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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.

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