Saturday, 28 May 2005
Drop down in the valley and pass through a rusty gate. Notice a sheep lying flat on the ground, but it is still moving. Something is wrong, so I go and have a closer look. Its hindquarters are submerged in a pool, and the legs are stuck in the mud at the bottom. I haul the animal bodily out of the bog and place it on dry land. It senses that it now has full command of all legs, so starts to feed like mad on the surrounding grass.
Once I'm satisfied that the animal is OK, I leave it to sort itself out. I carry on northwest to the old ruin of Eastapair, above the southeastern shore of the loch. Climb out of the valley, towards Loch Dubh Sobhail. From now on it's plain sailing, er... walking along the loch, and its successor, Loch na h-Airigh Uir. Cnoc Mor Shobhail looms up behind both bodies of water
Once both lochs are passed, the long shape of Loch Fada stretches to the southwest. Roineabhal looms up 5 1/2 miles behind. Grianabhal is just over a mile to the west; Steiseal immediately to my right. It's a very easy moorland walk, where you just take a bearing on the Achmore radio transmitter, and you can't go wrong. Neither is it very wet. The new grass has sprung up, and the area looks uncharacteristically green. Finally cross Allt nan Each at 2.30. Loch Cnoc na h-Iolaire nearby and Loch na h-Airigh Uisge in the distance. After a break, the easterly wind is becoming more noticeable - cold. Continue northnorthwest towards the Achmore masts over the gentle westerly slopes of Oidreabhal, past a small round lochan.
Proceed to the inflow into Loch Foid, which presents me with some problems crossing it. Finally reach Loch Acha Mor and go uphill to the main road. Reach the A858 turn-off for Stornoway at 4pm, and have a short break there. Then retrace my steps and head off down the main road towards Liurbost, 2 1/2 miles to the east. Not a very pleasant 50 minutes, just as well the traffic is only light. Arrive just in time to see 2 Hebridean Transport coaches fly past on the A859. Have to wait 20 minutes for the Galson bus. Buy a snack in the Lochs Garage. A man asks me the way to Airigh a'Bhruaich, which I tell him - 10 miles down the road.
The Galson driver looks at my HT ticket askance, but lets me on. Back in town at 5.45. Take Mrs B to the ceilidh in the British Legion building, which is in support of local radio station Isles FM. Music is very, very loud. Good music though. Several local artists, including singer Donald MacRae and dancegroup Bernera Dancers. Mr Isles FM himself sells tickets. He was arrested by the top brass of Stornoway police this morning, for torturing listeners and a breach of the piss. Found Kenny McLeod perfectly capable of normal English, so he's been having us on all that time. Three ladies immediately to my right fail to smile once during the 3 1/2 hours of the ceilidh. It was not fully dark at 11.30, when we walked back.
It was raining steadily. Alice Starmore, the walks leader, was waiting - with bad news. In the rainfall, it was not possible to use the binoculars or telescope, so the walk was off. Mrs S drove me back to town and I went off for a bit of shopping. Found an alternative solution for the problem of breaking bootlaces, which has been plagueing me of late: go to a different shop. Did not do much for the rest of the day.
Thursday, 26 May 2005
Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Wednesday, 18 May 2005
Sunday, 15 May 2005
A late start today, after the usual preliminaries of internet &c. As it’s sunny and warm today, I thought I’d go to Barvas and lounge in the dunes. So, off I went on the Galson coach at 1.50, alighting at the end of Loch Street at 2.10. Weather is still fine, but clouds are gathering out in the Atlantic. Sit down by the shooting butt for a bit, then head west towards Bru. Oystercatchers scurry along the shinglebank; a man is fishing by the outflow. This is actually greatly reduced; the waterlevels in the loch have fallen even further since my last visit here, last month. Water now only leaves the loch through the actual sluicegates. Walk across the machair towards the end of the road outside Bru. A sheep stamps its feet, warning me to stay away from its young lamb. The little creature can only be days old, as it staggers to its feet. I go up to the gate outside Bru – and go straight back. Lots of lapwings oabout. Cross back to the Barvas side and watch the clouds rain over Arnol. By 4 pm, I get a good, long dosing of rainwater, quite heavy actually. Just as I’m nicely ensconsed on the far northern end of the machair. A sheep comes close which has completely lost its fleece. Looks absolutely horrible. So I think I can catch the schoolbus, which normally comes all the way up Loch Street. Not so today. I can see it coming down from Bru, disappear to Upper Barvas, and a few minutes later it shoots up the Stornoway road. This does mean I have some time to kill, and I make my way down to Barvas Park. Don’t bother going there. It’s a repository of wrecked, cannibalized or unwanted cars. The bridge over the river is very wonky, and I’m not trusting myself on it. Hobble back to the junction and wait for the Carloway bus to turn up. This returns me to town at 5.45. Still bright and sunny; the shower that affected me only clipped the one mile inland from the coast. Tonight, we have another Dutch couple in the B&B. They’ve been cycling the Western Isles, all the way up from Castlebay, Barra. They sneaked across the most difficult bit, the Tarbert – Bogha Glas section, by bus. After an easy day in Point tomorrow, they’re heading back to Holland on Saturday. Didn’t like their whisky.
Another hour at the library putting pictures on the net preceded my 12.30 departure for Aline. From there, I was planning to go up the trail towards Langabhat. Met Sally on the bus, again. Got a crick in my neck from turning it round 120° to look at her whilst chatting about various walks we had done. Also encountered one of her friends, whose wife, at 38, required a hip replacements. As she is suffering from a form of arthritis, she’s liable to need another one in 10 year’s time. Only 2 hip replacements are allowed, so from age 60, she’ll be wheelchair bound. Alighted at Aline and proceeded up the track, admiring the views back along Loch Seaforth. Went about ¾ of the way to Langabhat, and looked out on Creag na Clibhe, Stuabhal, Rapaire and the Morsgail Hills. Could just discern Loch Coire na Geurad, a large sidekick of Loch Langabhat. There is a shed on the shinglebank which separate the two lochs. It’s fairly sunny today. Retraced my steps to the main road and took the Hebridean Transport coach back to Stornoway. Once more chatted to Sally on the way back.
After a cuppa with mrs B and a picture session in the library, I disappear to Ness on the 1 pm bus. The weather is quite pleasant if a little chilly in the wind. The Ness bus is pretty full, and as we progress north, up the Westside, not many people alight. Two ladies change into the local minibus at South Dell, but when I get off at Eoropie beach, there are still many left to be distributed round the district. I walk through the dunes to the southern end of the beach, where I flop down in the machair. Spend the time until 3 o’clock plugging rabbit holes. Then I proceed south towards Suainebost. Or more accurately, the cemetery in the dunes. Cross the stream via the footbridge and say hello to two gents who subsequently disappear into the churchyard. On the seaward side, there is a succession of beaches. Not all are (easily) accessible. The problems start at Dell beach, where the easiest course of action is to walk down the lane to the mill and the main road, a mile to the southeast. I however wade across the river and proceed along the coastline. Further progress is impeded at the far end of South Dell by a collapsed stile. I end up stomping across somebody’s croft. The crofter, an elderly man, was very polite and we chatted for a minute before I went on my merry way. The time at 5 pm, I walked through Aird South Dell, and was collared by another local who launched into a religious discussion about the merits of Nicodemus (who was he again?). We all come to meet the Lord, this chap told me. Hm. I crossed the moor and crossed the little stream at 471616, where that whale was still lying decomposing. Good god above, what a hideous stench. I continue along the coast, where that orange float still adorns the hillside. Then I strike due south to cross the moors in the direction of the Galson roadend. It was a slightly boggy but not un-doable traverse. Arrived at the road at 6.20, so didn’t have to wait for too long for the little bus to appear. This had a female passenger on board who had her shoes off. I sat down directly behind her. She took one look at me, and plumped her fat behind against me. She tried to chat to me, but I was not interested really. The driver pulled over and told the woman to resume her previous seat. As we reached Stornoway, the bus developed an awkward screeching noise, which attracted the attention of everyone in the street. The woman alighted at the Clachan Bar, and went in for some more booze. Then, as we went over the Castle Street roadhump, a piece of piping fell off the bus with a ringing sound. Driver tried to pick up, but it was too hot to handle. Typical Galson coach.
Those two whiskies came back to haunt me, what a colossal hangover. Didn’t do a thing today, shame, shame.
Like yesterday, spent an hour in the local library putting pictures into this journal. But did nothing worthy of the name.
Sunday 08/05/05 – VE day
No outside activity today, but today it’s me cooking for mrs B. It’s my Savoy Cabbage Special, consisting of savoy cabbage, potatoes, apples, onions with braised steak. Very filling. A South African couple are staying here, but they keep to themselves. Apparently, they work in Oban Hospital.
Today the UK General Elections take place, and the candidates are out trying to curry favour. They do so by offering voters lifts to the polling stations, or by stating that they have the Word of the Lord. This from the Operation Christian Vote leader, the Reverend Hargreaves. And that’s illegal, my dear chap. But who am I to tell him off in the middle of Kenneth Street. He stands to get sued by the Labour Party candidate, for slander. I spend the morning around town, shopping, then go to Achmore on the bus. Election talk continues on board between driver and passenger. Alight at Achmore at 1.05, and I climb up Èitsal via the access road to the radio transmitter. Very nice view from the summit: includes Loch Ganvich, Loch Trealabhal and Ròineabhal. I descend the hill along its northern slopes, but once at the bottom a shower starts. With visibility restricted, I plod on north (I hope), through some atrociously wet terrain. Continue up and down ridges, and resist the temptation to head straight for the Bennadrove relay mast. I need a boat if I want to go that way. Instead, I go towards Stacaiseal and the Barvas Hills. The sun comes out, warming me up, but it’s not warm. Have to cross 2 small rivers; they’re not wide, but they are in spate. After a difficult traverse of the moor, I finally gain the Pentland Road at the 2nd bridge, 6½ miles west of Stornoway, at 2.55 pm. Twenty minutes later, after taking some pictures, I set forth as the rain starts again. Reach the Achmore junction at 3.55. They’ve been cutting peat further along. Hear the cuckoo in a little pine forest. Discover a nice loch, looking out towards Gallows Hill in the Castle Grounds. And that sheep’s carcass is still lying by that cattle grid, where it has been lying since at least April 11th. Disgusting. In the Castle Grounds, everything is green, leaves on the trees, and green trailers covering the ground under the trees. Return to town at 5pm. Bart the Dutchman had a nice day up in Ness. End the day by watching the coverage of the election results on BBC. The Western Isles have voted out Labour and returned an SNP man. My landlady, ardent Labour supporter, is well displeased. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Today a film is being shot at Dalmore beach, and extras are required. Isles FM has broadcast and appeal, so I’m being decked out smartly and warm by Mrs B. I duly set off at 12.45, in order to offer my services which, on arrival at Dalmore, are not required. They are just finishing filming with the last set of volunteers. I take up a frontrow position on a dune overlooking the beach. I can’t help but smile when I notice that the tide is coming in, steadily narrowing the beach. One person definitely came away with wet feet. At 2.40, I set off for the short walk over the hills to Dalbeg. The weather is turning wet and miserable. The view from the pass between the two hamlets is restricted on account of mist and rain. Loch na Muilne is about as far as it’ll go. Wait for the bus at the top of the road, trying to shelter from the cold westerly wind. The schoolbus turns up at 4 o’clock. It picks up a load of kids from Shawbost school and delivers them around the villages before returning to SY at 5pm. In the evening, a Dutchman comes to stay, so that made for interesting convo, in my native tongue!
Saturday, 7 May 2005
Thursday, 5 May 2005
Today's weather is very wet and windy, so I am not inclined to go out on a walk. Do go out at lunchtime for papers and food, but it's so wet that any thought of walks goes out of the window. As the day progresses, the wind picks up to force 8 or 9. The evening ferry into Stornoway is cancelled, as the gail slings rain onto the island. The wind suddenly drops away at 10pm to a force 6.
The wind is still strong, but not as bad as late yesterday. In the morning it is dry. After lunch I take the camera through the town, and into the Castle Grounds. The ferry is late coming in and even later sailing - 2.45 instead of the 1.45 timetabled. The weather deteriorates imperceptibly. At first it's sunny, then there is the odd spot of rain, then a brief shower or two - or three. Not wet enough to necessitate waterproofs. By evening though, we're having downpours. Return from walk at 4.30. Mrs B serves me pasta for dinner.
Pictures only relate to April 29th
Went out late today, after sorting out a few things. Took the 12.30 bus to Balallan, nattering to Sally on the way down. Jumped off at the South Lochs junction, and went down the trail towards Roineabhal. It's very dry underfoot at the moment, not surprising after 8 days of drought. It does look like that is about to come to an end. Traverse the moors towards Roineabhal, but veer northwest towards its eastern face. Finally end up on a boggy crest, northeast of its summit, about 300 feet above the marshlands below. View is extensive, if rather waterlogged. Loch Trealabhal fills the eastern aspect, with the hill of Trealabhal directly to its north. Northeast of my viewpoint lies Loch Fada Gobha, the western outlier of Loch Trealabhal. It in turn links into Loch Roineabhal, directly below. Loch nan Eilean to the north is the farthest extension of the Loch Trealabhal system. Everything from there drains into Loch Erisort, through the Laxay River. Further north lies the low hill of Ciorabhal. To its west lies a large system of lochs that drain Loch Langabhat, currently out of sight, into the sea over a distance of 9 km (6 miles). I now proceed downhill and strike west along a tractor track, away from Loch Roineabhal. It is boggy at times. Loch Ihagan looms up to the right after a while, but progress west is impeded by Tob Cam., the northernmost point of Loch Langabhat. It should be possible to gain the remote northern shores of Loch Langabhat by crossing the two waterways that circle Eilean Mor. This would lead me into a large wilderness area, with Morsgail Lodge and Scaliscro Lodge the nearest habitations, at about 7 miles distant. I strike south along the eastern shore of Loch Langabhat. The position of Stuabhal puzzles me, until I remember that Loch Langabhat turns a corner about 4 miles further south. The position of several familiar hills is now clear. Traversing this wettish area I come across a sheep lying on its back, legs kicking. Three other animals scatter as I approach. A sheep on its back is bad news, as they cannot right themselves, and they usually die a painful death. A crow will peck its eyes out for a start, and they finally perspire hours later. This one is still whole and hearty. It allows me to turn it onto its legs. It ambles away when it gets the message that I'm not going to harm it. I head uphill, towards the pass south of Roineabhal, at 2.45. I end up high under the summit of the hill; normally I come from the east and cross a passabout 300 yards to the south. I strike southeast and regain that valley. Can see all the way across to the Aline woodlands as well as Loch Seaforth and the Eishken Hills. Cloudlevels are down to about 2,000 feet by now. And by 3.45 it starts to rain steadily. There were odd drops of rain right the way through, but I now have to don waterproofs for the first time in over a week. The moors are so dry that a fire start across a 4-5 mile front in the area between Grabhair and the Eishken road. Twenty firefighters had to trudge miles through the moors to put it out. Return to Balallan at 4.25 and wait in the busshelter for the 4.40 bus, which is late in coming. Sally is on it once again, and we once more chat our way into town. Hear all sorts of interesting island news. Return to Stornoway at 5.15.