After a hearty breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage and Stornoway black pudding we made a quick pit-stop at the tweed vendors before heading up the road to Lewis. Stornoway is roughly 50 minutes drive from Harris and in comparison to Tarbert is a teeming metropolis!
The day was rather misty and we encountered some thick fog as we got higher into the hills which cleared slightly as we made our way towards Stornoway......
On arrival we made a beeline for An Lanntair, the local Arts Centre, for coffee and cake. Whilst there we were lucky enough to catch an exhibition of photography and mixed media and the shop was full of lovely locally produced crafts to enjoy.
Before heading off to our next destination, Port Ness, we bought the local butcher out of Stornoway black pudding to take back to Glasgow (we practically filled the car boot with the stuff!) – it is a great delicacy in these parts and the islanders are trying to give the locally produced pudding the same status as Harris Tweed as it is widely accepted to be the best black pudding in Scotland! I can vouch for its’ delicious tastiness!
Port Ness is the most northern point of the Isle of Lewis....
It also has a cafe and a small gallery called the Harbour View Gallery. I was rather taken with this collection of buoys outside!
We had intended to go to the lighthouse on the Butt of Lewis but knowing the road to be rather narrow and on the cliff edge I decided that my nerves couldn’t stand the drive in the thick mist (we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the views anyway) so we headed off to Carloway. I have been to the islands many times now and have seen more or less everything there is to see (several times - I never tire of it) but I have never managed to make it inside the Morven Gallery but this time we managed to blag our way in! They were not officially open but it was very busy as they were hanging the last few pieces of donated artwork for an auction that was to take place the following day in aid of the Linda Norgrove Foundation. They very kindly let us have a look around and I urge you to make time to visit this beautiful gallery if you are ever in the vicinity.
Isobel made a few purchases from the shop and we set off again – next stop the Blackhouse at Arnol. Until as recently as 1966 people were still living in this type of dwelling – hard to believe.
The house to the left is what people moved into from the Blackhouses and they are known as White Houses. You quite often get the remains of a blackhouse, a whitehouse and then finally a modern kit-house on the same family owned plot of land/croft. The previous dwellings are left to crumble away although now it is becoming obvious that there is money to be made from renovating and renting out these old dwellings as, next to weaving, tourism is the biggest source of revenue on the islands.
We also stopped at the Blackhouses at Carloway – this settlement is less of a museum but still shows how people lived.
The blackhouses here have been renovated to modern standards and are rented out as holiday lets. Tourists have free rein to roam between the hours of 9.30am and 5.30pm but after that the gate is closed and the holiday makers renting them can enjoy some privacy. Unfortunately as we arrived at 5.45 we could only take pictures from afar but you can get the general impression of the place.
The reason we were so late is that we stopped for a look and a chat at the studio of the lovely people at Rarebird who are making quite a name for themselves with their well designed quality Harris Tweed bags and accessories. In 4 years they have developed their business into something quite special – they deserve their success as the work they have put in and the detail in their lovely products is admirable. Plus they are just really nice people!
We ended our tour of Lewis at the stone circle at Callanish around 7pm – unfortunately there was a local photography club there trying to get some photos of the stones at sunset which made it quite difficult to get any good pictures without folk in bright red windcheaters wandering into the shot!
By this time the visitor centre was closed and I was suffering from a severe lack of caffeine so I consoled myself by scoffing a few too many M&S chocolate mini-bites! (essential road trip fayre obviously) whilst enjoyin the view.
After dinner and a drink back at An Lanntair we headed home weary but happy – this sightseeing lark really takes it out of you – and it was home to bath and bed in readiness for the next days explorations. Yes, we really know how to live it up!