The day was already old by the time the ferry from Ullapool had docked at Stornaway. We had been warned that shops were few and far between on the Hebridean island of Lewis and advised to take advantage of the supermarkets in the capital.
The no-sunday trading laws imposed by the ‘Wee Free’ Presbyterian church were in force across the island, and we were unlikely to find exceptions, so stocking up the provisions was a really good idea – tired though we all were.
Finally equipped with a large box of groceries, we set off, somewhat weary, for the Uig peninsula, all the way across the width of the island. The route seemed straightforward, and didn’t look that far on the map. What we didn’t know was that most of the island’s roads were single-track, with passing places.
Fortunately, the main route east to west was a normal, two-lane highway, but it turned out this only took us half-way to our destination. Coming to the end of the major road, we were faced with single-track and having to use the stopping places to let oncoming cars pass us. The locals are used to this kind of driving, and are well able to judge the road, ahead. They were also very fair with ‘who was there first’. It took a few days for us to get the hang of it. Once you do, you can make much faster progress using this ‘protocol’ from the past.
The sheer ’emptiness’ of the island makes an immediate impact. The landscape is unchanging and composed of low hills, winding lochs and innumerable outcrops of white rock. The view across to the west showed a line of large mountains – presumable the last land before America. It was to take us several days before we had any sense of geography – or even orientation. There is no such thing as a straight line, here. The land is marked out by the need to follow the lochs, most of which end in the open sea, but take a convoluted route there.
Eventually, we arrived in Uig – a peninsula on the north-western shore of Lewis famed for its beaches. It had been a long journey from Poolewe, via Ullapool and the ferry, and we were ready to make a quick supper and turn in.
It was then we noticed how light it was. Despite being nearly ten at night, the sky looked as bright as an afternoon. The two dogs needed walking, so we decided to put off dinner for an hour and seek out one of the local beaches.
A ten minute drive from the holiday cottage and we found the small road that led down to our nearest beach. In the back of the people carrier, the dogs were going mad; being able to smell the sea after being cooped up in the car for most of the day…
But the next half-hour restored the wonder of the whole journey – and one of the primary reasons for coming this far. On either side of us, the near-white beach stretched out for what looked like miles.
It was scenic but – despite the summery sky – still cold. Lewis was a strange place, but we were warming to it… And tomorrow was my birthday… That long-awaited new coat would finally be providing me with real warmth!
Continuation onto the the Hebridean Island of Lewis:
This is Part Two
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.