Leverburgh

Leverburgh, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Day 20 , 18th July.

Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel.

On our return from St Kilda we stopped in Leverburgh for the night.  This is right down at the south tip of Harris.  You can drive here from Lewis (which is actually the same island) but to go further south to Uist you need to take a ferry.  There was some time left before nightfall so we went for a short walk on land.

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Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel. .

Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel.

The ruins of an abandoned croft, probably from the clearances in the nineteenth century.

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Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel. .

Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel. .

Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel. .

Harris, Hebrides, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Travel. .

South Harris and Scalpay

Harris, Scotland.  Day 10, 8th July.

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Harris

This was my day to catch the ferry from Tarbert to Uigh, or in other words, from Harris to Skye.  I had a little bit of time to explore Harris before catching the ferry.

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Harris

I’m not sure where the first four images are.  I think they must be the north coast of South Harris.

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Harris

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Harris

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South Harris (eastern corner)

This image and the four following are from a loop in a minor road at the eastern corner of South Harris.

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South Harris (eastern corner)

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South Harris (eastern corner)

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South Harris (eastern corner)

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South Harris (eastern corner)

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Scalpay

This is the only image in this post I have a GPS reference for.  It is at the north-west corner of ScalpayScalpay is a small island to the south-east of Tarbert.  The next three images are also from Scalpay.

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Scalpay

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Scalpay

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Scalpay

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Tarbert

A hardware store in TarbertTarbert is the largest town in Harris and is beside an isthmus between North and South HarrisHarris itself, though notionally an island, is connected to Lewis.

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St Clement’s Church, Rodel

Harris, Scotland.  Day 9, 7th July.

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St Clement’s Church, Rodel

St Clement’s Church at Rodel was built on the site of a much earlier church in the 1520s.

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I was running out of time when I came to this church and I did not climb the tower.  I had made the mistake of staying at an establishment that served dinner which was all very wonderful except that I had to be there from the other side of the island at 7pm.

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The near tomb is that of Alexander MacLeod, eighth MacLeod laird of Skye and Harris, who lived at Dunvegan Castle on Skye.  It dates from 1528.  He was also known as Alasdair Crotach or Humpback.  The far tomb is that of Alexander’s son William, who died in 1551, though a date on the tomb probably reads 1539.

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The oldest part of the church possible dates to the 13th century and it was renovated and extended in the 15th and 16th centuries.  St Clements was a Catholic church and fell into disuse in 1560, due to the reformation.  The roof was restored in 1784 and again in 1787 after a fire.  It was used as a cow byre for a while in the nineteenth century and restored again in 1873.

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Click to zoom in.

You can click any image to see it larger.  With this one I have included the full detail in case you want to see exactly what is carved in the tomb.

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Five grave slabs.  The left four date from the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries and were originally on the church floor.  The far right one has a date of 1725 and the initials are probably for Roderick Campbell and his wife Anne MacSween..

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Another tomb under the window, probably belonging to John MacLeod of Minginish, the 10th laird.

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South Harris (south coast)

South Harris (south coast)

I headed back by a minor road along the south coast.  I was running very short of time and for some of these I merely stopped the car and took them through the open window.

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South Harris (south coast)

South Harris (south coast)

This is a very rocky region with little opportunity for agriculture.  Historically, most income must have come from the sea.

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South Harris (south coast)

South Harris (south coast)

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South Harris (south coast)

South Harris (south coast)

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South Harris (south coast)

South Harris (south coast)

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South Harris (south coast)

South Harris (south coast)

I remember taking this from the car window (though the car was stopped).

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Huisinis

Harris, Scotland.  Day 9, 7th July.

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After visiting Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha, I headed for Harris, an “island” at the south of Lewis though actually joined to Lewis.  Most of the images in this post are from a side road in North Harris to Huisinis and back.

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Huisinis (South beach)

At the end of the road in Huisinis, this is the sandy South Beach.

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Huisinis (North beach)

And this is the stony Huisinis North Beach.  There is a jetty here as well.

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Amhuinnsuidhe Castle

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle was built in 1865 for Charles Murray, the 7th Earl of Dunmore.  It is possible to stay there.  That is a Rolls Royce parked outside.

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Cannon outside Amhuinnsuidhe Castle

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Amhuinnsuidhe Castle

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A small waterfall near the castle

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Beach, South Harris

Harris is more mountainous than Lewis and has a number of impressive beaches.

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Beach, South Harris

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Clach Mhicleoid Standing Stone

This standing stone dates from about 3000BC.  It was originally at the centre of a large stone circle and there was a ditch beyond the circle.  A circular stony mound between the stone and the sea may be the remains of a burial cairn.

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Here is a reconstruction of what it may have looked like 5,000 years ago, from the information board at the site.

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Beach, South Harris

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Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha (The House of the Old Black Women)

Lewis, Scotland.  Days 8 to 9, 6th to 7th July.

Baille na Cille

Baille na Cille

This is the view from my bedroom window where I was staying at Baille na Cille, at a remote location on the north-west coast of Lewis.

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Baille na Cille

A somewhat wider perspective from outside.

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Baille na Cille

Baille na Cille

This is the ancient burial ground at Baille na Cille.   The oldest tombstones are simply uninscribed slabs of rock.  The people of the time were likely to be illiterate in any case.

According to local legend this place was originally bare rock until a man called Eidhean brought soil from a nearby hill Cnoc Eidhean and built a retaining wall to hold it in place.  There is said to be a pagan temple or dun under the mound.  There is the remains there of a very old chapel built after the mound was created.  At one time the burial place may have been for the exclusive use of males from the Macauley clan.

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Baille na Cille

Baille na Cille

The Lewis Chessmen were discovered under the sands at a beach near here.

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North-west coast of Lewis

A wild coastal view on a remote road in north-western Lewis.

Mealastadh

Highland cattle, Mealastadh

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Mealastadh

Highland cattle, Mealastadh

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Mealastadh

People have lived in this remote area for thousands of years and the Vikings also came, first to raid and then to settle.  There are several ruined villages nearby vacated by the clearances, and the last was abandoned in 1838.

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Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha

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Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha

This is the place called Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha, ‘The House of the Old Black Women‘.  There is a strong local tradition that this was an ancient nunnery and it was mentioned as such in the early nineteenth century.  However there has probably never been a dig here and there appears to be no direct evidence to support the identification.

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Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha

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Tigh na Cailleachan Dubha

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Mealastadh

Mealastadh

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Mealastadh

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Mealastadh

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Mealastadh

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Dun Carloway Broch

Lewis, Scotland.  Day 8, 6th July.

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I was heading off along the north coast of Lewis towards the Butt of Lewis and stopped in at Dun Carloway Broch.  But the weather was closing in so I took a few shots and decided to return on the way back.

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The roofs in the foreground are of abandoned croft houses which may have been built with stone plundered from the broch.  You can also see the commanding defensive position of the broch.

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The weather had cleared when I returned in the later afternoon.  This is a view that very clearly shows the characteristic double-walled structure of the broch.

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The view from in front of the broch with the countryside stretching out into the distance.

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Dun Carloway Broch was one of the first ancient monuments in Scotland to be protected.  An act protecting it passed in 1882 and the State assumed responsibility for its care in 1887.  It had been pretty much complete as late as the 16th century.

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There has been a considerable effort at consolidation of the broch.  In its original round form it would have been well protected against the wind but with sections exposed, winter gales can work stones loose.  This requires maintenance by skilled masons and some use of metal bars for bracing.

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This of course is the internal stairs of the broch, a feature common to all brochs between the two walls.

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Dun Carloway Broch is thought to date from the first century BC.   At around 500BC on Orkney, prior to the first brochs, there were roundhouses with massive walls.  Roundhouses probably also existed in other places though they have not been discovered elsewhere so far.

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Brochs would have contained an internal wooden structure and often been roofed over.  The voids we see here would have distributed heat from the central fire to keep the galleries between the walls dry.

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Building in stone is no doubt very labour intensive but stones were not a scarce resource.  The same cannot be said of the wood for internal structures, which may have had to have been imported.  This is why some have said that brochs were a form of conspicuous consumption for competing with the neighbours.  Conversely, it may simply be a behaviour we are increasingly familiar with today where available resources are exploited ruthlessly until the resource supply situation becomes untenable.

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North East Lewis

Lewis, Scotland.  Day 8, 6th July.

Clach an Trushal monolith

Clach an Trushal monolith

I drove off along the north-east coast of Lewis with rain threatening and before too long the threat became a reality.

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Clach an Trushal monolith

Clach an Trushal monolith

Clach an Trushal is the tallest standing stone in Scotland at around 6 metres high.  It was originally the largest stone in a stone circle.  It is also thought to have had some function in guiding navigators at sea.

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Remote abandoned farmhouse

Remote abandoned farmhouse

I took some obscure side roads near the monilith that petered out and discovered this abandoned farm house.

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Remote abandoned farmhouse

Remote abandoned farmhouse

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Butt of Lewis

Butt of Lewis

This is the wild northern tip of Lewis, the Butt of Lewis.

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Butt of Lewis

Butt of Lewis

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Butt of Lewis

Butt of Lewis

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Steinacleit

Steinacleit

On the way back from the Butt of Lewis I stopped at Steinacleit.  This is an image of an aerial photograph on the outside display board, obscured somewhat by raindrops.  You can see a smaller central area and there is also a larger circular zone above and to the right of it.

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Steinacleit

Steinacleit

It might be thought that this is the remains of a burial cairn or a stone circle.  However, it is thought to be much rarer than that, the remains of a prehistoric settlement (with a central ring 16 metres in diameter) and an associated stock enclosure.  In 1930 some pottery, flint and bone was discovered at the centre though these have since been lost.

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Steinacleit

Steinacleit

Behind the stones of the ancient settlement you can see a small loch in front of some houses.  In the middle of the loch is the remains of a broch (or circular prehistoric fort), about 2,000 years old.

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Arnol Blackhouse Museum

Arnol Blackhouse Museum

As well as the Gearannan Blackhouse Village, there is the Arnol Blackhouse Museum, further on up the coast.  This is the inside of a room by available light, showing the box for a bed, simple furniture and a wall blackened by smoke.  There were no chimneys, the smoke made its way out as best it could through the thatch.

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Arnol Blackhouse Museum

Arnol Blackhouse Museum

The houses themselves are quite large because they would have housed animals as well as humans during the winter.  The large mounds you can see in the foreground would be covered piles of peat.

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Arnol Blackhouse Museum

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Arnol Blackhouse Museum

Arnol Blackhouse Museum

Not all of the old houses there have roofs.

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A modern farmhouse settlement in the bleak landscape.

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A couple of sheep nearby.

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Shawbost Norse Mills

Shawbost Mill and Kiln

This is the Shawbost Mill and Kiln, used up until the 1930s.  It is known as a Norse Mill but this is a misnomer, more accurately a Celtic or British Mill.

Norse, Celtic or British?

Actually, the Celtic designation is a misnomer as well.  The Celts were a people from Central Europe with widespread influence in prehistoric times.  They had very significant influence in the British Isles and Gaelic is the language of the Celts.

Nonetheless, they did not settle in Britain in significant numbers and the prehistoric people and their descendants are more accurately described as Britons. After the Act of Union  in 1707 when Scotland and England united to become Great Britain, Britons was not deemed an appropriate term for the Gaelic-speaking original settlers because it was too close to British, which included the English.  So Celtic came to be the term generally used though the logic for it was somewhat wanting.

However, who the Britons were before Roman times, whether they were several different ethnic groups, where they came from and how they changed over time is largely a matter of conjecture.

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