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Locals and Heroes

august 14, 2018

This last weekend we drove up to the beautiful north east coast of Scotland at the very outskirts of Aberdeenshire. I’ve said it before and will repeat myself in saying ‘that is one of the most magnificent things about living in Aberdeen – that it’s so close to epic scenery and beautiful places’.
Gardenstown
from above gardenstown
It’s a roughly one hour drive, and we try to make a trip up to this coast once a year. That almost sounds like we have to make an effort to travel up there. It’s not an effort, I long for the fresh seabreeze, its little villages tucked away and hidden under cliffs in remote bays, with the only noise coming from seagulls, oystercatchers and the waves trying to grab hold of the rocks and then letting go – over and over again.

We had a room waiting for us in Pennan, more specifically at the Pennan Inn, the only Hotel in the tiny village with about 10 remaining inhabitants.pennan#1 the pennan inn
There are plenty more houses though and nothing that implies that it shouldn’t live more people here permanently, but most of the lights in the houses are lit by tourists and holiday-home-owners these days.pennan#5 One can debate whether this is a sad and bad turn for the previous fishing village where in its hey days every single household probably owned a boat, which the men would take out fishing, while the children and wives would be assigned the task of selling the catch. Or if it in fact keep Pennan alive and make sure it doesn’t go into disrepair and turns into a ghost village. I don’t have the answer, but we were in fact afraid that the latter would happen to the hotel we were staying at. While doing a bit of research for our «holiday destination», I came across an article about the young hotel owner and his prospects for moving the hotel forward, or rather the lack of it. In the article from May 2018 in The Press and Journal, we could read about Peter Simpson and his struggle to keep the business alive mainly in the low season, and his decision to close the doors for good on August 26th. That meant we were short of two weeks before it was all over.
Peter says in the article “It’s just me running things here now…” and I don’t think that’s an understatement. He was the one who checked us in and showed us the room, he made the excellent evening meals and the early morning meals, and he was there to check us out when we left. He seemed to be very ‘hands on’ on his hotel. In addition he had a small crew of assistants who served, plated, took orders and kept the bar. To us everything seemed to run smoothly so upon departure we had to ask Peter if the rumors (if one can call an article ‘a rumor’) were true on which he responded that he’d gotten a lot of those questions recently. The fact he said, was that there were two articles, one that said he had to close down, and another one that said he wasn’t. This was of course great news to us, as it meant that we could revisit this little gem in the future. The stay overall was really nice and the fact that it is so small just makes it feel more homely and ‘cozy’. You would probably find the words ‘cramped’ and ‘narrow’ about the room(s? at least number 5 which we stayed in) on TripAdvisor and the likes of it, but hey this just reflects the whole village – everything is cramped, you don’t go to a small fishing village and expect to live like a queen. The room had everything it needed: a good comfortable bed, a small ensuite bathroom and a closet to hang your clothes. There were of course things that could benefit a better solution, such as the smallest sink I’ve ever seen, the overall lack of hooks and the piles of hair in the bathroom rug, but i found myself ignoring that, blinded by the charm of minimalism or rather miniature-ism.
I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea, but I had made a table reservation for a very late dinner at 8pm. The ‘problem’ with that is that there isn’t much to do in Pennan, which simply forced us to slow down, relax and most important: enjoy. We enjoyed a shared scone with jam and clotted cream from the little shack “Coastal Cuppie” while cuddling the owner’s two old dogs, we enjoyed the surprisingly lovely sunshine and warm weather which we had not foreseen at all and forced us to drop the sweaters, we enjoyed a walk up over the village through a rough path tucked away behind fields, shrubs and cliffs,pennanfootpath# footpath behind pennan
we enjoyed several walks back and forth the harbour only interrupted by occasional sitting down on a bench, seagulls shouting at us and friendly people’s greetings.pennan#7 pennan#8 harbour walks And to be completely honest and unnecessarely cheesy, this was only the beginning of a very perfect weekend getaway.

The restaurant at The Pennan Inn can only seat 20 people at a time, and is divided between two rooms. We felt lucky to be seated in the cozy pub section of the restaurant, with rough stone walls, a small (of course) window looking out on the harbour, and a fake log burning stove providing charm and atmosphere.pennan#2 kopi the restaurant at the pennan inn
The menu was relatively simple but contained everything you could wish for, with seafood, meat and vegetarian options. We had the Haggis Bon Bons, Fish Goujons, Fish and Chips, Stir Fried Scampi and a Sticky Toffee pudding to share and also to die for. The restaurant didn’t feel cramped at all despite being in a small room, however i felt the large furnitures, massive chairs and robust table were a bit unnecessary in a space were you’re already struggle to make room, also they were a nightmare to try to lift and move around. There’s probably a reason why the restaurant in the movie Local Hero had slim and simple furnishings. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve probably not seen the movie, and we hadn’t in fact either before we came to Pennan. So after retiring from our evening meal and stocking up on “bar snacks” we sank down in our bed with this iconic early 80’s movie on demand. It’s filmed almost entirely on location in Pennan starring Peter Riegert, Peter Capaldi, Burt Lancaster etc. It’s not often you watch a movie where the movie is actually supposed to have happened, but the two main actors stays at the village’s hotel, although it’s not exactly the same house as the current Pennan Inn is located. Actually not a bad movie at all, neither the story, acting nor the scenery.
pennan#6 evening in pennan

When I woke up at 7 the next morning, it couldn’t have been because of any noice outside, apart from the occasional seagull of course, but it hit me – I’m not sure if I’ve ever stayed at a more quiet, calm and peaceful accommodation. There was not a sound. We had arranged for the breakfast to happen at 9 o’clock in the morning, and so it did. As usual the husband had his full Scottish breakfast and I decided on the porridge, both accompanied with a full-bodied stark black coffee to wake us up – bravo! The day came along with the same lovely weather as the previous, and almost made it a bit sad to leave the lovely Pennan. But as we assured Peter as we were leaving – We’ll be back!
pennan#4 morning in pennan

samandrag på norsk:
i helga var me ein tur til nord-aust kysten av skottland, og første stopp var i den vesle (tidlegare) fiskarlandsbyen pennan. der hadde me bestilt eit rom på det koselege hotellet «pennan inn» som hadde vore nær ved å legga ned, men som no hadde kome på andre tankar -heldigvis, for hit reiser me gjerne tilbake! pennan har berre 10 faste innbyggerar, men mange turistar som held liv i plassen. det er ikkje så mykje å gjere anna enn å slappa heilt av her og nyta ro og fred, ta ein tur på havna, og opp ein sti bak byen, kjøpa ein scone av den vesle sjappa «coastal cuppa» og eta den på brygga i selskap med dei to hundane som tiggar etter ein bit, og sjølvsagt nyta eit godt måltid i restauranten på hotellet. alt dette gjorde me, i tillegg til å sjå filmen «local hero» frå 1983 som er spela inn her.
og dette var berre starten på ei veldig fin helg!

medan me ventar på dei nygifte

mai 19, 2018

no er me på plass i london, nærare sagt ruislip, og skal snart inn til windsor for å prøva å få eit glimt av dei kongelege.
medan du ventar kan du lesa dette: https://tantereisandeaase.com/2011/04/30/rapport-fra-eit-kongeleg-bryllup/

weekenders

september 8, 2017

i’m a person who will always be in love with weekends and especially saturdays – maybe because i was born on a saturday? we had reached the weekend on our hebridean trip and also unavoidably soon the end of it. 

we could only get one overnight stay at the laxdale camping site, so we parked the motorhome in stornoway and started the saturday by walking up to lews castle.
this victorian era castle was built in the mid 1800s and financed by opium trade money – the owner being (also the previous owner of isle of lewis) james matheson who earned his money as a tradesman in asia. the castle is now owned by the local council and offers free entrance to the public. a grand place, it would be ideal for a wedding or any big celebration in the beautiful high-ceiled, bright and airy rooms and halls with a nice view over to the harbor, and it does offer venue hire and accommodation.  news castle also hosted a decent museum with an overview of how it would’ve been to live in the outer hebrides through the ages. replicas of the famous lewis chessmen were also on display. a very fascinating story – the 14 carved chessmen made out of walrus ivory and whales teeth were found along with 78 chess pieces and one belt buckle in the bay of uig on lewis. it is believed that the pieces were made in trondheim in the 12th century, but were only discovered in 1831 by malcolm macleod in a box on a beach in western lewis. 67 of the chessmen can now be viewed in london at the british museum, while the 11 remaining is located at the national museum in edinburgh. this has caused a dispute among some people in the hebrides who would like to see their men come home. maybe we norwegians should throw in a bid on them as well?

we thought it was a bit of a shame that the coffee shop in there happened to be starbucks though. it would probably be heaps of good independent local cafés that would serve up as good coffee and treats as this capital machinery does. so we took our lunch break somewhere else. more specifically at the royal hotel in cromwell street, who served very decent fish burgers amongst other good looking things on the menu. there’s not always a lot of options when it comes to non-meat burgers on the menu here in scotland (or anywhere else for that matter), so i was pleased to see this saturday’s treat coming up! we hadn’t done much strolling on this trip and almost no shopping at all, just the occasional grocery ones, although we were actually very good stocked up in our tiny motor home kitchen. but in stornoway they had – not the biggest, but a decent selection of shops to browse. we first had a stop at «the good food boutique», were we could’ve bought a lot more than we did, but we walked out of there with some good cheese, spread, good bread and a bottle of wine which made us ready for some extra «hygge» for the evening. we also had to pay a visit to the vintage shop «lewis revival», where they had a lot of treats for an oldie-lover like me. no treasures were accompanying me home though i was drooling over some royal souvenir booklets. the harbor looked busy for a saturday as we were walking through.  at a harbor pub we discovered a rather marvelous story on a plaque. it was here in the pub of the crown inn that the 14 year old prince charles had demanded a glass of cherry brandy on a school trip causing some commotions. after meeting and greeting a full bag pipe band  a coffee and cake at an lanntair, and some more grocery shopping we headed back to our car and also back to were we came from – one of the magnificent beaches we’d passed on our way through harris and lewis. horgabost camping must be one of the most beautiful scenic places to camp in the world. and so it made good sense to stop and enjoy the view of the sunset which there aren’t enough superlatives in the world left to describe, on a calm lovely saturday to remember. one of those moments you’ll wrap up and keep in your heart forever. 

and so was our trip the next day: a wrap. our hebridean adventure in a motorhome had come to an end. we drove back to stornoway and from there took the ferry to ullapool (that’s a place we’ll revisit!).  the sunday»roast» we ate at the aulguish inn, an excellent restaurant located in the middle of nowhere on the road from ullapool to inverness, but with a lovely couple running it offering great food in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

and then there were none. none but memories of an amazing trip. amongst all the things we saw were the landscape throughout the islands the most remarkable on this journey. and a road trip in a motorhome – well let’s just say this one will definitely not be the last!

a very special day

august 29, 2017

the reason why we had gone on this particular trip on this particular week of the year was to be somewhere beautiful when we celebrated one of the big milestones of our lives. on the 16th of june 2017 we woke up in a camper van in the outer hebrides and congratulated one another with 10 years of marriage. on that same day 10 years ago i had been up since 7am, making my own bridal bouquet, doing my hair and putting on a jenny packham bridal gown with the help of my maid of honor kristin. i was walked down the aisle in the 12th century maria church by my father to the sound of gabriel’s oboe and saw him standing there waiting for me at the altar. i know i know – this is a travel blog so let’s not get too cheesy here, but this was the best day of my life and i treasure it in my heart, so that’s why this particular day on our hebridean tour was more special than the rest of them.

we started the day with breakfast in the motorhome, nothing fancy about that, same ol» all bran and filter coffee (we’d brought our moccamaster with us cause we’re hopeless coffee addicts) as every other morning. but untypical for all the other mornings, we both had a gift for the other one, and coincidentally we had both gotten the other one a watch. oh yes and i should add: the husband had gone for a bike ride before i was up, he’d brought his bike and therefore got to see much more of the islands then i did – he did good. we said goodbye to the campsite eileen fraoich and headed up north on a windy and rather grey day. on our way we passed the small village of bragar where the main attraction must be said to be the gigantic arch made of a whale’s jawbone.  the story behind it is as phenomenal as the structure itself and happened back in 1920 when a large blue whale with a harpoon in its head stranded on the shores of lewis. because no one seemed to be interested in the whale and therefore it kept laying on the shore – stinking, the villagers had to get rid of it somehow. after a year the body had been used to all different things and only the skeleton was left. the local man murdo morrison showed interest in the bones and thought they would make the perfect entrance to his property. unfortunately he also claimed the harpoon, which detonated in his garage and made a whole in the wall (without harming morrison luckily). it’s of course part of the story that thousands of tourists stop by the arch every year, and so we were two of them.

blackhouses lays scattered around the outer hebrides and shows evidence of ancient ways of living. but in one of these houses there weren’t traces of ancient people rather than what we would call modern people living in a very modest way. in the visitor center at arnol black house, we met a very nice and knowledgeable man who could tell us about the blackhouse way of living. i was interested in the way they still use peat in the western isles, as we had seen piles of it laying around to dry all over the islands. it was interesting to listen to the guide explaining how every village would be supplied by their own parcel of peat land to dig out for themselves. the guide himself dug out the peat for the museum.  i also learned that the very top of the peat (were the grass roots hold the soil together) is called turf, which probably derives from our own «torv» in norwegian which is what my father’s generation would call peat and dig out squares not far from where i’m from. but back to the blackhouse, it was inhabited until the 1960s when the people living there asked to be dislocated and agreed to have their house owned by the state instead. by walking in to the house we felt like walking into another era. everything was preserved and intact as they were some 60 years ago. i can still recall the smell of the open peat fireplace with the big kettel on top of it, and we even met a hen strutting around in the barn that was attached to the house -as it would’ve in the days of the house’s inhabitance. the bed was made up, the cups were ready to be filled with tea or coffee and it was much more warm and cozy inside than what you would guess from the outside. a really good and interesting place to visit and well worth the stop!  

on our way from arnol up to the top end of the outer hebrides we passed norwegian-sounding place names like «brue», «borve», «melbost» and finally on the northern-most tip of the hebrides we found «port of ness» with the little village eòrapaidh (or eoropie) and finally the butt of lewis lighthouse that rose majestic over the high breathtaking and staggering tall cliffs. by the time we got there the weather had gone from bad to worse so we decided to have lunch inside the motorhome while we looked out on the wild seascape. we couldn’t tick it off our list without walking around on the site though and take in the huge natural forces (although a bit scary) that surrounded us. the lighthouse is quite unusual since it’s made in red brick, unpainted and was one of the last ones to be automated in 1998. the designer of it david stevenson is a well known scottish lighthouse designer who got over thirty lighthouses in his portfolio. his father robert stevenson is possibly more famous than him, although he’s only got about half the amount of lighthouses on his merit list. we’ve crossed his path on shetland were we visited his lighthouse at sumburgh head.

once again we defied the weather when we decided to have another stop in siadar (or shader) to have a look at loch an dúin and steinacleit. the broch at loch an dúin is one of many stone buildings in the hebrides built on a small island in a small lake. there’s a 46 meter long causeway leading out to it but other than that there’s hard to see evidence of anyone living there in the past. some hundred meters behind the loch is steinacleit which again makes sense to us norwegian, a stein being a stone, and contains ten large stones surrounding the central mound. legend says there was probably a battlefield close to the location, but there hasn’t been consensus about dating of the site. 

after four days «in the wilde» we were now ready to head in to civilization, and so we drove to the eastern part of lewis and the largest town in the hebrides stornoway. although it has several restaurants and shops to choose from it’s by far a city with its 8000 inhabitants. we were lucky to get a spot for our motorhome in laxdale holiday park, cause it is as far as we know the closest place to park your van to stornoway. they had excellent facilities and even got a vanity room in addition to several shower rooms. but who needs that when you’ve got everything you need in your bailey motorhome hey? from the camp site it was only a 16 minute walk to the restaurant we had booked for the very special evening. i had in advance of the trip written to visit outer hebrides to help me find the perfect location for our night out, just to make it as good as we possibly could, without hearing back from them. but restaurant solas at cabarfeidh hotel didn’t need any assistance to show off their skills. we got seated in the nice patio and got very well cared for by the lovely staff. luckily we’d booked in advance cause the place was very busy and by the time we got our food we understood why. solas served up excellent food on a night to remember. i was so tired after dinner that all i wanted to do was to get back home to my ol» campervan, have a cuddle with the cat while ww watched graham norton show.
cause this is how we roll. you and me. heres to the next (1)10 years together!

regals and regulars (on harris and lewis)

august 22, 2017

the outer hebrides, a hundred different islands, is exactly what it is -they’re all so different to each other. we’d gone from the beautiful and magical barra with its long white and crisp beaches, green fields, and peaky hill(s), via flat straightforwardly moorland in both south and north uist, and now we’d hit the majestic mountains and breathtaking scenery on the isle of harris.

from the ferry, we followed the steady stream of cars (mostly motor homes), coaches and bikers to the first sight -the old st clement’s church at roghadal (or rodel). build in the 1500’s you can probably guess for whom it was build for? the macleods of course. the church is beautiful, well held and in a very good shape which makes it a place well worth the visit. it’s under the care of historic scotland now. 
the little bay where the church was placed was almost a point of interest itself, so picturesque, calm and sheltered -i bet it is one of the warmest places on the outer hebrides on a sunny day.  it did also used to be the historic capital of harris. no wonder the queen would visit then, as she did 17th of august 1956 on her hebridean tour in the royal yacht britannia. the hotel at the harbour where she must have stepped ashore was surprisingly enough abandoned. further investigations shows that it’s been operating since 1925, but was put on the market in 2016 for £625 000. it’s hard to believe a nice place like that (at least once upon a time) on such a scenic spot would struggle to survive, especially with the load of tourists (both regular and regal). 
it was sunny and nice on the southern tip of harris, which made it oh so easy to feel an instant love for the amazing landscape. long white beaches met high rise mountains.  we’d investigated the map of restaurants before our trip (as we usually do), and found that there are only two places worth a visit according to the guide michelin (only recommended not appointed with stars). i’d already been in touch with one of them «auberge carnish» in the preparation for planning our wedding anniversary on the trip, only to get a reply that they unfortunately didn’t trade anymore. the other one «ardhasaig house» we passed on our way, so we thought we’d better check it out. there were no signs of either people or information and doors were locked so we had to return. fortunately we’d seen the small gallery «hebscape» that also had a tearoom and they served up excellent soup and scones. while you ate you could browse and buy their photos in large scale or card size.
the weather on the western isles seemed to be changing all the time and we’d gotten quite used to that, and as we moved from harris up towards lewis through a landscape that could only remind us of our own beloved norway we felt like we’d been through all of the four seasons.  since it cleared up when we were approaching the most recognized sight on the islands -the calanish standing stones on the western side of lewis, we decided to go and see it although it was soon time to rest. it is hard to describe the sight of the standing stones, since it is nothing like anything we’ve seen before, and they also can’t be totally sure why they’re build like that. it’s assumed that the place was considered sacred by people living here during the bronze age. the stone circle was set up between 2900 and 2600 bc, by around 800 bc it was probably abandoned and between 1000 and 500 bc the stones were covered by a thick layer of turf. 
not far from the callanish stones, another sight also got squized in to our «tight schedule». dun chàrlabhaigh in carloway is a so-called «broch» most likely to date back to the 1st century ac. it is said to have been in use until the early 1600’s but by mid 1800’s it had started to loose its shape when the stones were being re-used to other buildings. that led to the broch in 1882 being one of the first officially protected monuments in scotland, to prevent it from demolition. you can now go inside the broch and also climb some of the stairs that are not ruined, and you’ll get a good feeling of how it once may have been in there. 
it was now time to settle inn for the day, which we did on the very nice, family run campsite eileen fraoich at siabost (shawbost). the owner, an older man showed us to our spot and the facilities. there was a kitchen, washing room, shower and toilets, and a nice little pad with a bench and table. since we weren’t equipped with camping chairs and table, we were really happy to sit in the sun while we had our curry and «tea» (well we’ve become quite british in these two years abroad you see). birds were twittering, sun was shining, and inside the motorhome our cat rips had a busy job getting an overview over all the dogs that was hanging around. we went to bed a bit more excited this evening, cause the next day was going to be pretty special.

go uist! (life is peaceful there)

juli 19, 2017

on our third day of our journey in the outer hebrides, we had gone from barra via eriscay and south uist, and were now on benbecula. 

we didn’t get the best of sleeps that night in the shell bay campsite, it had rained all night with a chilly wind, and now we had to go buy some propane for our motorhome kitchen. thankfully the owner at angus motorhome hire had said he would pay for a second bottle if we ran out, because the one he gave us didn’t even last for two days. we’d already asked around for places to buy propane the previous day without any luck, but just before we entered the causeway/bridge from south uist to benbecula, we had spotted gas flasks at an agricultural merchant called carnan stores. they were open and helpful and had everything you could ever possibly need for agricultural business or your household. not only did we get propane, but also a thermos and a new cap for the chap. we could’ve bought a whole lot more in this curios shop. the grey weather had come to stay for the day, but that didn’t stop us going exploring (it just made it a bit less nice). we’d seen some ruins on south uist the previous day so we drove back to howmore where there’s a youth hostel. not your everyday youth hostel this one, since it’s located in a typical hebridean blackhouse (which in fact was white).  it’s been on the site since 1966 and offers 16 beds in three dorms. they don’t operate with any booking in advance and only has an honesty box and a warden who’ll check up on that everyone’s fine. these of course weren’t the ruins we’d seen the day before. they came from one of the most significant historic sites in the western isles, ruins of the old parish church teampull mor, caibeal dubhghaill (dugall’s chapel) and chlann «ic ailein (clanranald’s chapel). 

not lacking any castles this island either, as we found one at ormacleit. although just a ruin, ormacleit castle -one of the last castles being built in scotland, dates back to the early 1700’s and was built by the clanranald’s chief. it didn’t last long though since it burned down only seven years after it was put up. it does have a more intact stable which is more visible in the landscape than the castle itself, which we almost missed. it is set on private land, so we didn’t obtain access to it. the story says (or at least one of them) that the castle burnt down the same day as the owner was killed in the battle of sheriffmuir, which also saw the end of the jacobite uprising.  the hebrides is full of recognizable names for us norwegians and the weird sounding name ormacleit gives much more sense after we learned that «cleit» means a stone hut or bothy. we interpreted that it would’ve been a man called orm (meaning worm or snake in norwegian) living there, or maybe even a stone house with worms in it (a bit unlikely on an island though?).

we’d already had a short stop and quick look in lochboisdale the previous day when we looked for propane, but to be honest it wasn’t much to see there (sorry about that). it’s the main village on south uist, and the port that connects south uist with barra (castlebay) and the mainland (oban) but i wouldn’t recommend taking the ferry to this place and scip barra, you would really miss the jewel in the crown. but not a bad word said about uist, it was easy driving through and had some nice sights. a sight that we actually decided to miss was the statue of mary (another lady of the isles), because we simply couldn’t believe that it could compete with the lady that we’d seen on barra (apologies again to the people of uist). also we could see it from the road, so we can technically check it off our list. when the rain stopped, we parked the car at langass lodge (which i actually think is worth a consideration if you want a quiet hotel in lovely surroundings) and walked between grass and heather to find the stone circle at pobull fhinn. it was a bit hard to see the actual circle, cause the stones were barely standing up anymore, and a lot of them were covered by plants. but we tried to imagine how it would’ve been there, and we also enjoyed some lovely views over the sound. no wonder they would put up a land mark (or a sacred place) in such lovely surroundings.  the path went further on, up a hill and over to the other side of it we found the broch (house made up of stones) «barpa langais».  signs said that it recently had fallen down a bit, so no one were allowed to go inside it. when i saw a man climbing on top of it, it kind of made sense that it eventually would fall down.  we went on looking for other sights and met some highland cows along the way.  unfortunately we couldn’t find the last sight we looked for here on uist. dun an sticir was supposed to be an iron age (but last inhabited in the beginning of the 1600’s) broch in a lake, but we couldn’t see it nor any signs for it. we did see another tower in the middle of a small lake, which seemed to be a common thing here in the hebrides -buildings on rocks in lakes. this one wasn’t particularly ancient though, but quite picturesque anyway. the scolpaig tower is a so-called folly, which is a tower built for decoration only. it was built in the 1830’s by a macleod over an iron age dun which has disappeared completely.

the balranald campsite (in a rspb area) was unfortunately fully booked when we arrived in the afternoon looking for an overnight space, but that turned out to be a silver lining when we drove just a couple hundred meters north. a small almost invisible sign said motorhomes this way, and led us to the most quaint little private campsite a stones throw away from the beach. it had three spaces, but we were the only ones there, and the fact that it didn’t have any el hookups didn’t bother us at all. nothing to complain about when we could just step outside and enjoy a walk on the beach. i think the owners lived across the road, at least they waved and greeted us when they passed by, but since it was operated by an honesty box, we didn’t have any contact with them. how can you not love the hebridean way of living?! we fell asleep listening to the waves slowly crawling up on to the white stones. 

earlybirds aren’t regularly something we can call ourselves on holiday, but traveling in a motorhome made it much easier to get to bed early and also get up early in the morning. it helped if we had a cup of coffee in our hands to wake us up though. the morning of june the 15th, we also had a ferry to catch, so we had to get going at nine. we said goodbye to the lovely campsite in the calm bay, and headed for the small island berneray just north of uist where the ferry would take us to the largest (and last) island on the trip -isle of harris and lewis. of course not without beautiful scenery the last leg either.  

camping galore!

juni 29, 2017

first some information in norwegian:

eg har bestemt meg for å gjera nokre endringar på reisebloggen. eg bur i eit engelsktalande land, reiser mykje i engelsktalande land, og blir kjend med mange engelsktalande folk -som eg snakkar med om bloggen min. det hadde difor vore kjekt om dei også kunne lesa den. difor kjem eg no til å skriva innlegg på engelsk, men ikkje fortvil! eg kjem også til å skriva eit resymé på norsk, og bileta treng jo inga omsetjing. kan hende dette berre blir ei utprøving, eller kan hende det blir permanent, det vil tida vise. 
eg fekk også tilbakemeldingar på at det ikkje var så lurt å publisere innlegg før eg hadde lagt til bilete. det er nemleg mykje enklare for meg å skriva eit innlegg anten medan eg er på tur, eller medan eg har turen friskt i minne, for så å gå attende å leggja inn bileta etter publiseringa. endringa på dette førte berre til at det vart meir jobb på éin gong, med å både skriva, redigera og publisera bilete, så det ende med at det vart utsett, og dette førte rett og slett til mindre blogging. eg går nok tilbake til den gamle «metoden» min, så får det berre smørja dykk med tålmod kjære leserar! hugs at bileta kjem.
du skal likevel få bilete frå turen no, heilt rykande ferske, så håpar eg du nyt anten lesinga eller sjåinga.

we’ve made it home from an absolutely stunning holiday in the outer hebrides (june 12th-18th). i can’t praise it all enough: the nature, landscape, fauna, flora, the friendly people and last but not least -the hippest (ahem) way to travel in the western isles: in a motorhome! the latter is a first for us, and i can ensure you -it won’t be the last! 

we had visitors that stayed with us in aberdeen until sunday afternoon but as soon as they were in a plane back to norway, we stocked up the bailey motorhome that was to be our home for the next week. it would later become clear that we’d brought waaaay to many clothes, but one can never know how many layers (or dresses) one need on a camping trip -amiright?! the car was rented from angus motorhome hire in arbroath, so it had already been on a ride from down there and up to aberdeen when we headed for oban sunday evening. i’ve never been in such a large moving vehicle before, and neither had our cat rips whom we brought along, so the two of us sat patient (though a bit nervous) in the back while the hubby impressed with his steady driving. what skills does that man not have? we made it all the way to western scotland all in one take, but when we reached loch lubhair at 10.30pm we had to take a rest. the sofa made up to a bed in the rear of our new home was far from comfortable, adding to that it was also very cold, so i can’t say i got much sleep that night. thankfully the same could not be said about the husband, who was all ship shape and ready to go the next morning. so we did, after some breakfast onboard.
early morning at loch lubhair
it was only a short hour drive to get to the ferry quay in oban and we arrived as the first in line for the caledonian macbraine’s ferry to castlebay. perfect as we had yet to have our first coffee (and scone!) of the day. we also did some shopping in oban, i bought a raincoat (that came in über-handy!), the hubby got some hiking pants, and we got some covers and sheets to improve the bed in the car. yes and i also got camouflage wellies from the kid’s department, how could i almost forget. oban is clearly a place we have to visit and spend more time in in the future, a lively and charming town from what we saw.

tobermory lighthouse seen from the ferry   the ferry took around 4,5 hours to the island of barra, and as it was also delayed, we weren’t there before 7 in the evening. who cares about that when we were met by a sight for sore eyes? beaches, hills, small villages and a castle on a rock in the middle of the bay -yes we had landed in castlebay!

we had made arrangements to stay on a campsite with el hookups for the car, and since it was situated all up in the northernmost peak of barra, we got to see the west coast of the island and all its beaches and dramatic landscape. we’d heard rumors about the roads and oh yes -they were narrow! fortunately there were plenty of passing places and drivers were friendly and helpful. the reason i called the motorhome a hip way to travel, is because the hebrides and especially barra, were packed with them. since the island is not the biggest in the hebrides (it’ll only take you about half an hour to drive from south to north) we kept bumping (not literally though) in to the same motorhomes everywhere we went and some of them even followed us all the way up north to isle of lewis. we developed excellent waving muscles throughout the stay, for you might not know it but us motorhome-people great each other when on the road. when we couldn’t go any longer north on the island, there it was: a camping site for sore eyes surrounded by nature, birds, rabbits, cows, sheeps, beaches, ocean, waves and just a handful of other cars. there were in particular one or two birds who kept one of us awake in the night with it’s jabbing, almost like an alarm going off cause it was so consistent, we’re now quite certain it was the rare bird with the corny name corncrake (which we misspelled as corncake and had a laugh about). staying in such lovely surroundings we just couldn’t stay inside, but had to take a walk.  so we headed to cille bharra -an ancient graveyard with a chapel and ruins from a medieval church.  in the chapel we found the replica of a norse rune stone, the kilbar stone from around the 10th century. the original is in edinburgh and we understood that is was a sore spot for the islanders of barra that their stone couldn’t be on display on the place it belonged. you can read more about the stone here. on the graveyard you could also find the grave of a more or less famous novelist who wasn’t in fact scottish, but really wanted to be. compton mackenzie is probably most known for his books the monarch of the glen (which many norwegians knows better as «kar for sin kilt» when it was made into a tv series) and whisky galore which history is based on real life events on the nearby island eriskay in 1941. fun facts about mackenzie: he lived 17 years on capri, and he was one of the co-founders of the scottish national party in 1928.  after trying to escape some midges (what the scots calls mosquitoes) and raindrops, we went back to our motorhome and met the owner of the camp site on the way. he was the friendliest person you would ever meet, and could tell us (in a very fascinating dialect) that we were the first norwegians that he could recall had stayed on his site -yey! he said we could stay for as long as we wanted the next day, no need to rush. also we were welcome to use the facilities in the bungalow at the site: three private bathrooms with two showers respectively, a kitchen, washing machine etc.
the next morning it was just amazing to wake up to the sound of birds and the ocean, but also a silence-ness that you won’t find in the city.  rips the cat was so curious about everything going on outside, she was sitting on the windowsill all the time (when the car wasn’t moving that is). after breakfast we drove back south on the island, this time on the east side, so we got to see some new places. many abandoned houses and vehicles we saw throughout the island which made me think about the book «hebrides» by peter may with photographs by david wilson. the photos of john maher is also worth looking at regarding this topic.

looking out over castlebay, the statue of mary with christ on her shoulder stands tall on a cliff halfway up the 383 meter high mountain «heaval», the highest peak on the island. because of the misty weather, it wasn’t visible for us from the road, so we climbed up to see it. «our lady of the sea» a marble statue, was erected in 1954 and is supposed to guard over the many seafarers from barra.  it wasn’t even noon yet (and we’d already climbed a hill!) so we headed for another island, this time in the south. the even smaller island vatersay is only attached to barra by a 200 meters long causeway. it is scotland’s as well as great britain’s westernmost inhabited place.  we had a nice walk on the beach there before we drove back to castlebay. 
when in scotland there is always a castle to visit, and the hebrides makes no difference! hence the name castlebay, kisimul castle sits on a small island or rather a rock, in the bay 100 meters from the ferry terminal.  it is reached by boat and historic scotland arrange for you to get there safely, and walk around on your own with the option to by a leaflet guide.  «kisimul» derives from the gaelic cìosamul and means castle island, and is mentioned for the first time in written word in 1549, however the legend says it’s been the stronghold of the clan macneil’s since the 11th century. the clan raised money for a big refurbishment and in 2001 the clan chief, american ian macneil gifted the estate to scotland. historic scotland has now a 1000 year lease of the castle for the annual amount of £1 and one bottle of whisky. i would’ve appreciated a bit more information around the castle, maybe a small model that would show how the castle had developed over the years. we hadn’t really spent much time in castlebay itself and it was also time for coffee and since kisimul cafe served up hot’n steamy americanos and a sticky toffee cake to die for from the very nice, polite and friendly waiter -why choose something else?
in the spirit of the island’s strong religious traditions it was also custom to pay the church a visit. «the lady of the star of the sea» is a catholic church and the building itself is from 1886. i must say that it is the first church i’ve been in with pot plants in it, curios but then again it probably helps to improve the very moist environment in the stone church.
a cold guf went through me when i glanced at the guestbook on my way out. it mentioned the girl from barra who so tragically had been killed in the manchester attacks, and just one week before we were there had been set to rest. blessed be the memory of young eilidh.

you can actually find a couple of good stores in castlebay and one of them was in a very anonymous building along the road, below castlebay hotel. they had everything from jarred thai basil, local homemade food, knitted wares and norwegian yarn! well a norwegian brand anyway, from «drops garnstudio». so i just travelled all the way from norway via aberdeen to the outer hebrides to buy «norwegian wool». but the prices -whoof! i could’ve bought yarn for a whole little village, that’s how cheap it was. we also bought some chutney to go along with the cheesus we had in our tiny motorhome fridge (that only occasionally worked). a quick pop in to the equal anonymous store «the village» where they’d seriously got everything you could wish for in your kitchen (and beyond!) before we drove back up north. first a detour up to the campsite to collect a forgotten towel, then to the ferry terminal on aird mhor over to eriskay.
it seems like the caledonian macbrayne ferry company has monopoly on all the journeys on the western isles, but we didn’t mind. from the first encounter we had with them on the terminal in oban and throughout the joerny, they showed us flawless costumer service. as friendly, attentive, welcoming and helpful as they appeared, they just made the trip a whole lot better for us. well done cal mac!
it seemed we weren’t completely finished with compton mackenzie’s whisky galore when a road sign pointed out «ss politician». polly as she was dubbed, was the ship that prompted the tale which the book is based on. the story that the ship came from liverpool during the ww2, stranded on a rock north of eriskay and broke in two is true. the story about it being loaded with 260 000 bottles of whisky and other goods that the local islanders succumbed roughly, is also true. it was after all wartime and rations. it’s said that: «no islander regarded it as stealing, as for them the rules of salvage meant that once the bounty was in the sea, it was theirs to rescue.» but from there on, the story in the book is loosely based on true events. read the fascinating (true) story here.
it had started raining, gotten a bit chilly and also late, so we headed for the «shell bay house and caravan park» on the island of benbecula, which sits between north and south uist. we were dying for a hot meal in the gloomy evening and phoned up dark island hotel to see if they could serve us up, only to learn that they would close the kitchen a quarter to nine, and so we would just miss it. in shell bay we were given a spot and the command that the electric power would be switched off at 12 the next day. we already missed the friendly islanders of barra… the campsite itself was not the most scenic, being close to a main road, and lacking views (at least from what we could see through the grey weather). we served up our own meal in the tiny motorhome kitchen, although we’d ran out of gas so it was a cold one. the wind and rain rocked the cradle while we fell to sleep.