Isle of Lewis: Black Houses, a Broch, Standing Stones, and Beaches (Day 16)

After a quick breakfast of baked goods, we said a fond farewell to our lovely bay.  Back on the road, we continued our trek south along Lewis, not sure what all we’d be able to see and do since it was a Sunday and everything on the island was closed.  As it turned out, it was one of the best days of our trip.  Just down the road we came across a sign for a “Norse Mill and Kiln” and stopped to take a peek.  The kids dashed up the trail, with parents trying to keep up, and soon we came across a pair of thatched black houses.  They were a recreation of a style of grain mill that had been common on the islands — one building contained a kiln for drying grain, and the other the water-powered mill.  A small stream was diverted to power a horizontal water wheel below the building that drove a shaft up to a grindstone on the floor.

MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1717 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1723 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1727 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1734

Just a hop down the road was the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village.  This village was inhabited until 1974, when the residents moved into nearby council houses.  It was declared a special conservation area in 1976, though restoration didn’t start until 1991.  One of the buildings has been turned into a restaurant, and another is now a hostel, but most are as they were when abandoned.  The visitor’s center was closed, but the gate to the village was open and we were able to wander in peace and quiet.  (Some other visitors arrived as we were leaving, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.)

MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1746 MAS 2012 06 17 DSC06643 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1763

Another hop down the road took us to Dun Carloway Broch, the remains of a fortified dwelling probably built some time in the 1st century BC.  It’s in an incredible setting, and one of the best-preserved brochs in Europe.  It was constructed with two concentric walls, with stairways sandwiched between them.

MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1776 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1779 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1799 MAS 2012 06 17 DSC06689 MAS 2012 06 17 DSC06697 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1794 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1785

Yet another short hop down the road and we were at the Callanish Standing Stones.  (Officially they’re known as “Callanish I” to distinguish this circle from the many other standing stones nearby.  Several other circles are visible from Callanish I!)  Once again the visitor center was closed, but the site was open and we had it almost to ourselves.  The walk up to the stones was very beautiful and the stone circle was the most impressive we’ve seen yet.  The stones were set so close together and so intricately.  The natural grain in the stones and their rough shapes made them a dramatic sight.  It’s estimated that construction of the circle started around 2900 BC — roughly 500 years before Stonehenge.

MAS 2012 06 17 DSC06751 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1852 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1814 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1831 MAS 2012 06 17 DSC06725 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1857 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1858 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1853

By now it was time to start thinking about a place to camp for the evening, so we headed for the beaches near Uig in search of the right spot.  There are a couple of very basic campsites in the vicinity.  We opted for the on in Cnip (“Kneep” in English).  Paying for our pitch was an experience!  Instructions at the campsite said to pay at #15 Kneep back in the village, but the houses aren’t well marked and are scattered across the hillsides.  After several unsuccessful attempts we located #15 and made contact with the old couple inside.  (Even then it took some time to sign in, due to extended smalltalk and the need to fill out an extensive receipt by hand.)  Back at the campsite it took us several tries to find just the right spot and try to get Heidi level, but our efforts were rewarded by an incredible view over the spectacular beach.  We ate a huge spaghetti diner after the kids had a long play on the gorgeous sandy beach.  Brad fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow at 9:30.  Tomorrow we’ll have a slow and easy day, I think.  Perhaps we’ll wander down to Harris…

MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1920 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1875 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1879 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1893 MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 1890

Spot the dot.

MAS 2012 06 17 IMG 0052

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