After my pinnacle-positive experiences at Abhainn Dearg in Ardroil [WLP#14], it’s time to move on and head up to the Butt of Lewis.
Before heading off, I notice a nasty scrape on the side of my camper. A few hours later, whilst I am walking around the Callanish Stones, my van gets shunted by a reversing car in the visitor’s centre car park – a costly stop-off. Whilst the husband stays sheepishly [yet unapologetically] at the scene, the driver’s wife comes and finds me with a note with their details on. At first I thought she was handing me a parking ticket. I wonder how anyone driving a car equipped with parking sensors, can fail to avoid a silver T5 Transporter with shiny chrome crash-bars in an almost-empty car park. Then I recall once reversing into the Pepper Pot, a 60-foot listed building in Brighton. Thankfully, the damage is purely cosmetic and I move on.
There’s very restricted access to the coast on the western side of Lewis, save for a few beautiful and popular sand dune spots. Aside from the Butt of Lewis itself, there isn’t a great to deal to see/do, and it isn’t long before I’m heading towards Stornoway. Also, the weather is shitty.
Soon in Stornoway [the island is smaller than I imagined], I find a nice spot for the night by the beach outside the town. The next morning, I go for a short walk in an attempt to find a rock, as requested by my sister, aka Dr Rock.
I return to the car not long later, completely soaked, yet with the requested lump of Gneiss [see pic above]. I continue to use the air-con to dry-out all of my wet pairs of shoes and clothes that have gathered on the dashboard over the past few weeks. I’m fed up of being wet, in July!
I head into Stornoway town in semi-dry clothes. After walking around the modern Lews Castle [which was closed due to renovation], I don’t fancy the town and its retail, rules, and restrictions, so head back down to Tarbert in an attempt to catch an afternoon ferry,… which never materialises. As a result, I find myself revisiting the Northern part of Harris, discovering new spots just as stunning as I’d enjoyed a week earlier. Also, the weather has brightened up, enough to open some of the water lilies.
After finishing nearly a whole bottle of sublimely savoury red wine [French, but I wish I’d taken down more details], I wake up early for the 7:15 Wednesday morning ferry to Skye. That wine, it would turn out, would be my last alcoholic drink for many weeks. I came to Scotland booze-loaded and dry-clothed, and return damp yet with sobriety.
Imagining I’d be in Scotland for several more weeks, I’m surprised to find myself on a ferry to the mainland. There, I reflect on my three week journey, what I’d seen and worked through. Turns out, it was quite a lot – physically, emotionally,..
Skye, and its geological volcanic heartland, was a short affair. In contrast to the Outer Hebrides, Skye – though breathtaking – seemed a positively tamer/softer affair, with street lights, do this/don’t do that restrictions, police presence, potholes, large campervan congregations,…… It does have trees, however. There are very few of them in Harris/Lewis. Granted, there are more quintessential picture-postcard views in Skye, but with that, comes increased private/no-access restriction to much of the coast, coupled with increased tourism, cars and people [in spite of the ‘situation’].
Having said that, it was a delight to ask Siri for directions to the Talisker distillery. Siri even recognised ‘Torabhaig’ though it couldn’t pronounce it. Torabhain looked beautiful, from what I could see of it. Access to the beach and a castle ruin proved impossible, and like Talisker, the distillery was closed to visitors.
I found myself taking a few pictures of both distilleries and the surrounding countryside before driving straight onto the mainland – though if Raasay [WLP] had been open, I’d have hopped over on the ferry to see Alasdair’s operation.
Leaving Skye via the bridge, I’m thrilled to see Eilean Donan Castle on my right. It’s been on my ‘to see/visit’ for decades, ever since I first watched the film, Highlander. Even though the inside was closed, walking around the outside of this iconic castle was reward enough. The stuff of childhood dreams!
As if that wasn’t enough, I then had a close encounter with a very friendly Angus cow. It’s a marvel to see cows that haven’t had their horns chopped off at birth, in all their splendour.
I stop off for petrol at the Green Welly Stop – a business I bought many of the bottles I’ve sent to auction from – before reaching Loch Ness for the first time [see pic right]. Stopping to take in the hive of activity at Neptune’s Staircase near Fort William, I plough on further. After some challenging miles on Scotland’s bendy coastal roads, I finally make it to the edge of Loch Lomond before all my energy runs out. I find a great spot for the night [see pic below] and sleep like a log for a fair number of hours. It’s my first ‘dry’ night, booze-wise, of many to come. Waking up relatively early to yet more rain, I drive to Leeds to visit my sister. We play Alley Cats and drink tea. Gneiss!
The next morning, I’ve another gruelling six hours of driving [not helped by the M25 that has resumed normal service as a ‘car park’ since the first lockdown], before reaching home. Three weeks and a day since starting my journey [WLP#1], the whisky auction ends tomorrow. My 115 bottles are currently realising £43,701. I’m hoping my lovely old grain whiskies come through, as too, a 1936 Glenlivet and the 1930’s Bellow’s [WLP86] that I paid a fair amount for at the time. It’s likely I’ll lose money on the 1920s Chateau Lafite Cognac, but remind myself that bids on the majority of lots increase significantly within the last hour.
Nothing to do until then but sleep.