This morning we boarded the car ferry from Uig to Tarbert for an hour and a half trip across the Little Minch waterway to the isles of Harris and Lewis of the Outer Hebrides. There was rain and a good stiff wind (inspiring sea motion) during our journey but no one ended up “over the rail” so to speak.
When we arrived in Tarbert we headed down the southern loop of Harris on the one-way road. There were a lot of road hogging sheep and rocky desolation on this side of the loop. We stopped occasionally to memorialize the scenery since it would be rather hard to describe.
One of the points of interest I was looking forward to seeing this day was St. Clement’s Church in Rodel at the very southern point of Harris. The church was built in the early 1500s and strongly linked with the Clan MacLeod. There is some intricate carving inside, several tombs of MacLeod chieftains, and also some very interesting reliefs on the church tower. One is a “sheela na gig” – a depiction of a naked woman with her legs spread open. Historians speculate that this may have been either a warning against lust, or perhaps a fertility symbol. This type of imagery is found in other place in the Celtic world. There was another interesting carving that many describe as a man holding his genitalia. For those less intrigued by the oddities, there were lovely carvings inside the church as well, some dating again back to the 1500s.
From St. Clement’s we traveled clockwise around Harris to the famous sandy beaches. We took a short hike back to Luskentyre Beach in the fiercely blowing wind and cold. This beach is often photographed and on a beautiful, sunny and less-blustery day, could be mistaken for someplace in the Caribbean. Not so much so today though bits of sunshine attempted to find us.
We drove to our lodging in Stornoway marveling at the most highly defined rainbow just ahead in our path. By the time I found a place to stop, it had disappeared. We saw many rainbows during our journeys this day as the sun and rain played Whack-a-Mole with each other. Once settled in, we took off again in search of the Callanish Stones.
There are actually at least three sets of Callanish stones near dating back 5,000 years – older than Stonehenge. The most famous are those at Callanish I set high on a hilltop. The stone were set in a cross configuration and were the site of ritual activity for a period of approximately 2,000 years. This visit was again a perfect illustration of the rapidly changing light in Scotland. We arrived and they were gloomy and dark. Shortly after the sun crept out from many clouds and illuminated them with lovely golden rays. They are truly a wonder.
Set apart from Callanish I were Callanish II and Callanish III. Callanish II has very few stones but the traingular stone in the group picture is also the stone I’m standing next to in another – just to provide perspective. Callanish III proved to be very soggy to access so the other, perhaps wiser travelers watched from the car as I scampered up (though the mud) to take a more intimate look. I love exploring!
We turned for one more look at Callanish I during sunset and then headed back to Stonoway for a fine meal at the Stornoway Hotel Bistro before collapsing into bed. It was a stellar day.