Trip to Scotland, June 17 - July 30, 2010 A lovely two week visit with my father and his wife, who live in Port of Ness, Scotland.
Crofters in Port of Ness cut peat from the Ness moor, which is located just beyond the small community of Skigersta, down the road from Port of Ness. The road ends and turns into a dirt track which continues on into the moor where the peat bog is. Apparently, determining where you can cut peat is quite a complicated matter. The people of the Ness area know where the peat bog that can be cut by Ness residents is located, and some villagers know where each resident’s allocated peat bank is. To find out where you can cut if your croft or house does not already have a peat bank allocated to it, you must ask around in the community until someone tells you where the right place is. Or, as one person explained, you can just start cutting somewhere, and if it’s in the wrong place, someone will come and tell you. PeatMoor_0384.jpg
On a gray and misty day, we drove up to the Butt of Lewis to go for a walk around the headland. The lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis was built in 1886, and was manned until 1998 when it became fully automated. There has been much discussion about what to do with the residence building, since it is now empty, but no decisions have been made yet. My vote is for a tea house, as a hot cup of tea would be perfect after a long, windy and cold walk around the headlands. ButtLewisLighthouse_0456.jpg The cliffs at the Butt of Lewis are dramatic, dropping straight down onto rocky bottoms where the sea churns and the waves crash. There are no fences on the cliff edges, which I am glad about as fences would ruin the view. The only accident I've heard about (and for which there is a plaque on the cliff edge) is a young football (soccer for Americans) player who fell off. ButtLewisCliffs_0420.jpg The sea cliffs are filled with birds that somehow find small ledges upon which to nest. We saw fulmars, herring gulls, shags and gannets flying around the cliffs. ButtLewisCliffs_0420.jpg There are also beautiful wildflowers at the Butt of Lewis, on the sandy soil near the cliffs, including pink sea thrift and ragged robin, as well as beautiful spotted wild orchid. SeaThriftButt_0516.jpg RaggedRobin_0422.jpg CommonSpottedWildOrchid_0429.jpg
It is often gray in the Outer Hebrides, so on the few days when there is bright sunshine, I like to go out for long walks. The walk from Port of Ness to Eoropie is lovely, up a small hill through Knockaird, then down through Fivepenny, and finally to Eoropie on the coast. EuropieView_0367.jpg The Eoropie beach is one of a number of beaches in Lewis and Harris that is absolutely stunning. Gorgeous stretches of yellow white sand and Eoropie in particular also has beautiful sand dunes.
The Morven Art Gallery in Barvas is in an old stone farmhouse that has been beautifully restored, and features a tea room with wonderful cakes and teas. All the art in the gallery is by local artists and most often depicts local scenes or is related to the local culture. It's one of my favorite places to go for tea. And behind the gallery is a large field with usually one or two pony's grazing amongst the sheep.
Dal Beg is a tiny community on the west coast of Lewis. At the end of a small road, just past a cottage, a gorgeous beach is hidden. White sand, beautiful rocks, dramatic cliffs; it's a wonderful, hidden away place.
Wind farms on Lewis are controversial to say the least. There is already one small wind farm, south of Stornoway in the area known as South Lochs. These large turbines are visible from the main road across the Barvas moor and as you drive south towards Harris. Politicians and some estate holders have proposed more wind farms, and there are some on the island who support them ("pro-windies") and some who are against them ("anti-windies"). The pro-windies hope to bring in money to a struggling economy, while the anti-windies oppose them for many reasons including that they will ruin the expansive views, decimate local bird populations (some of which are rare), and because the amount of carbon released to dig up the peat moor and install the large concrete bases and roads is so large, anti-windies question whether there is actually any net gain in having them. While I am generally supportive of alternative energy sources, I find myself agreeing with the anti-windies in this particular case. The peat moor on Lewis is not only a huge carbon sink, it is also an amazing natural resources that should be preserved. In addition, much of the power generated by the wind farms is intended for the mainland, primarily south of England where most power usage occurs in the UK. My opinion is that if there are wind farms on Lewis, the benefits should be primarily for the islands, not the mainlanders, and I suggest that the mainlanders find other, better ways to reduce their power consumption to reduce carbon emissions. The rare bird populations and natural resources on Lewis are too precious to destroy with giant wind farms. WindFarm_0754.jpg
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. With a population of just under half a million, it is the second largest city in the country.
Edinburgh Castle is built high on a volcanic rock, overlooking the city. Settled in the 9th century BC, it was a royal residence until 1603. Later in the 17th century, it was a military base. Most of the current buildings at the site were built after the 16th century, however one older building from the 12th century survives. The castle is now a major museum and tourist attraction, and hosts the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
This is a sample website produced by Bob Boiko, Elisabeth Robson, and George Humphreys.