is visible to the eye was also sponsored by Margaret and Ron Curtis.
We rounded off our last full day on Lewis by going back to Callanish for a wander around in the warm sunshine before calling into see Margaret to thank her for adding so much to our stay. She can be found at her house on the border of the villages Callanish and Breascleit; although now just over 70 and living alone with her many cats and a few chickens, I can guarantee spending time with her is a real privilege. She can also be contacted via the Callanish Visitors Centre.
Lewis is probably one of the most difficult places in the British Isles to get to from the south of England. For us it involved an overnight stay at Birmingham Airport, the flight up to Inverness and a hired car to drive across to Ullapool for another overnight stay (Balnuaran of Clava aka Clava Cairns visited along with stops at Rogie Falls and Corrieshalloch Gorge on route, made the drive from Inverness definitely part of the holiday). The ferry journey to Lewis is two and half long, the sea was rough that day; all in all quite a tiring journey. So very worth the effort though and a week I’ll never forget.

tjj Posted by tjj
27th May 2013ce
Edited 20th April 2014ce

Comments (5)

Sounds like a trek-and-a-half. I'm very jealous, sitting here in the park in the sunshine, wondering if I'll ever get there. Most everyone I know wants to go further afield, but I have about 50 itineraries compiled between here and Britain. ryaner Posted by ryaner
28th May 2013ce
Thanks Ryaner ... was quite tired when I posted this (hence a few typos). tjj Posted by tjj
29th May 2013ce
Grand effort, June.

This is one of those trips that seems so much hassle beforehand.... but ends up worth every effort - and every penny - just to see and feel the grain of that gneiss.
2nd June 2013ce
Thanks for your comment Gladman ... I haven't written a fieldnote(s) about Callanish yet as there is so much to think about. The unique gneiss stones some of which contain Hornblende crystals (black knobbly bits) were pretty mind blowing (forgive cliche, but so true). Some of the stones are streaked with pink - I brought a couple of small gneiss stones/pebbles home from a beach at Uig and find myself touching them a lot. tjj Posted by tjj
2nd June 2013ce
Lovely notes. Glad you liked one of our most beautiful and accessible places. drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
10th June 2013ce
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