With thanks… the Western Isles to the Highlands…

November 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Monday November 18… NaNoWriMo – 1400 words… The Western Isles…

Today I am grateful for awesome adventures and strange yet stunning landscapes…

After Bob Harper yoga we headed into Stornoway, the main town on the Isle of Lewis, and dropped off our washing (oh the bliss of a full service laundromat, after the frustrations of Kirkwall), then wandered around in the sunshine for an hour. It’s a pretty little town, on the harbour, with a castle overlooking things, an amazing forest the lady of the manor planted in the 1800s, and colourful buildings and sweet birds. We were heading to an internet café when we looked behind us – and realised a crazy black storm cloud was fast approaching, blotting out the sun and threatening to pelt us with rain. The contrasts here are amazing. We ran to the café and got there just in time – it started hailing like crazy seconds later. It was really nice to chill out for a while though, have an early lunch, drink coffee and check emails, then read for a bit while Juz checked his. Then the rain cleared and the blue skies returned, so we headed off… As we got close to Callanish we were marvelling at the blue skies on one side of the road and black on the other – then noticed a strange white thing that we were driving towards. It was like a special effect from a movie, a huge wall of white, taller and wider than we could comprehend. It was a bit freaky to be honest, and I was glad to see that a local car was driving into it rather than fleeing it, yet it was fascinating too, and we nervously continued – and drove into the wall of white, which turned out to be a rather intense hail storm. The temperature dropped to one degree, which was also a little daunting, but then it passed too, and the skies cleared again… We drove out to Uig, on the western side of the island, which was jaw droppingly beautiful and dramatic. Some of the landscapes here are almost alien, so different from Australia, and so strange, yet so amazing. I don’t think any of our photos will do it justice, but they will remind us at least of the incredible things we have seen here. The road was mostly one-laned, with passing places interspersed, which gave us the chance to jump out to take pictures fairly often, but was a little harrowing at times. We saw the sun begin its descent into the ocean, then headed back, hoping to see the full moon rise over Callanish, but alas, the rain clouds thwarted us again 😦

We headed back to our cottage for a quiet night in – and I was a bit naughty and watched a Doctor Who special instead of starting my NaNoWriMo-ing, so I’m off to do that now…

 

With thanks… Tuesday November 19… NaNoWriMo – 3600 word… The Western Isles…

Oh my gosh, best day ever! I got up early to work out – but looked out the window and saw that it had snowed! The closest I’ve ever been to snow was taking pics of the mountains on the drive up to Scotland, so I was crazy excited. I pulled on some clothes over my gym gear and ran outside to play in it. The first hints of sunrise colour were appearing in the sky above our little village’s beach, and the gorgeous full moon was sinking in the west, so I figured… snow… stones… sunrise… moonset. We jumped in the car and rushed (carefully though, as the roads were icy, and after a few pots full of hot water to get the snow off the windscreen – and yes, it was minus 1 degrees) over to Callanish. And it was amazing. Definitely my best morning ever. We stopped a couple of times on the way there to take snow pictures – snow on trees and little bridges, snow on fields, me making the world’s tiniest snowball , some adorable bunnies on the path up to the main Callanish circle – but the stones were breathtaking. They were standing there in a field of white, the sun slowly starting to rise behind them, and the sky all shades of pink-gold-lilac. I got some amazing photos , but even better was being there so early, all alone, feeling like we were the only two people in the world. It was so quiet. So beautiful. So perfect. Juz went for a wander, chatting to sheep and looking for bunnies, and left me there on my own to meander between the stones, soak up the atmosphere, breathe in the air of peace and history and connection to the earth and the stones. So so beautiful. Sadly the setting moon was hidden by clouds, but I had snow! And sunrise! So I was more than happy.

Then we went back to Callanish 2, which we’d missed cos of rain the other day, and it was cool too – five stones remain in this circle, which sits between the main complex and Callanish 3, and it was so pretty in the snow and the sunshine. It was a precipitous little path to them, with a few boggy areas to watch out for, but it was so much fun crunching across the snowy fields, avoiding water-logged bits and the big pools of frozen slushy water topped with a crust of ice (which looked like the icy pool Harry dived into to get the sword of Gryffindor, except much smaller – and let me just say I don’t think I would have dived in, sword or no sword)… Then we walked up to Callanish 3, to see it in the snow, and it was gorgeous too. There are eight stones remaining in its outer circle, and four in its inner one, and it’s awesome how each of the sites can easily see the other ones, and they’re located so beautifully around the lochs (with cute sheep grazing in their shadows)… Then we went to the Visitor Centre, which was finally open, to have brekkie (scones and tea for me, hee hee. Which I figure was okay cos it was breakfast 🙂 And I skipped the jam and cream), then go through the interpretive centre and read up on the circles and the surrounding ritual landscape, and watch the little film about them.

After that we went to another stone circle nearby, Garynahine, which also had five stones left standing, and looked so awesome as we crunched up the hill through the snow to it. It was constructed within a protective kind of ditch thing, with a wet, boggy centre (as I discovered as I leapt down into it, ha ha)… Then we headed back home – and I was still so excited about the snow blanketing everything. And the red stag we saw. And the beauty of the mountains mist-wreathed in the distance. We took the one-lane track back to Stornoway – and stopped at one passing place to build a little snowman, which was very cute, and so much fun. We went through our little village and continued a bit further north, past a beautifully creepy snow-covered graveyard (which reminded us of Godrics Hollow when Harry and Hermione visited it on Christmas Eve), then came back to our little cottage for lunch – just as the rain started. Perfect timing again! Then I rugged up and went and sat in the little glass-walled conservatory, which overlooks the snow-covered graveyard, and did some more NaNoWriMo writing – 2600 then, plus another thousand before bed – I’ve passed the halfway mark, and am confident that with a few more solid sessions I’ll make it to the finish line just in time. Hooray! It’s stormy outside now, with howling winds and intermittent rain – so nice to be all cosy and warm in the sweet cottage. We had a lovely night – had pondered going in to Stornoway for dinner, but ended up preferring to just stay home and have toasted cheesies and watch Law & Order, before Juz read and I kept writing… And nothing could have topped our awesome morning anyway 🙂

 

With thanks… Wednesday November 20… NaNoWriMo – 3000 words… The Western Isles to Skye…

Tonight I am sitting at the old-fashioned writing desk in a cute old hotel with a huge four-poster bed, grateful that we made our last ferry journey without feeling ill 🙂 It was a stormy night around Stornoway last night, close to gale force winds, with a threatening sky overhead. We packed up (after Jillian yoga), quite sad to be leaving beautiful Lewis. The cottage owner came over to farewell us, and apologised for the terrible weather – but we honestly loved every minute of our time here, wind and rain and (especially) snow and all. It was a bit of a worry though when we couldn’t open the car door because the wind was so crazy. We headed into town for a last coffee and a quick email check, then slowly made our way down to the Isle of Harris (which is not in fact another island, just another part of Lewis, but it has its own name and council and stuff), stopping off for a few last pics on the way, and making it to Tarbert in plenty of time to catch the ferry to Uig in Skye. We had lunch and drank tea, then waited in the car ferry line – I wrote five hundred words while we sat there, then another  fifteen hundred on the ferry (so happy I didn’t feel sick, as we didn’t have enough pills left for both of us). Sadly it was dark by the time we docked, so we couldn’t see any of Skye as we drove down the peninsula and found our sweet hotel. It’s a bit posh (we feel a bit like imposters), although cheaper than some of our B&Bs, and has lots of cosy lounges and stuff. We had dinner downstairs, then I wrote another thousand words before bed. A very productive writing day, which has kept me on track. Hooray!

 

With thanks… Thursday November 21… NaNoWriMo – 1000 words… Isle of Skye…

Today I am grateful for more snow! After yoga and brekkie we hit the road – and discovered that Skye is also covered in snow-topped mountains! Juz had wanted to see sea cliffs and things, so I drove up to the Old Man of Storr, which kinda looked like one in mini photos – but ended up being part of a mountain range, the tallest on the island. So when we got there and saw people walking towards it, we thought why not have a look – and ended up climbing a snow-covered mountain. (Thank goddess again, for our boots, and our beanies and gloves!). We kept saying we’d just climb to the next bit, but we always wondered what would be over the next little ridge, and went a bit further. There was so much snow the higher we got – I was so tempted to stop and make a big snowman 🙂 After about an hour, and only a couple of stumbles, we made it to the Old Man – and snow started falling on us! Only a tiny bit, but still, I’ve been in the snow now! It was so beautiful, and not even especially cold (unprepared as we were for the climb, I was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, thin jacket, long velvet skirt (not the most practical thing, I admit) and tights… I didn’t have any water with me either, so had to slurp a bit of snow…).

Once we made our way back down we drove back to Port Righ, a gorgeous little town of coloured buildings, for lunch, then headed for the Bridge of Skye and a return to the Highlands. We stopped at Eilan Donan castle, another one the makers of Brave visited for research for Merida’s castle – and I could definitely picture her tearing down the cobblestone causeway bridge on her horse Angus. Dubbed the “most romantic castle in Scotland”, it really was pretty. Then we continued on to Fort William, at the base of Ben Nevis, for dinner in a cute pub, and a night in a little B&B hotel. And now to do some NaNoWriMo-ing… 

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