Saturday, 27 August 2005
In the afternoon, I go for a walk to the Iolaire Monument. On the way I take notes and 'directive' pictures, in order that anyone else doing the walk knows what to expect. This is only a short, 7 km / 4½ miles, walk and acts as a trial-run. Go behind the Coastguard Station to Battery Point, then across to Lower Sandwick. There, I speak to a man who has just returned to Lewis after an absence of 4 years in New Zealand. I later learn that this was actually one of the island's GPs. Continue past Stoneyfields Farm to the monument, then retrace my steps. In the evening, the weather deteriorates, the barometer plummets and the wind picks up. We're promised force 9 to 11. Waves crash over the Goat Island causeway at 11 pm.
The pictures show the sequence of the walk. Further details on www.walkingworld.com, walk ID 3281
Thursday, 18 August 2005
Thursday, 11 August 2005
The elderly guest continues his stories over breakfast, telling us that he served in Belgium and Holland in 1944/45, with the Royal Artillery. He came within a hair's width of marrying a Belgian lass. He gave me name and address, which I will not quote here. The lady might still be alive today. The gent is quite happy with his current wife. WAP access is restored to my phone later in the day. It's fairly mild with sunny intervals.
My birthday today - another year older. Receive some presents from mrs B and flowers from family. The latter consists of a sunflower, lilies, chrysanthemums, carnations. Go to see the Lewis Carnival at 2 o'clock. In Willowglen Road, several lorries are lined up. One has a group of Irish folklore figures, dancing to lively Irish music. Another lambasts the arrival of opiumbaron Matheson in the 1840s. Carloway Youth Club has an empty lorry, with just a sound system. Multistorey carparking is advocated by stacking cars on top of each other, and suggesting that carparking augments the price of a house by £100,000. A Galson Motors half-open topped bus carries Miss Lewis and Harris. The procession is billed to set off at 2 pm, but is 15 minutes late. The pipeband leads the way, then comes the procession. The rear is brought up by another pipeband. It goes down Macaulay Road to Bayhead and Cromwell Street. Children and adults run alongside, waving collection boxes in spectators' faces. At the bottom of Kenneth Street, everything comes to a temporary halt. Oh forgot about the fantastic dragon, carried by a number of youngsters. The pipeband was handed drinks during their break. I have never seen the town centre packed the way it was this afternoon. There were only 5 floats in the procession. Last year, a man died after he fell off a float and was crushed under the wheels of the lorry. Since then, stricter safety measures were imposed, like handrails on all floats. The Carloway float did not have that, so they had to run alongside it.
Monday, 8 August 2005
Have reached page 400 in the written diary - yippee!
Isles FM starts the day with the usual rundown of the weekend's crime wave. This time it's broken windows, theft and what not. At 11 a.m., I head out on today's walk to the Barvas Hills. It's cloudy but mild today, around 18C / 64F. I go up Macaulay Road, past the hospital and up to Laxdale. Then up the road past the bunkhouse and campsite, branch off right into Newvalley. The road degenerates into a track until this peters out at a ford. It's a simple step across the water, the track disappears altogether and it's moorland walking from here on. Keep to altitude well above the river. After a little while, you reach the Stag's Crag, Creagan an Fheidh. There, the river forks, but keep on northwest. I cross the river and start heading through the moorland. pass near a small lochan. The insect life is quite extensive here, and a right pain. Have to cross a barbed-wire fence, but in retrospect (when everything is easy), I should have aimed for Loch nam Breac. The fence leads to the loch, and there is a gate right at the shoreline. As things stand, I carry on northwest, and aim for the easternmost of the Barvas Hills, Beinn Bharabhais. Finlay's Shieling lies to my left, which in turn is tucked in to the south of the line of the main hills. After recrossing the barbed-wire fence, I start the ascent of Beinn Bharabhais, which is arduous. Close to the summit, a posse of 5 quad-bikes slowly ride off the hill. Traffic can be seen moving on the A857 Stornoway - Barvas road. At 2.15, just over 3 hours after leaving SY, I reach the summit of Beinn Bharabhais at 280 m / 919 ft. The views span 130 miles. To the northeast lies the indistinct coastline right up to Cape Wrath, with a gap for Sandwood Bay. The mainland mountains march all the way to Kyle of Lochalsh; I can easily discern Dun Ca'an on Raasay, the Storr north of Portree, the Red Cuillins and the saw-toothed ridge of the Black Cuillin. To their left is a double hill which is either Beinn na Caillich outside Broadford, or the hills to the south of Kyleakin. A lone hump to the right of Skye could be the Isle of Rhum, 80 miles south of here. Eilean Mhuire, in the Shiants, is immediately to the left of the Lochs Hills. Veering west, the familiar outline of the Harris and Uig hills runs across the southern horizon, but due west my view is blocked by the next hill, Beinn Mholach. The hump of Beinn Bragar marks the position of the West Side village of Shawbost. The entire sequence right up to Upper Barvas is laid out, about 7 miles to the north of me. A large loch, Loch Sgarabhat Mhor, lies directly below Beinn Bharabhas. Behind it is Loch Sgarabhat Beag. To its left a boggy looking collection of lochs below Roiseal Mor, a double hill of 160 m / 525 ft and 174 m / 571 ft. Beyond lie the large lochs to the south of Bragar and Arnol. It's cloudy but warm, with temperatures tipping 20C / 68F. Descend from the summit of Beinn Bharabhas and head due west to the cairn on Beinn Mholach. This is hill is slightly tricky to ascend from the east, because of extensive bogs. Fortunately for me, the recent (relatively) dry spell has dried out the bogs to the point that you can walk on them without fear of sinking right in. I end up too far to the south and have to walk north along the hill's crest for a little way, until I reach the summit cairn at 292 m / 958 ft. This is the highest of the Barvas Hills. I now have a nearly unimpeded view west. The next two hills, Beinn Bhearnach and Beinn a'Sgridhe, are lower and positioned further south. Can now see Old Hill off Bernera and the low humps of the Flannan Isles on the far western horizon. It's impossible to see St Kilda, because it's obscured by the Uig hills. At 3.15, I proceed to Beinn Bhearnach. The view shifts round a little way as you move west, but remains essentially the same. Some of the villages in Lochs are visible, such as Cromor and Garyvard. The water tower in Crosbost stands out on the hillside there. Stornoway can be seen, including the 3 chimney stacks on the Newton power station. Looking north, a spurr runs off Beinn Bhearnach in the direction of Loch nan Caorann. A dry watercourse curves northwest past Loch an Ois, with Roiseal Mor to the east. During the traverse of this ridge, the souther spur, with two double summits jutting out towards the Pentland Road is clear to see. I leave Beinn Bhearnach just before 4 pm, and head south. I'm leaving Beinn a'Sgridhe, as time is pressing on. Within about 30 minutes, I have covered the distance between Beinn Bhearnach and the low pass between Beinn Chailein and Beinn Lite. I have decided not to make for the valley of Allt Airigh Bhradhad, which leads directly southeast into Laxdale, as this requires miles and miles of bog sloggin. I'm knackered. As I'm having another cup of water, the number of midges is slowly edging up to the 'disconcerting' level. There is no wind, so the beasties are getting geared up for a party out here. I trudge up to the pass and have to navigate my way through some horrendous bogs, of the sort that dissuaded me from proceeding back in April. The entire southeastern and eastern slope of Beinn Chailein is covered in very broken ground. It's better not to stay on the higher levels; aim for the 150 m contour, to the south of the summit. The same rule applies to the next two hills, Beinn Mholach and Meannan. I have another break on the southwestern edge of Airigh Lite - staying out of there, a very boggy area. From there on, I'm in 'familiar' terrain. As I descend beyond the pass, I aim for the western end of Loch nan Caorann, which I have some bother reaching. The Allt nan Beinne Mholaich renders the entire valley boggy and wet. I finally do reach the edge of the loch at 5.05, pretty good to cover 2 miles in an hour in this sort of terrain. I drink 3 cups of water out of the loch, cross the boggy inflow (not marked on the map) and head due south to the right of Cleiteachan Loch a Chocair. The monitoring mast on Beinn Thulabhaig is to my left. The tall Beinn Mholach had a similar monitoring mast on its summit, which had been blown down. I reach the Pentland Road at 5.30. Had this idea to sit down for a bite to eat, but the midges stop me, They're out in their zillions. During the 7 km into Stornoway, I not only have to contend with cars, but also with midges which attack every exposed area of skin. I'm forever slapping myself, with my hands coming away with flattened midges. It's too warm, in the sun which has now come out, to cover up. So I suffer in silence. The sheep hide amongst the tall bulrushes at the roadside. The wind picks up when I approach the town, and the mozzies disappear. On return to Newton at 7.20, I have the two pies which I'd originally bought for lunch. I survived in the moors on Mars Bars and appels. The two Hungarian Glaswegians are still with us, and we're left to enjoy their silent feuding.
Not doing an awful lot today, apart from watching little screens. The other guests, our Hungarian Glaswegians, have been to Harris today. They managed to miss Rodel Church - I don't know how that is done. The church sits right along the main road in from Lingarabay. Head out for a little walk at 9 pm with Yvette. We go round to Battery Point and Sandwick Bay. Nattering with mrs B takes the clock round to 12.30. Visibility was very good, could see the Torridon mountains 45 miles away. At Battery Point, you could see Trotternish in Skye, Eilean Mhuire (Shiants) and Kebock Head, east of Gravir in South Lochs. A boat sails along the horizon, and appears to be hovering in the air. This is refraction in the atmosphere.
Friday, 5 August 2005
Nice sunny day, but cool. Go to church in Matheson Road. Regular clergyman, Revd Black, is on holiday, so a church elder takes the service. He mumbles and talks too fast. Sermon is a bit overlong, as the congregation was growing rather restive. The elder did not shake hands at the door. Left church at 12.15. Spend the rest of the day indoors, enabling WAP on the mobile. It's a convenient way to quickly check your emails, but it is expensive.