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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Exploring the Westside

Sunday….  I learned yesterday that the Gaelic community has such a good tradition of singing because the Free Church plays such an important part of the lives of the Hebrideans.  From an early age children are learning and singing the psalms – in Gaelic – in a very individual way.  To a non Gaelic speaker unfamiliar with the Free Church the sound is quite extraordinary!  However it allows a certain amount of individuality in the singing, which helps develop the singing tradition. I found this online.

siabost bho thuath wave This being Sunday, Jennifer went off to church, while I took the car round to the other end of the bar across the bay, where I spent another happy hour or so watching the waves still crashing on to the beach, though the tide was higher this time of day.north shawbost 

You realise too at this end of the bar that in fact Loch a’Bhaile is not landlocked at all, but its waters do indeed reach the sea via a short stretch of river flowing beneath the bridge.loch a'bhaile bridge

 It certainly was a day of stormy squallsshawbost  bho thuath touch of rainbow

and an occasional rainbow could be seen out to the sea side of the bay.

I had to drag myself away to explore further north, and drove the few miles north to Arnolarnol blackhouse2 where an old blackhouse has been restored and opened as a museum of how life was lived in the islands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Being Sunday it was closed of course, but I resolved to return during the week.  I remember about 50 years ago, on holiday with my parents, meeting an old man in another village nearby, whose home was exactly like the one at Arnol, at least from the exterior, and I expect the interior would have been similar too.  I looked out for the old man’s house when I drove through Barvas village later but there are no blackhouses left there now at all.  They have all been pulled down to make way for more modern housing.  It’s rather sad.steinaclete stone circles

At Shader (SHAAder), a small sign indicated a stone circle was to be found up the hill to the right, which I decided to investigate.  I parked the car and began the rather wet boggy ascent!  steinaclete

The purpose of these stones is unknown as they have never been properly excavated but it is thought they may have been a prehistoric farming settlement rather than a religious site the likes of Stonehenge or the local equivalent at Callanish, just a few miles down the road. steinaclete and cow  I walked round the large outside ring, possibly a stock yard, its stones like a mouthful of worn down teeth, quite close together, and back to what may have been the farmhouse,made up of a jumble of fallen stones on the edge of the circle, above.  shader 

Looking downhill towards present day Shader, between the village and the hill I was on, is a small loch with evidence of a small dun on an island, probably man made as this would have been a safe place to live.

Returning to the car I decided to head south again, back through Shawbost, to take a look at the ancient stone broch at Carloway, thought to date back about 2000 years or so.   garenin2 On the way I saw a sign I remembered and took a quick turn off the main road, heading for the sea and the tiny village of Garenin.  The main part of the village has been restored and is used as holiday cottages now.garenin4

One was the youth hostel till the end of this summer, but a sign on its door said it would not re-open as its lease of the building was up, and it was being returned to the village trust.  These houses were only vacated in the 1970s, but now live again. Garenin seaview It was indeed a squally day and on a couple of occasions I had to shelter in a doorway, but then it would clear again and I could photograph more seascapes!

Time to move on.  The day wasn’t getting any better and I did want to get to Dun Carloway before the heavens opened.  dun carloway broch The new visitor centre was closed – everything closes up here on a Sunday – but the Dun – same word as Doune in Knoydart – was  accessible from the path, so through the gate I went, and uphill.  (These prehistoric monuments are all uphill!)  dun carloway interior  It’s quite an amazing structure, double walls with internal stairways between floors, probably, it is thought, the home of an important family,

dun carloway interior workings

and the picture here shows how it is thought to have looked and worked.  From the picture it looks as if they reckon the broch was twice as high when it was being occupied.  What a skill those ancient builders had.  The stones have never seen a drop of cement or other material to stick them together.  Obviously they have been dressed and placed well for a good fit, and they have withstood the battering wind and weather for over 2000 years.  Who’d have thought it possible! dun carloway view2  It would have been seen in the landscape from quite a distance judging by the views I took from it.dun carloway inside the walls

  Here is one set of stairs within the walls.  You really do wonder how they did it!

peat hags Leaving Carloway behind it was time to head back home again, past some peat hags – where the peat is cut each year, dried and carried back to crofts and cottages to use as fuel for the next year; past the sign to Dalmore – next time I’m going down that road – and suddenly a cove came into view off to the left.  The sign said Dalbeg,and I turned onto the road.  At the beach the waves were fierce and beautiful.  I could have stood for hours watching.  Let me finish today by showing you just a few of the pictures I took there.

Dalbeg Talk again soon.dalbeg2

 

 

 dalbeg3dalbeg4

 

dalbeg6

 

dalbeg5

5 comments:

Katrina said...

I've only been to Skye - and it rained! Lewis looks gorgeous, I'll have to put that on my list of places to visit.
There's something mesmerising about the Wee Free melodic sort of wail-singing. I didn't realise that they don't stand up to sing.

xoggoth said...

Looks a bit chilly but fantastic pics.

PS Just happened to find this while googling to see what this was about:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/scotlands-ugliest-woman-honoured-1095961.html

debbie bailey said...

This type of singing sounds very similar to what we in the American South call 'shape note singing'. I love your blog and am glad to find it. I love Scotland and have many ancestors from the Briish Isles. I would love to visit the isles of Skye and Lewis.

Les Ellingham said...

Good writing about your time in Westside. We went over to the fantastic bay 'between two lochs' at Shawbost yesterday. First time there as we still haven't seen all the island despite moving here 3 years ago!

I see that you mention Dalmore in this entry and thought you might be interested in a couple of books I've just done about Dalmore (I didn't write them I just handled the book creation). I won't put links on your blog but if you are interested just go to Amazon and do a search for Donald John Maclennan. His parents and grandparents were born in the houses that are now the Gearannan blackhouse village.

Les Ellingham said...

Good writing about your time in Westside, we went over to the fantastic bay 'between two lochs' at Shawbost yesterday. First time there as we still haven't seen all the island despite moving here 3 years ago!

I see that you mention Dalmore in this entry and thought you might be interested in a couple of books I've just done about Dalmore (I didn't write them I just handled the book creation). I won't put links on your blog but if you are interested just go to Amazon and do a search for Donald John Maclennan. His parents and grandparents were born in the houses that are now the Gearannan blackhouse village.