From Island to Island, Part 7

My goodness, things are about to take a turn. Remember the lavish digs at Kirklea Suites? Well we packed up and left them on Friday morning just after breakfast. (Yes, I had the eggs benedict again. ) Peter picked us up and we were off!

OFF LIKE A HERD OF TURTLES! Anne used to say on our trip to the Cotswolds. We didn’t actually use that saying on this trip. It might be because these ladies moved pretty fast. In fact, I may have been the only turtle. Also, for clarification, there is a difference between Anne (the birthday lady) and Annie (the photographer and suitemate at Kirklea Suites). Just want you to know I’m not forgetting how to spell the name. It’s two different people.

Not far down the road, we came upon the Callanish Stones. We met our guide, Chris, at the site. A resident of the area, he’s been leading tours for many years. He was a wealth of information, anecdotes and insights. I quite enjoyed having a local give us the low-down on this ancient site.

I can hear you clamoring. “Pictures! Pictures! We want pictures!” So here you go…

We spent a couple hours there, then gathered in our transport van. We dropped most of the group out on the Isle of Great Bernera, where Chris is a resident. He and Heather would hike with the group and spend time talking about the natural history of the place.

What did I do? Well, I got to hop back on the bus with Peter and one of our group, Sue, who’s hip had been giving her trouble and prevented her from hiking. We had a special mission. We were to go to Stornoway, procure groceries, get to our new lodgings and then make dinner before the group arrived. Could it be done in time????? We thought so. Peter drove like mad. Sue and I shopped for groceries faster than a speeding bullet! (In a foreign country, no less. Thank goodness everything was in English. But don’t ask me how much 80p is in dollars.) We drove out to the guesthouse, unloaded all the groceries at the front gate because we weren’t allowed to drive the van down into the village. Reloaded all the bags because we found out we COULD. Drove down to our rented house. Unloaded all groceries, luggage and whatnot remaining on the bus and Peter was off like shot to go get everyone back on Chris’s island.

“What? Why didn’t they just go to a restaurant like always?” you’re asking. Well, it’s because of Heather’s devious and brilliant plan. Remember the traditional home that Meg and Andy renovated in Berneray, complete with stone walls and thatched roof? And I also showed you a picture of an abandoned one for comparison? Well that structure is referred to on the islands as a “blackhouse”. And there’s an entire reconstructed village of blackhouses on the Isle of Harris. You can stay in one. So we did. We rented an entire blackhouse that had been outfitted with kitchen and two wings of bunkbeds (yes, bunkbeds) and bathrooms. From luxury suites to ancient Hebridean shelter in one night! But wait until you see them. And wait until you see the setting. It was absolutely stunning. A private cove with walking trails all around. Miles of sea cliffs with sea birds sweeping in and out, diving for fish, calling to each other. Shorebirds running to and fro. The sound of the waves. And not a modern building in sight. It was like stepping back in time. Except with indoor plumbing.

And you know how I love indoor plumbing.

I unpacked groceries and immediately set to work. Sue offered to help multiple times. But poor girl, I was already in my “get outta my kitchen” mode and told her to go enjoy herself. I explored the available apparatus, found knives and cutting boards and got cooking. Sure, the spinach dip didn’t exactly come out like dip. (Who knew sour cream here would be more like yoghurt. Shoulda picked up crème fraiche instead.) And there was no parmesan for the pasta. (I forgot it. Hey, I didn’t even know what I was gonna MAKE when I headed into that grocery store, much less had a list of items for that night’s dinner and two breakfasts!!!) But there was fresh salad and lots of it, yummy bread, a few random items like beets and chocolate, and pasta with fresh vegetables. The water was just reaching boil when everyone arrived from their hike.

Oh, man. Did I not take any pictures of the interiors? Well, think Ghost Ranch if you’ve been there or summer camp if you haven’t. But with thick stone walls and a low roof. A thatched low roof, at that! A few scattered windows that we know weren’t in use in traditional blackhouses. It was rough but comfortable enough. We feasted and laughed and talked, feeling like it must be the end of the day. Imagine our surprise when we opened the front door after dinner and found it brilliantly sunny outside! It was only 8:00. But the difference between the inside of the house and the outside environment was dramatic. Some of us went down to the shore, others up the hillsides around us. Some knitted or read. One by one, we slowly wandered back and made our way into our beds. Another day done.

Oh! I found this video. Forgotten about it. Nothing fancy. Just some of the group, hanging out after dinner, knittin’, chattin’, doing the dishes.

Okay, NOW another day is done.


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