Thursday 16 October 2014--We're ferrying back to the mainland today, but have some time to see a few things around northern
Lewis this morning. Drive up to Skigersta to see, among other things, the derelict house that Peter May used as a model for Fin
MacLeod's aunt's house in the Lewis Trilogy. Then over at Ness, there's the boathouse where the first murder victim is found, in the
opening scene of The Blackhouse. We have a look around the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, the island's northernmost point, and poke
into St Moluag's Church. Moluag was an Irish contemporary of Columba, who, in the latter half of the 6th century, established major
religious centers in Lismore, Rosemarkie, and Mortlach, and built numerous churches around northern Scotland, including one here in
the village of Eoropie. The age of the church we see today is open to question--Wikipedia states 13th century, Undiscovered Scotland
says estimates range from 12th to 16th century. What's known for sure is that the derelict and roofless building was rehabilitated
in 1912, using slate from Orkney. It remains without electricity or plumbing. There are peculiar legends about pre-Christian rituals
practiced here, dedicated to the obscure sea god Seonaidh (or Shony), involving the offering of a cup of specially-brewed ale, followed
by a night of drunken, uh, fertility rites in the fields. Presumably the Episcopals who now use the church eschew such paganism.
Down the road, near Shader, we walk up to Steinacleit, believed to be the remnant of a prehistoic settlement within an oval enclosure of stones. It's not an easy site to make sense of, and I recall not thinking much of it when I first saw it in 1998. Sixteen years of tromping around Scotland have taught me that an ancient site doesn't have to be as spectacular as Callanish to be of interest.
Down across the road, we find Clach an Truiseil, the tallest standing stone in Scotland. It's said to have been part of an array of standing stones, perhaps similar to Callanish, but none of the other stones survive. The next-to-last one was removed in 1914 for reuse.
Just outside Stornoway, we're thinking to walk down to the Iolaire monument, but decide we don't have time. The Iolaire was a wooden yacht transporting military personnel home to Lewis on New Year's Eve, 1918, weeks after the end of World War I. It left Kyle of Lochalsh at 9:00pm; at 1:55am on 1 January 1919, it struck rocks known as the Beasts of Holm, within sight of the lights of town. 205 of 284 aboard perished in the rough seas, despite being just fifty yards from shore. Lewis had lost a thousand soldiers in the war itself, and the Iolaire disaster completed the loss of virtually an entire generation of young men.
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Friday 16 October 1998--The alarm went off at 8:00. Woke up, looked out the window...rain. Slept for another hour, and wasn't in too much of a hurry when I got up. Caught the 11:03 train into Edinburgh, killed some time in the Waverly Shops above the station, and then headed up to the Royal Mile. Very cool! The Mile is set on a ridge that leads up to Edinburgh Castle. Poked around in the shops, then had a late lunch at a pub, where Yanks outnumbered locals, six to two. The barman was from Chicago.
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CalMac deposits us in Ullapool late in the afternoon. I'd forgotten what a scenic crossing this is. We head straight up to Kylesku, wanting to arrive before dark. We're staying in the Kylesku Hotel, a nice splurge that I could not afford traveling solo. An evening of fine food and pints follows.