We woke at 7am after a slightly troubled night. The Dog got rather bad tempered and kept hogging the seats/bed and growling at us. Suffering from a bit of cabin fever, no doubt. She could not be moved easily. At 3am Hubby went to the loo only to return to find The Dog firmly on his side of the bed. Again she would not move, so it ended up as a game of musical beds with me shoving her to one side and moving to Hubby’s side of the bed so he could replace me. She knows not to mess with me. Ten minutes later, after all this kerfuffle, the Hound jumped off the bed with a harrumph and went back to her Pit of Doom in the passenger well for the rest of the night. Think we then did our own growling back at her!
The wind has died down and it has the beginnings of a lovely day in Ardroil. The sun finally rose over the mountains and we popped up the roof on the Van, fed up with clonking our heads on the low ceiling all the time. We made breakfast, suddenly realising The Dog had wandered off. We spotted her sitting in the long grass diagonally opposite us, enjoying being on her own. She does this a lot too, just taking herself off to contemplate, have some downtime or just to plot our downfall. She was happy and chilled so we left her. Perhaps we need to be more Dog.
After breakfast we decided to go for a walk to investigate the area, so dropped back down onto the beach and towards the estuary of a river. We headed towards a wooden bridge, walking across the vast empty sands. Nearer the bridge, which spanned the river channel, we discovered that the river spilled over the beach and was a little deep for trainers. Hubby had ankle Wellington boots and was fine. I had to take my shoes and socks and paddled barefoot through cold, but surprisingly refreshing water towards the bridge, before crossing it and drying my feet with my bandana. My feet were getting numb but I enjoyed that tingling feeling as they returned to life in the warmth of my boots.
We crossed a little headland of grass up to a stile. We had to manhandle The Dog over this as it was just a wire fence with a plank of wood through it – could see a paw easily caught and an injured dog. We followed the side of a field up to a dirt track and a gate. Built into the wall was an microwave with a large 1 painted on the front – we could only presume it was a makeshift post box for the house next door. Such ingenuity.
We were now on a single tracked road and perched on a low hill was a church-like building in somewhat disrepair, but with a good roof. Peering inside, there were cement mixers as if it was being renovated, but it seemed all activity had ceased some while back. Abandoned, given up on for the time being. Slightly further on the opposite side was a handsome square stone memorial with names of the war dead and a local shipping disaster. Each side was dedicated to the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, Royal Air Force and Army with a surprising list of names – a huge loss for such an area, though we think it covered quite a large area and several communities. There were a lot of McDonalds, Mackays and McIvers and I wondered if these men were all related or just part of the various clans. I wanted to know their story.
The seemingly heart of the area was a long line of bungalows, the nearest being quite new looking. They looked like they had been dropped from a height and left. No effort to landscape or blend them into the surroundings. There was no style to these buildings either – whoever had planned and designed hadn’t gone any further regarding aesthetics.. Who allowed this to happen? What did the local community think? Then we got to the village school, full of chattering children at playtime (again a surprising amount of young people considering. They obviously must come from far and wide). But these children were in the most appalling architectural building ever. It was a 1960’s concrete abomination of a sloping roofed rectangles stuck together. It was something you’d might just find in a run down inner city council estate, not on a Hebridean island. It was beyond awful and a rusting metal chimney just rubbed salt into the wound.
We walked to the end of the road, shaking our heads. Obviously economics played a big part here with the housing stock – it was not wealthy and buildings had to be built practically, but hell a little thought would of been appreciated. We came across the bus shelter and again sighed in despair – a neglected metal and glass structure with touches of corporate yellow plonked unceremoniously on the roadside. Surely a bus company could be more sympathetic, but it seemed not. We discussed this for a while until we came to the village shop and two pump petrol station.
We needed milk so I went inside and my black mood melted away. A large well stocked community shop, well laid out and with everything you could think of (it was better stocked than my local Co-op which is suffering the UK wide shortages). I was so impressed that I stood amazed. It even had a little laundry and a gift shop. I bought the milk and some other bits and even managed to purchased a box of caddy bags for our little waste bin in the Van!! My heart sang – this was just wonderful. I went outside and excitedly told Hubby who went inside to check it out. While I waited, I read all the notices and posters – there was a lot going on and noted that there were recycling facilities too. Blimey, it had more facilities than my home village!!
Hubby came out wearing a new woolly hat and a big smile on his face. He’s very much about supporting local communities like this and so asked how local the hat was. The lady who served him said it was very local as she had knitted it herself. How wonderful is that?
This little corner of Lewis seemed to cater for everyone and even had a charging point for electric cars! Loved the Caution, children crossing sign too – for the car that came every four hours!
Instead of walking the road, we went down a side lane, passing a Grand Design house which was fantastic, but didn’t quite fit – it had arched roofs and portholes, it stood out against all those little rectangle bungalows (I’m never happy am I?). A little way down was the perfect stone cottage with all the different coloured stones of the area and a lovely rotunda at one end. It was a rental cottage and we peered inside, it was gorgeous too. This is what I had expected all over the island. Happy, we picked up the little footpath again and came back to our bridge. The river was still too deep for me, so the shoes and socks came off again and I walked barefoot all the way back to the Van, my feet naturally exfoliated. We then made the decision not to stay here for the 2 nights as planned – we were due to catch the ferry early tomorrow and Lewis seemed to have more to offer. So we packed up and left money for both nights in a little envelope in the honesty box and retraced our steps from yesterday. With the sun out, we had a completely different perspective – far reaching views, the colours vibrant and even the white pebbled dashed homes complimented the scenery. They were a lovely contrast to the browns and greens. It was all very pleasing.
We finally joined the main road to Tarbert, the scenery just getting better and better by the mile. The mountains loomed up again, huge lochs and sea estuaries, straggly villages in the valleys – the houses all of a similar style. There were a few inhabited stone residences, but many were in a state of dilapidation.
I turned to check on The Dog to discover that she wasn’t on her mat on the floor anymore, but had managed to jump up onto the back seat and was happily watching the world go by. We harness her in, in case we’re in an accident, so she had sort of got herself on a very short leash. She just looked at me with a face that said “yeah, what?”. She never sits on the back seat. Talk about having more front than Brighton – this dog knows how to take the biscuit.
We stopped for lunch in a parking area, high above a sea loch, surrounded by stunning mountains and views. It was just amazing. The sun blazed down. We were now on Harris (though we hadn’t crossed islands, when you look on a map, there is a dividing line on the main island between Lewis and Harris). After an agreeable break, we continued on. Hubby had found out about a campsite down a coastal road, but we couldn’t book it. It only has 5 spaces. We hoped we could get in. We had a brief tour of Tarbert, a lovely little town dominated by the ferry terminal and then back to this coastal road. We had been doing a lot of “wow” “that’s stunning” “ how gorgeous”, general oohing and arring for the last couple of hours and now we went into overdrive. Every turn, there was an amazing view. Our neighbour back home had told us how stunning Lewis and Harris was and he was right. The road had signs mentioning the word “challenging” and it was. Narrow with steep drops, bends and blind summits, Hubby held onto the steering wheel and kept telling me “I daren’t look at the scenery, just the road!”. The scenery is jaw dropping. We travelled about 16 miles which takes 40 minutes along this road – we turned one corner and there’s this amazing castle! It’s full of surprises, this road!
Finally we dropped down to Hushinish, literally at the end of the road. On our right was an enclosed area with a campervan in it, on the other side, the sea. We pulled into the gate, followed by another VW which has followed us most of the way. We thought he was coming here and didn’t want to let him past in case he snucked the last spot. The camper already there informed us it was on a first come, first served basis. Luckily there was just the three of us – can you imagine driving all the way there and discover it full and having to go all the way back to Tarbert? Crushing.
You have to text the payment through for the night’s stay. It’s all based on honesty again which is wonderful. £15 – fantastic. The view across the sea was outstanding, the sun starting to set. We had about 3 hours before the sun really went down. So we walked down the road to a little bay of pure sand and again, shoes and socks off and walking in the surf. The Dog was so happy – two beaches in one day!!! We then walked over the hill to the other side – a short walk on a grassy path down to a pier with a couple of parked cars. Another bay with cliffs and coves. We walked up another hill and spotted a man on the edge fishing. Opposite was another island with houses. In the distance another sandy spot. It was endless.
We started to walk back to the Van, past another little parking area next door to a small building housing a loo block and a cafe. Campervans were parked here too, their roofs popped up. There was recycling bins, chemical toilets and drinking water too. Out in the middle of nowhere, but had everything you needed. It was just great. We took the long hill back up to the Van and set her up, before getting the chairs out and sat overlooking the sea, glass of wine in hand. A hired motorhome had parked next door and it’s occupants talking in a language I couldn’t pick up. They were unintentionally loud as a family, just slightly irritating when you just want to watch the sun set and be at peace with the world.
The sun finally slid down behind an island, the temperature dropping immediately. It had been a balmy 13 degrees today with the sun out. Flying insects hovered above us, thankfully not midges, but we hoped they didn’t join us inside. We put everything away and retreated indoors, having soup for tea. It had been a splendid day – our decision to move on was a good one and the discovery of this perfect corner of Harris.
Tomorrow an early start to catch the ferry back to the mainland. Our job tonight is to figure out where we go next for an adventure.