The weather on the Wednesday of my Hebrides trip wanted to remind us that we were in the Western Isles! We woke to grey skies and as we drove over the peat moorland that covers the interior of Lewis we were battered by the rain. We were heading for Uig, the largest and most sparsely populated district of the Isle of Lewis (not the port on Skye where we’d boarded the ferry the previous day) for a walk along the cliffs near the small village of Mangerstra.
We parked up near the small Abhainn Dearg (Red River) Distillery. Established in 2008 it was the first legal whisky distillery in the Outer Hebrides in almost two hundred years.
We didn’t have time to visit, but booted up, donned our waterproofs and set off up the road
After a couple of kilometres we left the tarmac and headed down a track that took us towards the Mangerstra and the cliffs beyond.
After a short climb we were up on top of the cliffs. The rain had eased off as we walked close tot he edge taking in some pretty spectacular views
After a while one of the party spotted a curious little structure close to the edge of the cliffs.
We climber down and had a look inside.
The bothy was constructed by John and Lorna Norgrove, of the Linda Norgrove Foundation which was established in October 2010 in memory of their daughter Linda, an aid worker who was killed during an abortive rescue attempt after she was kidnapped in Afghanistan.
The bothy is an original memorial to Linda in a very spectacular location and can accommodate up to 3 people overnight. For us it was a welcome shelter as a rain shower swept in.
As the rain eased off we carried on along the cliffs for a while before stopping for our sandwiches, sheltering behind rocks as another heavy shower swept in.
As we were eating some of us spotted something in the sky – a large bird with wings that resembled barn doors. It was a Sea Eagle (also known as a White Tailed Eagle). We watched it as it swooped across the sky before disappearing further along the coast.
After walking a little further along the coast we cut in land across the peat moor, joining the track that took us towards the village of Mangeresta
Looks like one of the locals has had a little mishap!
We passed through the village and carried on along the narrow road heading back towards where we’d parked up. The party started to split up and I found myself at he back with Ria, the Dutch member of our party, as we were taking in the views. Suddenly we spotted a shape in sky the distance. A Sea eagle, perhaps the same one we’d seen before. We stopped to watch and Ria produced a pair of binoculars from her pack. After a while a second one appeared! We stopped for a while to watch them swooping through the sky close to the coast. The rest of the group, further along the road, missed out.
Carrying on the cloud appeared to be starting to clear and the Uig hills, which had previously been largely hidden by the low cloud, became visible.
After a while we descended back down the hill towards the minibus, taking in the views of the white sands of Uig beach.
We dumped our packs in the back of the minibus and John our guide suggested we might want to walk over the beach while he drove the minibus further along the coast where he would meet us.
It’s another spectacular beach with a vast expanse of golden sand. It has a particular claim to fame as it was here that the Lewis Chessmen were discovered in 1831 by Malcolm MacLeod, a local crofter. The 78 intricate individual pieces made from walrus ivory and whale teeth had probably been carved in Trondheim in Norway during the 12th century. Nobody knows why they ended up here.
Malcolm’s family were soon “cleared” from their homes and he ended up selling the chessmen for £30 – a lot of money for him but a paltry sum for such exquisite objects. The majority ended up in London in the British Museum, with a small number in Edinburgh. A small number have been loaned to the museum in Stornoway, and we were able to see them later in the week.
Unfortunately we didn’t find any pieces as we walked across the beach. A pity as the last time one was sold after it was discovered in a drawer in Edinburgh, it went for £795,000. A bit more than Malcolm received.
The tide was out so there was a vast expanse of sand to cross. I was interested in the rock formations. The geology of Lewis is dominated by Gneiss, one of the oldest rocks on the Earth, formed up to 3 billion years ago.
John made it easy to find him!
We returned to the minibus and drove back over to Stornoway where there was time to shower and take a short rest before heading out for a very decent curry at a local hostelry.