Friday, 12 September 2014

Hebrides 19: Lemreway and Stornoway

Sunday dawned dry and cloudy, but very soon the sun started to break through in patches.  The following three pictures show the view looking South from the house in which we were staying.  The water is a sea loch which leads out into The Minch.

We decided to go to "The Big Smoke" (aka Stornoway, the only real town on Lewis) which was about 45 minutes away from Lemreway.  A few other tourists were in evidence, but otherwise the place was virtually deserted.

We had been warned about the "Wee Frees" and their attitude to working on the Sabbath, so were expecting many of the shops to be shut.  Rather naively we had expected the Tourist Information Office to be open, though, but were sadly disappointed.

Were we downhearted?  Not a bit of it!  Time to look around and see what other delights we could find.

It was a pity that the Butcher's shop wasn't open, given how momentous a year 2014 proved to be...

By this  time we were starting to spot a pattern.  I guess we should have listened to the warnings, but we had expected to find something which was wasn't closed for business.  At least the public conveniences were open...

Then we found the culprit, as it was kicking-out time at the local church after the morning service.

We'd read about a shop where it was possible to obtain Harris Tweed straight off the roll, but - again - it proved to be shut.  In fact, from the outside it looked as though it had been abandoned and left to rot, but we were determined to come back on another occasion and sample its delights.

It's always interesting to look in the windows of Estate Agents when visiting an unfamiliar location, and the advert below was typical of the kind of place on offer.  Granted, the croft in question was in need of  "internal modernisation", but £35,000 for the freehold?  It's well over 30 years since it was possible to buy a house in Cambridge for this sum!

The final picture shows the huge marquee in the grounds of Stornoway Castle which had recently been the home to the HebCelt Festival - a celebration of all things Gaelic, especially traditional music.

At lunchtime we went into a hotel only to find that it was fully booked.  We then tried a couple of bars which had opened, but they were strictly drinks-only (and looked rather seedy anyway).  Having found an advert for a cafe next door to the Tesco store we walked there.  Guess what?  Closed.

At this point we used the 3G signal (shock horror - our phones actually worked in Stornoway!) to check for an open filling station, and found one: Engebret's.  The only place for miles around, and it sold food (crisps) and alcohol (a very long queue) as well as petrol.  Incidentally, we discovered why many Hebridean weddings are held on Fridays, such as the one we'd witnessed on Vatersay.  It is to give the revellers plenty of opportunity to drink themselves stupid afterwards, yet still have time to sober up in time for the obligatory church service on Sunday.  Sneaky...

At the filling station we picked up a leaflet about a local mediaeval church; and - since there was nothing else to do in the vicinity - decided to visit it.  Watch out for the next (not very thrilling but, thankfully, not closed either) episode in this interminably long saga.