Posted by: christinelaennec | May 7, 2014

Journeying home: from the Isle of Harris to Glasgow, via ferry, bus and train

I was very sorry to say goodbye to Harris after my short but eventful stay.  However, I felt hugely restored for having had such a great break and I was keen to get back to my family.  The day I left, spring was very much in the air and change felt immanent.  The buds on the trees by the wall of the Harris Hotel were just about to burst:

Buds on the trees about to burst into leaf, Tarbert, Isle of Harris, April 2014.

Buds on the trees about to burst into leaf, Tarbert, Isle of Harris, April 2014. (Clearly I have a few things to learn about close-up focus with my new camera…)

And the larch trees were greening up again:

Larch trees coming into leaf (needle?), Tarbert, Isle of Harris, April 2014.

Larch trees coming into leaf (needle?), Tarbert, Isle of Harris, April 2014.

I love larch trees – they are a mix between deciduous and evergreen.  Their new cones are bright red; there’s one in the photo, left of centre and up a bit.

Whereas I’d arrived by plane, I wanted to go home over sea and land.  The first part of my journey was to drive back up to Stornoway.  After you leave Tarbert, you come through Ardhasaig.  The road turns, and before you are the mountains you’re about to drive over on your way north:

At Ardasaig, about to climb up and over the Clisham on my way north to Stornoway.  Isle of Harris, April 2014.

At Ardhasaig, about to climb up and over the Clisham on my way north to Stornoway. Isle of Harris, April 2014.

They are indeed spectacular:

Looking back at "beanntan na Hearadh" / the hills of Harris.  April 2014.

Looking back at “beanntan na Hearadh” / the hills of Harris. April 2014.

Coming down the other side, there are some beautiful views:

Loch Seaforth, near the Harris / Lewis border.  April 2014.

Loch Seaforth, near the Harris / Lewis border. April 2014.

Before I knew it, I had returned my trusty wee hire car, and was at the ferry terminal in Stornoway.  You might be surprised to know that palm trees are a fairly common sight in Lewis and Harris.  They don’t seem to mind the wind:

Blowy palm tree at the ferry terminal in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.  April 2014.

Blowy palm tree at the ferry terminal in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. April 2014.

I showed you Stornoway from the grounds of Lews Castle in the first post of this series.  Here is Stornoway from the ferry terminal:

Stornoway.  An Lanntair is the modern building with the round tower.  April 2014.

Stornoway, April 2014.  You can just see the trees of the castle grounds on the left of the photo.

Once I’d bought my ferry ticket, I had some time to spare.  I went to An Lanntair (the modern building with a pink round tower in the photo above) for my lunch.  An Lanntair is an arts centre with a cinema, gift and book shop, exhibition space, a restaurant and a bar.  I heard quite a lot of Gaelic spoken there, although instead of overhearing discussions about the lambing and tweed, I heard what you might call “professional Gaelic”.  People were talking about grants and media coverage.  Gaelic is an ancient language, but it has kept up with the modern world as well.

Tha an t-acras orm!  I'm hungry!  Yummy lunch at An Lanntair, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.  April 2014.

Tha an t-acras orm! I’m hungry! Yummy lunch at An Lanntair, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. April 2014.

I had a delicious lunch of lentil soup.  In front of me was a fascinating mural.  It is the coastline of Lewis, drawn from memory by an 82-year-old fisherman named Dolishan.  He marked down the name of every rock, bay and island, and also noted what kinds of fish or shellfish you could hope to catch in a certain spot, and whether by rod, creel or net:

Map of the Lewis coastline drawn from memory by an 82-year-old fisherman.  An Lanntair, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.  April 2014.

Map of the Lewis coastline drawn from memory by an 82-year-old fisherman, Dolishan. An Lanntair, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. April 2014.

Such a precious document!  It’s wonderful to capture this knowledge of the landscape.

After I’d finished my lunch I went downstairs to see an interesting exhibition.  It’s called “Between the Web and the Loom,” and is a collaboration between Joan Baxter, tapestry artist, John McGeoch, moving image artist, Claire Pençak, choreographer, Shamita Ray, dancer, and James Wyness, composer.  I found the tapestries very arresting, especially the ones with faces looking out:

Exhibition at An Lanntair, Stornoway, April 2014.  ***must give details****

Exhibition “Between the Web and the Loom” at An Lanntair, Stornoway, April 2014.  Tapestries by Joan Baxter.

I had a little bit of time to go for a walk in Stornoway before boarding the ferry.  When you’ve been out in the countryside and small villages, Stornoway seems like a metropolis!  I like the colourful buildings:

Baile Mor Steornabhagh - the "big town" of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.  April 2014 ** accents!!!!£££££££

Baile Mòr Steòrnabhagh – the “big town” of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. April 2014

Just after I took this photo, I ran into a friend from Aberdeen who was returning from a visit to her family in the islands.  We agreed to meet up on the ferry once we were under sail.

I went up to the top deck as we left Stornoway:

Leaving Stornoway to cross the Minch to Ullapool.  April 2014.

Leaving Stornoway to cross the Minch to Ullapool. April 2014.

And I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this sweet dog, nestled in his owner’s arms:

Canine ferry passenger getting a big cuddle.

Canine ferry passenger getting a big cuddle.  I wonder if his owner’s coat is made of Harris Tweed?

Dogs (except for assistance dogs) have to stay out on deck, and there were a few dog owners travelling this way.  I was grateful to have access to the indoor areas, as it was pretty brisk out there.

To match the photo I took of myself when I began my getaway, I took another:

Air bhord an aiseag / on board the ferry to Ullapool.  ******accent****

Air bòrd an aiseag / on board the ferry to Ullapool.

Then I went indoors to warm up!  I spent the next few hours chatting to my friend (in Gaelic, which was nice), knitting, and catching up on news of mutual acquaintances.  Oh and we had a few cups of tea!  Right until the end my getaway was laced through with company and friendship.

As we approached Loch Broom, I came back up to the deck to show you the view of the mainland from the ferry:

Approaching the hills of Sutherland as we come into Loch Broom (? is that the name ???????).

Approaching the hills of Wester Ross.

I’m not knowledgeable about these hills, so can’t tell you their names, but many people in Scotland would be able to name each peak:

Hills of Sutherland.

Hills of Wester Ross.

Some were still snow-capped.  This has been one of the best winters for snow sports that Scotland has had in while.

I hoicked my suitcase down the gangplank and joined the queue for the bus from Ullapool to Inverness.  The day before, I had discovered I probably should book a place on the bus, so I bought a ticket over the phone, and it was texted to my mobile!  Very modern.

Here is a small part of the busy Ullapool pier, taken from the window of the bus as we swept out of town:

Harbour at Ullapool, with snowy hills in the background.  April 2014.

Ullapool pier, with snowy hills in the background. April 2014.

The bus ride took about an hour and a half, and we went past beautiful scenery – hardly any of which my camera was able to capture through the window.  Imagine springtime valleys, snow-capped hilltops, lambs cavorting, calves with their mothers, bluebells, daffodils and primroses…  And then we were coming into Inverness.  The sky was amazing.  It was about 6 pm:

Gorgeous skies as we cross the Kessock Bridge into Inverness.  April 2014.

Gorgeous skies as we cross the Kessock Bridge into Inverness. April 2014.

I went to the station, bought my train ticket for Glasgow via Perth, and a bit of a picnic tea.  It was the first time I’d ever travelled from Inverness to Perth by train, and what a beautiful journey it was, down past the Cairngorm mountain range.  I thought you might be interested to see that what looks like a milk truck/lorry is actually full of whisky.  See the “Chivas Regal” on the back?

Whisky lorry next to the train station in Aviemore.  The snow-capped Cairngorm mountains in the background.  April 2014.

Whisky lorry next to the train station in Aviemore. The snow-capped Cairngorm mountains are in the background. April 2014.

I arrived home before 11 pm, and was welcomed with open arms by the Dafter and Michael.  Although it was late, and though we’d been in good touch during my absence, they wanted to hear all about my trip, and I wanted to hear about how they had fared.  I also had come back with a few things:

Some of the things I brought back from the Isle of Harris.

Some of the things I brought back from the Isle of Harris.

You will recognise books, cards, tweed phone cases, soaps, and oatcakes from Benbecula.  But you might be surprised by what was in the plastic bag:

Part of Catrìona's clootie dumpling.

Part of Catrìona’s clootie dumpling.

Catrìona had given me a quarter of her “clootie dumpling”.  This is a spicy cake that is boiled in a cloth (cloot) rather than baked in the oven. For many years, we’ve had a bit of her clootie dumpling at New Year’s in Aberdeen, but this year that wasn’t possible.  So Michael and I were both very happy to have such a big piece.  It was delicious!  Note the use of the past tense…

My ones had done well during my five-day absence, but Michael was exhausted.  He had never been the full-time carer for more than an overnight, so it was quite a stretch for him. The next day he hardly said a word, but silently handed me back the reins and went off to recover.  “It’s a full-time job, isn’t it?” was all he said.  We all agreed that, with things as they are, four nights is the most I can be away.  But the Dafter and Michael both commented that I was so much less exhausted, and said that I must take more short breaks.   That was very nice, because my five days away did do me a world of good.

So this brings to a close my rather lengthy series of posts about my brief but delightful visit to Harris.  Normal service (such as it is) will now be resumed – except that I do have one last Harris-related thing up my sleeve:  a wee giveaway.  Stay tuned!

 

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Responses

  1. Christine, thank you for sharing your journey – I’ve loved learning about this part of the world via you – and I’m so glad you are rested. I look forward to your next adventure … wherever it may be!

  2. An amazing trip, I felt I was walking with you. Glad you are well rested, everybody deserves a little break now and again.

  3. I love reading your little travelogues, Christine. The clootie dumpling looks delicious!

  4. Hello Christine, thank you for sharing your journey and photos. 🙂 I haven’t been on Harris or Lewis yet, but hopefully soon.
    Have a happy May.

  5. I have so enjoyed your posts. You write so well. Glad that all was well on your return.

  6. I really love that mural of the coastline. Fishermen have such a fascinating and unique perspective on places! My grandad skippered a boat for most of his life and I love hearing him talk about arriving on the coast of places like Iceland.

    So glad you were able to make this trip.. And that you decided to share it with us! 🙂 xo

  7. I have enjoyed each of these posts!! I am SO happy for you that things worked out for you to go to a place so special to you and receive this very much needed break! Also good that Michael knows more of what life is like day to day and very glad they are willing to let you do this again. Even just dreaming about the possibility in the future makes the days easier. Lucky you, having that clootie dumpling!!!! We were the recipients once of the biggest, moistest, most delicious dumpling when we lived in Airdrie and I’ve never forgotten it. (I tried to order dumpling and custard and the Willow Tearooms and it was the biggest disappointment food-wise of our whole trip last year. so sad.) I love the map the older man drew — doesn’t that just say how much experience the elderly among us have and some of it doesn’t get learned by the younger generation. Must go for now….

  8. This has been a brilliant set of blogs. Thankyou very much for them.

  9. This blog entry is just so packed full of content that I wanted to comment on, that I’m paralyzed by choice. I’m going to just select one tiny element but every single sentence and picture was a gem. I’m interested in your selection of Ann Lanntair for your lunch venue. Its modernity initially made me think: that’s not a choice of the Christine I (think I ) know! I presume that it was chosen because the building was the venue for that interesting exhibition, but I was warmed to see that even a modern place with its clientele speaking “professional Gaelic”, had a wonderful acknowledgement of the history of the region and the recognition of an individual character. The place is absolutely steeped in tradition!

  10. Thank you for taking us along with you on your journey and documenting it so well, Christine. We get a very real feel for the countryside and atmosphere of each special place. The scenery is spectacular and showcases the beauty of Scotland so well.You have also given us some insight into the lovely, friendly people of this beautiful land. What a lovely little break for you – I’m so glad you had this time. Hugs xo Karen

  11. I very much enjoyed these posts, thank you. It must have been interesting to travel by different means there and back, and lovely that you met up with a chum on the ferry. That coastline drawing in the restaurant is wonderful (and the lunch looked pretty good, too).

  12. I have so enjoyed your trip with you Christine. You write so well, you really must write a book! Glad you’re home safe and that everybody missed you 😀 xx

  13. Thanks so much, everyone, for enjoying my journey with me. It was a lot of fun taking photos and thinking about what I wanted to share with you! The joy of blogging. I’m really glad you enjoyed the travelogue, and thanks also for your kind words about my writing.
    It was really great to get away and have a good rest. Quite amazing, in fact.

    oldblack, it might help you to know that we have been going to An Lanntair for years, starting when it was in a very old-fashioned building. It’s the best place in town for lunch that I know of (especially if you’re vegetarian) and it’s always been a Gaelic centre, which is the main attraction for me.

    Laura, I was thinking they should do this in every fishing community! Such a lot of precious knowledge.

  14. I’ve really enjoyed your mini series – and weren’t you lucky with the weather! I hope the refreshment of your break stays with you for a long time. Michael is a hero to have shouldered work and caring. And it must have been wonderful to be all together again once you were home.
    I think my maternal grandfather would have been able to draw such a map. He was a trawler fisherman, and sailed from the Moray Firth up round Cape Wrath to fish off Kinlochbervie in Sutherland.
    The Inverness line is lovely, isn’t it? I know exactly where that Chivas lorry came from – you do tug at my homesick heartstrings!

    • Yes I’m sure your grandfather would have come up with a similar map. Sorry to tug at your whisky-loving heartstrings! 🙂 And yes, Michael is a great Dad and husband. He wasn’t actually trying to combine work and caring, fortunately. As demanding as the experience was for him, he did actually stop doing work for the five days, and that is good for him! He is a terrible workaholic, but loves his work, and so even on a day off is doing something he likes to do – for work!

  15. Loved all the wonderful photos and tour. I posted earlier but it seems to have disappeared 😦 Well, at least, I THOUGHT I posted.

    • Hi Wendy, sorry your comment disappeared, and thank you for trying again! Technology is wonderful, but sometimes a bit squirrely (as my mother would say).

  16. I’m so glad you had a wonderful trip and that you feel refreshed, Christine! Thank you for making time to share your adventure with us. I really enjoyed seeing some of the sights you saw, and although I am not keen on traveling, your experience as you related it encourages me to want to be off and
    away 🙂

  17. I have so enjoyed your Harris stories, Christine! Xxxxx


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