762-778: Meetings Up and Sortings Out

762 – Thursday 29th June 2017:  Dan the Man

Tesco in Perth – we stocked up on the essentials….. gin and tonix, etc.

Dan the man greeted us at a wilding site on the shores of Lochwinnoch – excellent wine and food – classic rock and soul music….. another lovely evening with Dan. He showed off his new Rapido.  The  Kwalking was very wet, but that’s Scotland the Brave for you…  

 

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763 – Friday 30th June:  Driving, Driving and more Driving

Down to just S of Birmingham to a National Trust wood carpark after a detour to avoid slow M6 traffic  … why detour to avoid holdups always seem to take longer than seeing it through?

Stop at Cranston’s Food hall just off M6 in Lakes…  I used to order online … amazing meat and deli.

It was a semi peaceful night as boom boxes and kids in cars, but harmless.

764-766 – Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd July:  Bristol Blessings

We are using a new to us Camping and Motorhome Club CL at Aust …  recommended by fellow motorhome bloggers … https://thewanderlings2013.wordpress.com.  Roland is published author – if you like thrillers, check out his books.

A fair amount of socialising for the next couple of days … We attended a Saturday afternoon rock theme garden party in Bradley Stoke.  Had a Sunday pm supper at pub with S&K, followed by interesting cheese, including Gouda with pesto and Pine nuts and Goats cheese Brie from Cranston’s. Then on Monday we were Double Dating … K lunch with Thelma and J lunch with Sylvie and then onto repairs in FLT … moving onto Alison’s for a yummy roast chicken dinner.  Slept kerbside outside her house.

767-771 – Tuesday 4th to Saturday 8th July :  Farnham Frolics

Tuesday:  slight detour to fetch J’s hat from Stephen’s car, then up to Coxbridge Farm, our usual CL in Farnham, Surrey.  

Independence day BBQ:  Aged P’s delivered car and eBay 4th July paper plates and table cloth – my £8 festivity spend, compared to Brad’s tales of what people spend to decorate interiors of marquees … his holiday job is erecting and dismantling massive marquees.   Mutt finished my Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Clare the Number 43 …

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Bradi (Brad and Madi) wearing matching shoes … so well suited!

Wednesday:  Hinton Ampner Aged P’s picnic … left overs from BBQ so very easy.  Mature planing and harmonious house as last owner removed his father’s Victorian decor and reinstated the Georgian.  Supper was left overs too – cheese and salad.

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Hinton Ampner National Trust.

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Mature Planting …Oh No, that’s another photo!

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This is Mature planting!

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A perfect picnic spot – under a tree. 

Thursday:  K took Bradi (Madi and Brad) to Gatwick .. Naples.  Just on M23 and a call to say she’d left all the docs in my car!  A 20 min turn aorund to reach a motorway junction.  She apparently left them in a taxi too when changing hotels!  Bear in mind this is the girl who took charge when we did a fleeting trip to Spain a few years ago and I put the passports down in the airport!  J’s driving license application has been returned for the second time …. another doctor error!  So J delivered the papers to the surgery in the hope of collecting them this afternoon … not to be, they will be ready tomorrow.

Friday:  J drove Jez back to Bristol to the dealer, as they wanted the auto electrician to check the wiring to make sure the reason the rear view camera blows a fuse was nothing to do with the post build motorhome wiring.  So Jez was there for all of 10 mins, before he turned around and came back to Farnham.  I grabbed the opportunity to go to RHS Wisley with Mum, who is a member.  Wisley is the reason I am often left disappointed with other Botanical Gardens … it is just vast, varied and stunning.  Knowing it so well, Mutt guided me around her favourite areas for this time of year.   A couple of morning phone calls to chase up the DVLA medical form … the office staff were very helpful in that they kept nudging the Doctor … it was ready to pick up at 2.30 and was in the post back to the DVLA by 3.00!  But now we have another 2-3 weeks for the DVLA medical team to scan the form onto the system before they even start analysing it!  Ho hum.

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RHS Wisley:  3 of the Famous Five.

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Young planting – The Bowes Lyon Rose Garden.

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A small part of the best rockery, I’ve ever seen.

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Saturday:  Train up to London for lunch with Simon and Ai in a dog friendly pub.  any likeness between father and son? Not sure….

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772-776 – Sunday 9th to Thursday 13th July: Cotswold Capers

“Adventure before Dementia” is Frances and Edward’s van logo – excellent.  We met at a CS site near Moreton -in- Marsh – the only vans there – really quiet – we supped well and dined with BBQ and haute cuisine.  We toured Batsford Arboretum and the local market – Frances and K were drawn to the local gin stall – and cheese. Any changes here?

The brewery tour was the best we’ve had – all original machinery and an excellent guide.  Lunch –  massive sandwiches with Hook Norton beer at a pub where the original dray cart and horses were making a delivery.

A short four days before we parted – to meet again in September, hopefully.  

 

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The Brewery still has the the steam engine (powered by oil and now electric) machinery in place and working.

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This is where the rye is ground.

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777-778 – Friday 14th July to Saturday 15th July:  Maddy Munchkin Moments

Bradi over Friday and invited themselves to our BBQ on Saturday.  Ty for Limoncello from Sorento.  Odd jobs, including a wild abuse of the Aged P’s washing machine, they’re in France (again) so we do not have to book machine time with them!  A few more items in and out of the attic.  And a shopping trip to Guildford … new pillow £60!  

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It was half price!

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Oscar was given all these treats … not to be consumed all at once!

Jez was delivered at 7.00 (we were earlier than the rush hour traffic!) to Guildford’s Fiat Professional to have the wiring issue for the rear view camera sorted.  When they plumbed in the diagnostic computer, they identified that we’d missed a few recalls, which they sorted.  Wiring not down to Fiat after all, but thankfully the motorhome dealer agreed to pay Fiat to do a bypass fix so that our camera works.  Impressed with Fiat Guildford and again with Family Travel Centre.

Jez’s V5 has arrived with the new reg; we put the private plate on Jez which has been on retention since we changed motorhome … as we’d bought Jez on one day and travelled to France the next day, we’d had no time to sort this.  But the good news is …. we can travel to France on Monday 17th …  won’t have to delay our departure whilst we wait for it to turn up … if only J’s driving license were as quick!

 

Oscar’s Diary.

Here I am again, then (Panto line?).  Now England is like Scotland – but with too many people – probably the correct number of K9s, though.  My owners are progressing quite well with their training – I give them treats to encourage the little blighters – gin always works!   I went along with the Arboretum, market and brewery fandangos (guess who gets to stay in the van – moi!!!).  I suppose if I went out galivanting and they stayed – they would get up to no good – I know when they have that ’certain’ look in their eyes… but that’s for after the watershed – I know young folk read my diary.  

Well, before you could say “Nuclefuchen” (more of that later – and it’s not a swear word), we were in La Belle France…. after the usual GB motorway madness.

To my intimate surprise, Kensie was waiting for me – oh and Robin too…  Well, Missie was in fine form – inviting me in for a snog – but ‘Great Balls of Fire’ – I discovered ‘earwigging’ was just the ticket!!!  No, I was not snogging Robin’s ears!   Kensie and I  got along fine.. – she doesn’t have ear wax – unlike James…

The “Nuclefuchen” is a word we saw on a German caravenette (old fashioned for motorhome). It means “I want to snog your knuckle” – strange habits in Deutschland.  I’ll stick with Kensiearsnogsland. (En route from Ecosse – I’m well into the old Franglais now – we passed “Eclefeckin” which is Gallic for snogyerecclecakes, I think.

Me brain is steaming – I’m off to whisper in James’ ear – “aves vous mon dejeuner, sil vous plait, Monsieur Jacques”

Adieu, mon amis, for now…..

Whew…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

757-761 : Orkney Part 2

We have got so far behind with our posting … Blame it on the Boogie!

757 – Saturday 24th June 2017:  Trying to Shelter from the Wind

Fond farewell to our lovely friends at the Ness Meet – “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but….”

The wind was – Scottish islands quality….. robust – which means rather strong!  We manoeuvred Jez for a better angle, and slept. The wind had abated during the night and we set sail towards Loons Hide. We didn’t see lots but plenty of birds and waders – we managed to catch one in flight – a seabird/Common Gull?  The remarkable thing is – several pairs of expensive binoculars on the desk – not chained down and an open door. Could that happen in the south of England – no. But I’m being hard – there are many more millions of people down south…and it is our ‘home, generally. 

Warwick Head was even more robust in the wind so – walking aborted after J blown against the barbed wire fence and we all risked a sudden decent over the cliff edge.  Nanny naps much needed after the recent festivities….

Overnight at the Sands of Alikeness overlooking the Isle of Rousay – lovely…

 

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Loons Hide:  Others had told us they’d seen otters … we just saw common birds, like gulls, ducks and coots …. but it was very windy.  The hide was furnished with not only bird and flower books, but a couple of binoculars, which were not even chained down.  What a different world we live in up here.

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Marwick Head:  the pic does NOT show how windy it was.  We were OK until we started up the cliffs at the far end of the bay … J was blown onto barbed wire and my flared jeans acted like sails so I had no idea where each foot would land.  We aborted a fair way up. The dot on the hill top is the Kitchener Monument.  Despite high seas, Kitchener and hundreds of sailors set sail with a hold full of gold bullion to bribe the Russians to stay in the war.  The ship founded here and Kitchener and 600+ men died.  The gold was not recovered (!).  Although Kitchener was popular with the masses, he was a bit of a sod … he created concentration camps in the Boer War and was harsh in Ireland following the 1916 Uprising.  Local Orkadians put up this monument.

758 – Sunday 25th June 2017:  Geo Birdsong

A slow morning start – Mull Head walk – rain/sun – amazing echoing birdsong and steep gorges.

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The Gloop:  a sea cave that caved in … pix does not show how long it is.

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More sea stacks and a great coastline on our often very wet walk.

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We hoovered over this geo (natural chasm in the cliff) as it was sheltered from the wind and the sound of the nesting birds echoed up to us.  Quite magical.

759 – Monday 26th June 2017:  Sitting Pretty

We had planned to sail to Hoy for one day but – our spot was so pretty and sun shining that – we stayed put for a whole day – what luxury….

The “K” factor produced fresh fish for supper… her dog walking explored some Viking remains – real human bones – she resisted giving Oscar some bones to chew on!!! 

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I got to sit and knit as we’ve been too busy … and the sun came out to I even divested one of my many layers.

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I blagged a cod and small haddock from a fisherman, he refused to take any payment, but seemed surprised I was happy to gut myself.

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Guess the body part.  A local dog walker told us that there was Viking mound, remains of a monastery with its cemetery slipping into the sea at the other end of the beach.  I was going to bring a fibia (Ithink) back to James but Oscar seemed to think it was a stick for him … seemed wrong somehow to allow Oscar to play with a person’s bones, so I left it behind.  Think J was relieved.

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Northern Lighthouse staff had commissioned this boat to take them out to and island to service the lighthouse.  The boat’s alternator failed and they had to get a tow back to the mainland from a passing leisure craft.  Whilst they tied to get the motor going they did not notice the tide going out … there was no way they could get the boat up onto the trailer and the van’s real wheels were just spinning.  About 6 hours later the tide was back in enough for the boat to float and the poor chaps got off … we did offer them a drink.P1140536

Whilst the stranded boat waited, we BBQ’d.

760 – Tuesday 27th June 2017:  In Search of Wool and Washing

St Margarets Hope village is pretty but the wool K wanted was too expensive. Campsite back at Stronmess again – oven baked cod, washing and cleaning. 

761 – Wednesday 28th June 2017:  Starting the Journey South

Huge sadness at leaving the Islands but – “haste ye back”… and we definitely will return… and do some island hopping.

Arrived at the ferry to find that our booking was for tomorrow – ooops! (K:  And I pride myself on my organisation!)  But they were not busy, fortunately.  When our friends left on Monday the 1.5 hour trip took 3.5 gale force hours!  Pancake flat for us 🙂

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Sromness with Hoy in the background.

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The Point of Ness Campsite.

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The ferry passed the Old Man of Hoy.  We will definitely do some island hopping when we have more time.

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Huge hand dived scallops with the small haddock …

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… served with Stornaway black pudding, bacon, onion & cabbage mash and a sherry sauce.  Neither if us managed to finish ours … such a shame.

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Margaret and Shirley – do you recognise this?  We stayed at the RSPB Loch of the Lowes.  There was a beaver talk and apparently an obliging beaver swam past the group.  

 

746-751: Lewis, Harris and onto Brin

746 – Sunday 11th June 2017:  Dead ‘Ard in Uig 

Aird Uig campsite – managed by Finn – we conversed in a mixture of Gallic and Gaeilge ! We also talked about 1960s music – Bob Dylan et al – top man – he only charged us £10 per night instead of £15!!!  (K:  Being of a certain vintage and Irish has some benefits!)  Walked to Gallan Head – cafe unmanned – with honesty box… we are truly in God’s country…

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Over 200 service men stationed here during WWII.  The RAF left in the 1960’s and some of the buildings have now been bought and turned into small houses.  The Head was recently bought by the community who want to preserve it and make it more accessible.

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746 – Monday 12th June:  Valtos and Reef Beaches

Slightly later start to Monday – a good brisk walk to Valtos village and Reef Beach – showers in Jez and BBQ – a good life (again) ?

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Reef beach – the campsite is in the dunes just off to the right.  Completely made up of shells and Oscar and I collected some, including some unusual small bright pink ones.

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Valtos beach – all white sand here.

747 – Tuesday 13th June:  Back into Harris and Distillery

Why do ginstilleries draw us inexorably? Harris gin distillery visit in Tarbert – tours all booked up but a nice tasting and appropriate purchase, of course…. Seaweed is used as a botanical but K used a pink grapefruit instead.  Jez was pointed to a nice small overnight beach spot near the Sealam Museum Centre – another quiet evening…

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Our overnight at the edge of a slipway … busy with people collecting rope and wood, presumably to decorate their gardens.  K had a good chat with a local artist, wife and two small girls.  They try to grow their own food as much as possible but the winter winds kill their crops and they’re thinking about home ed. for the girls.  

748 – Wednesday 14th June:  Inclement in St Clemments

Sealam Centre – lots of information about families who emigrated to Canada, USA and Australia the – dreaded ‘clearances’. The town of Leverburgh brought rain and we considered a pub lunch but not at £15 per head, just for J’s scampi! It hd been recommended to us, but must have been an ‘ on-budget’ day!

Coming up to the east coast of Harris, called the Bays, the scenery changed to rocky and barren – not unlike Connemara – evidence of more ‘clearances’ people forced off their land to here to make way for landlords with large profitable sheep farms – fishing was an extra income option but it was barely subsistence living – and then the potato blight arrived to force more emigration – so Ireland wasn’t  the only country to suffer…  

Full wet weather gear on to give O a quick walk and visit St Clement’s Church in Rodel – 1520’s

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Stairs up so far in the tower, but the final level is only accused by a step ladder, which was missing.  Not that the views would’ve been much in the rain.

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Lots of tombs to the MacLeod clan.

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 St Clement’s church graveyard contained a headstone marking the last resting place of Mary MacLeod who asked to be buried face down – ’to stop her lying mouth’ – why?   And only aged 16!

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Unfertile rocky land where families tried to scratch a living.  This side of S Harris is now more notably home to artists and craftsmen.

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748 – Thursday 15th June:  Back to the Mainland

Back to Skye across the Kyle of Lochaish Bridge – CL on the west bank of Loch Ness – services complete before a Wildcamping meet near inverness. Excellent morning run to a waterfall…. 

 

749-751 – Friday 16th-Sunday 18th June:  Brin Motorhome Meet

Shopping in Inverness and then to Brin motorhome meet – lots of old friends including Shirley, Margaret, Poppy and Boo…. Escoffier evening – top food – campfire late into the evening/early morning – K managed to stay late-ish……

Weekend pilates for K and both Margarets – and running.  A group of us walked uphill (a lot) to meet our group from the other direction at the halfway point.  Evening saw food and music – harpist and Adrian from Holland playing Scottish bagpipes – and the combo of moi, Shirley and Margaret singing along to some old classics – my chords were OK after a 50 year absence form the guitar!  Another ‘late’ night…. (K:  Funnily enough, J seemed to slope off before me!)

Lunch at the Dore’s Inn – Scampi and chips for me and soup for K, followed by most excellent puds.  K and Shirley walked to Flichty House to check out brother Tim’s garden – impressive.  A lovely meet with some top people and over £800 raised for the Neil MacKenzie Trust.

As we faced a 4.5 hour drive tomorrow, west off at 5:00 pm to make most of the journey tonight – Lybster Harbour welcomed us for the night – peacefully, as always….. zzzzzs 

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Walk … clever mini bus manoevering … drop one lot of walkers at the start and the second lot at the end.  We weren’t sure if we’d been given all the uphill!

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Still going uphill as we passed the other party and remembered to hand over the mini bus keys.

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Great Views at the top and then it was finally downhill :).

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Celtic Harp came to entertain us.

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A Dutch Scottish bagpiper.

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And our very own James, Margaret and Shirley.

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Our overnight at Lybster Harbour.

 

 

752-756: Orkney Part 1

752 – Monday 19th June 2017:  Start of Orkney Meet

Our ferry from Scrabster was loaded with wild camping.co.uk motorhomes bound for our week long meet – 50% discount on fares for wildcampers 🙂 – we saved £117!  On site, we met people from the meet at Brin and new friends Jim & Pat and David & Sanchia + Ross, the family K9…  We’d hooked up through the forum to join the tour guide Jim and Pat had booked for two days.  As a get to know each other and see if the entire male dogs would get on van sharing for the tours we went for a walk and then drinks in our Jez.  Evening came and evening went, more gin and wine – cheese and biscuits for supper – a late evening – why not?  Dogs did not play nicely, just like children … you want them to get on and they don’t … Oscar was very grumbly.  

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So many ‘vans on this crossing they had to corral us on the quayside.  A sense of excitement … another adventure.

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Oscar ready to drive on board.  Little does he know, this is Northlink Ferries, not Calmac of the Outer Hebrides … he has to stay in the van for the crossing.

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Turn right, then left out of Stromness and straight onto the Ness Campsite, which has been taken over by the wildcamping happy campers.  Excellent facilities with a free washing machine (I was not the only one to make good use of it!) and good off lead dog walking.

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View from the campsite across to Stromness port.  You feel the ferry’s vibrations before you see it pass.  Lots of seals in the other direction.  

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The two day tour crew .. David, Pat, Jim and Sanchia.  We spent every evening, two full days and consumed a LOT of booze (fellow gin and whisky drinkers) with these guys and got on really well.

753 – Tuesday 20th June 2017:  Day One Tour

We are being “Neolithicised” big time and loving it!  Helen our tour guide is amazing and lives every story … she comes from Portsmouth, has an archaeology degree, is a Druid High Priestess, used to be a teacher and now a tour guide … with a difference.  She weaves landscape, fact and her own spiritual interpretation into what went on.  Did you know that hunter gathers used what nature provided and took only what they needed … they had lots of leisure time and created jewellery and art.  The farmers came along and invented a high workload and stress, and farming started here in Orkney … it was warmer and less windy then!

A full day and weary on our return.  Pat Dalton to the rescue … what can you do with corned beef?  Chilli of course – yummy.  K has bought a tin as a standby for us … so versatile.  

The Rolling Stones of Stennes carry no moss but beautifully crafted in 3000 bc.

 

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The Standing Stones of Stenness – 3000BC:  originally 12 monoliths surrounded by a ditch 2m deep.  This hearth like stone is in the centre and the two upright align with a mound … the green hump you can just make out.

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A view across to the mountains of Hoy … the landscape plays a large part in where these spiritual / religious sites are built.  The Hoy mountains look like a pregnant woman; as you move around the island she seems have given birth.  Valleys lead to this site too and it is very fertile.  There would have been 12 standing stones, but the local farmer was fed up with tourists disturbing his sheep, so he blasted a number of them – he was removed from the island!  Only 4 remain and one stone still has the plug where the dynamite was to go.

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Nearby is Barnhouse village:  15 houses with central hearths and beds.  Two larger structures may have been used for worship as at midsummer the setting sun shines directly down the entrance passage way.

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The Ring of Brodgar:  of 60 stones only 27 remain upright and is a perfect circle 103.7 diameter.  Again a large ditch surrounds it.  Work is being done to improve paths so there was some fencing up.

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The area is a also a RSPB nature reserve so a lot of ground nesting birds.  The bog cotton just glows.  The relationship with the landscape with water, land and sky is very strong.

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Skara Brae neolithic village, inhabited from 3100BC to 2600 BC:  this is a reconstruction showing the central hearth and stone wells that would have contained water for storing fish and keeping food cool.  Each house has a dresser or alter.  A small side room was probably used for storage. 

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Discovered in 1850 when a storm removed sand dunes.  Not sure how long nature will be kept at bay before the rest of the village is destroyed … the site is on UNESCO’s at risk list.  The houses are joined by a street. They had drains, stone dressers, beds, cupboards and water tanks.  Some cells with drains may have been toilets.  It is not known how the roofs were made, but conjectured that whale bones or wood supported straw and turf.  They found bones, tools, jewellry and grooved stone where … it could have been decorated with finger nail markings.

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These two houses were the original ones and a newer village was built on top, using the midden (compacted waste) as footings.

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There was a place for everything.

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The wind seems to always be strong here and this little fellow had moved in!

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So well preserved.

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I had a hat from Lewis, and J has one from Orkney.

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Yesnaby Castle and a rocky coastline walk.

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754 – Wednesday 21st June 2017:  Summer Solstice & Kirkwall

Abed at 1000 hrs – and alarm went off at 1:30 am!!!  We had never been to a summer Solstice Druid ceremony – and a wedding – at 3:00 am in a field! But what a field of magic and spells (Harry Potter, where are you?).  Helen and her husband Mark performed the ceremony and service – hand fastening and then ale and honey cakes for all – the moon and the sun made an appearance although the sun was a little late.  A great shame about people at the back who disrespectfully talked all through!  The spiritualism was all pervading regardless of one’s religion… 

5:00 a.m. nightcap in Jez – and zzzzzs… followed by a cooked brekkie for J.

Kirkwall in the p.m. – St Magnus’ cathedral – more soft sandstone a la Petra – lovely again – a glass of cider and meeting a lady from Washington DC and her partner from Orkney.  

Campsite bonfire and beef cooked by a wild camping.co.uk crew – K was a little late-ish to slumber….. (K:  I was chatting, not drinking though!)

The Highland Park Distillery provided the tour and tasting – with (you’ve guessed it) – whiskyurchases…. (PS – don’t tell Grahame Leslie…) 

A surprise visit by a piper band through the campsite – amazing music again…

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Mark, husband to our tour guide is a Druid Priest at the summer solstice … he blew a horn to call on the spirits, but this one contained beer which we shared, as well as honey cake.

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A lyre and drum: the ceremony is bardic.  I refrained from nudging J into reciting one of his poems.

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We did not see the sun come over the hills until we were back on the bus.

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Beware cooks with cleavers!  Kirkwall St Magnus Cathedral built from 3 stones including red sandstone which gives it such a warm glow.  Construction started over 875 years ago, by the nephew of Magnus Erlendson.  in 1103 Magnus and his cousin succeeded to the Earldom, but by 1117 they’d fallen out and they agreed to meet on an island with two ships each … the cousin pitched up with 8!  A no contest and the cook was ordered to kill Magnus with a meat cleaver … Magnus’ relicts were buried on Birsay and miracles were said to be taking place.  The church was paid for by local farmers under some duress and the architect came from Durham.  Magnus’ remain were eventually brought to the cathedral and a new pilgrimage walk, St. Magnus’ Way runs across the island; we’ve seen lots of the way markers.

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My 2nd cousin and godfather has been investigating the family name … I need to read through his notes and see if this Leslie is mentioned; we know they were in Scotland.

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Key dates at the Highland Park whisky distillery:  founded in 1798 and currently (about to be challenged) the most northerly Scottish distillery.  The original owner was a church officer and on hearing that the excise men were about to pounce, he put all his barrels into a coffin, called the locals to the funeral and muttered ‘smallpox’ to the customers men, who hot footed it away.

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Whilt 80% of the barley is imported from the mainland, 20% of actually still peat smoked here.  No longer turned by hand and shovel, a machine now does it.

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The kiln fires start with peat fires to imbibe the malted barley with the flavour and then with smokeless coal to dry it out.  We could smell the peat as we approached the distillery.

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The stills:  twice distilled.

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A lovely surprise – a local wildcamper had organised  the pipers whilst we ate a communal beef stew and apple pie.

755 – Thursday 22nd June 2017:  Day Two Tour

Helen guided us again – the intrepid 6 – to St Magnus’ pilgrimage path – forest and kissing gates – and the earthouse with short steep ladder down…

At Birsay, the sky opened up and was the most spectacular blue! 

Puffins, ice cream and the farm museum – then to “Twattsville”!  

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Binscarth Plantation.  Kissing gate … has to be done!

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Orkney is pretty treeless due to the wind, but the Laird had had a small wood planted.  This is also on the St Magnus Way.

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Communing with nature.

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Rennibster Earthhouse in the middle of a working farm … and yes we were climbing down there. Once down there was a small room, probably an iron age house’s subterranean cellular with a tunnel, but it could have been a spiritual room, devoid of outside noise and light.

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 Is Pat going to drop the lid on David?

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Tomb of the Dogs, so called as dog bones were found within.  Amazing – no entrance fee and a metal gate to pull open and then crawl inside.

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Beautifully evenly built.  There were chambers off and apparently the acoustics between them were superb. 

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Birsay a tidal island off the NW. 

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Pictish engravings.

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C12th Nordic Viking church. 

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The church is surrounded by figure of 8 Pictish houses.  There are drains and a bath house.

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We lifted a slab to see a perfectly formed round stone well. 

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Great rocky cliffs on the other side of the island and the sun had come out 🙂

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The reason for walking round the island … to see the Puffins … I had to lean over on my tummy (J’s vertigo kicked in, so he kept back with Oscar), but only had J’s wide angle lens :(, but you can make out one on the right stood on the rock and one under use bronze lichen rock.  Kerstin – this one’s for you … hope you saw them in Northumberland!

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Rock pools so clear.

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The Earl’s Palace late C16th.  Built by Earl Robert Stewart (half brother to Mary Queen of Scots) using local conscripted labour.  So sumptuous, it even had toilets.

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Orkney ice cream is pretty special.

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Kirbuster Farm Museum:  Two brothers worked here until 1960/70’s (we think) and it was another special moment being sat in the amazing Orkney chairs (driftwood and straw) talking about and touching the items. The central peat fireplace was offset from the roof chimney so the wind and rain did not put it out.  The brothers had put plasterboard over the alls and papered them.  

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A heather hearth or washing up brush.

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The date on the lintel is upside down to ward off evil spirits.

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Whale bone gate entrance.

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It had to be done … not a twatt in sight!

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Some of the skies have just been amazing.

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Broch of Gurness:  Iron Age to Pictish times.  The Broch is similar to the one we visited in Lewis, although less well preserved, BUT it has a small Pictish village around it AND defensive ditches.

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756 – Friday 23rd June 2017:  Maeshowe, Churchill Barriers, Italian Chapel & Tomb of the Eagles

Friday, is it, already?  Only 1 day left of our meet…  Maeshow House tomb – crawling on all 4s for 10 metres and Sarah our lovely guide who ‘sparked’ the story…

PM and the Tomb of the Eagles – eagle bones and human remains – most informative museum and talks…

The Italian Chapel built nearby by Italian POWs – their country transported to Orkney – hand painted stained glass windows – how to make a chapel from 2 Nissan huts.  En route, we crossed the Churchill barriers – made to join the small islands with the mainland – some WW2 wrecks to remind us of the courage of the soldiers and seamen form both sides – the futility of war…

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Maeshowe Tomb – no pics allowed inside.  Similar to other tombs, with side chambers, but with massive slabs of stone making the walls.  Some Viking engravings.

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Iron Age house at Tomb of the Eagles.

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Inside the Tomb of the Eagles.  The Museum was the star here, as there were talks in two of the rooms and handling experiences for some of the artefacts found.

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Amazing glow of buttercups everywhere, as well as so many species of wild flowers.

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Crossing one of Churchill’s Barriers and a sunken vessel.

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The St George and the Dragon was fashioned by an Italian prisoner out of barbed wire and covered with concrete; both materials had a plentiful supply – one to keep them in and the other to build Churchill’s barriers!

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The Italian prisoners had a theatre, built paths and planted flower beds, but lacked a church.  In late 1943 two Nissan huts were placed end to end; one to be a church and the other a school.  It was lined with plasterboard and coated in concrete.  

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The interior is painted to look like brick.  Restored in 1960 by the original artist Chiocchetti and later in 2015.  Another inmate created the wrought iron candelabra, rood screen and gates.

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Chiocchetti painted the Madonna and child from a card his mother had given him when he left for the war.

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I just found this concrete face of Jesus really soulful.

 

Oscar’s Diary:

Well now…  I’ve been corralled in Jez for museums, archyfax, toooombs and a wedding at sunrise…!  Who wants to be weddingfried in the middle of the night? Blinking Nora indeed. Beds to go to?  If Kensey and I get wed – we’ll do it in daylight and she can carry me across the chessboard and have her way with me – oops, too much detail? I could be knight to her queen…. then checkmate!

As Hagrid would say “there’s something very right here, Harry…..

Yakky-da for now (that’s Welsh you know…).  The GB Lions need Hagrid and Tom Jones in the scrum for the next test and Harry with his Quiddich broomstick, too…..

 

 

742-745: Isle of Lewis Body Parts … Butts and Fingers!

742 – 6th June 2017:  Finger Fun

We completed our services before we left the Laxendale campsite – unfortunately, I lifted the grey waste manhole cover a bit quick and dropped it on my finger – the one we caught in the hab door in France!  I think I said “goodness gracious” with a bit of “feck” thrown in…. this after K had sliced her finger nail into the white cabbage a few days ago. At work (what’s that?), we hade a spate of hand injuries and introduced compulsory safety gloves – should we?  My guitar playing is on hold for some days – but we applied the magic Arnica cream and the Mebo gel from Jordan.  

Stornoway Lewis Castle Museum was free – and hugely informative – again, amazing staff.   En route to the western side of Lewis, we continued listening to the audio version of Peter May’s book, “The Black House” – set in Lewis exactly where we are headed – a real local flavour…  the Ness Historical Centre was also a must. For the night’s ‘wilding’ we looked at Ness Port but it was far too windy – so back a short drive to Eoropaidh – secluded spot in front of a children’s play area – with mini golf – and a donation box. Perfect pitch but still windy – all portholes closed for the night…

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K’s – Never did find the missing bit of nail amongst the cabbage!

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The Eoropaidh Dunes Play Park, complete with a pirates ship and 3 hole mini golf course!  Respectfully asked to not use on a Sunday.  Also sign up to mind the uneven ground and the rabbit holes … the rabbits seem to be bigger here than on Harris.

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I walked Oscar up to the tiny chapel … shut, but I could see through … bare stone walls and ancient wooden pews.  A small stained glass window over the alter.

742 – 7th June:  The Butt Of Ness

Back to am running – why not in such awesome surroundings!  A good breezy walk also for 2 hours along the headland – to the most north westerly point in Europe!  Stevenson-built red brick lighthouse – needed no paint protection since 1885…  Visited the restored Black House – large and very roomy – heated by a 24 hour turf fire – black smoke everywhere – hence the name.  The replacement houses were called ‘white houses’.  Apparently the family of this black house moved back in, letting out their white house as it leaked, flooded and was draughty … progress!  Along the road is a Whalebone gated house entrance – immense

Lovely small campsite for the night – hardly any breeze – laundry, blogging – and chilling – La Dolce Vita – or what?

Oscar Here….

“I feel the need to make an interKection at this point – with my owners’ recent digitantix, I am keeping my paws neatly wrapped in gaffa tape!  Oh shit – how do I scratch my balls, now?  Bugger, how does one remove gaff tape?  I can’t even Koogle the answer – there’s no Kifi connection!  La Dolke Rita, indeed!!!!”

Yours in glue…..  

K:  Oscar if you use language like that, I’ll gaffa tape your shnout – that lingo is owt!!!

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The bus shelters protect from wind in any direction.  They need to as the wind, Margaret assured me, circles in Scotland … true you cannot get a leeward side.  The Peter May book said the locals call them Giants’ Picnic Tables.

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The start of our walk.

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A memorial to the 12 fishermen who lost their lives late C19, leaving 9 widows and 22 children with no means of support.  It was especially poignant as it happened in daylight with the villagers watching from shore.  They attempted to launch rescue boat but the undertow almost took that crew too.  One chap was seem to be hanging onto some wood for 2 hours, wiping the salt from his eyes and mouth, until he too, finally slipped away.

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Oscar inspects the Best Butt of Lewis!  He refused to do a moony!  I suggested we both do one and ask fellow walkers to take the pic … but strange, he wasn’t up for that either!

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Sniffing the peat turf … bringing back memories of turf cutting as a child in Ireland.

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The restored Black House.  

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Huge whale jaw bones.  Apparently the blacksmith was seriously injured removing the unexploded harpoon, which is now Damocles Sword like, above J’s head!

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An immaculate campsite with a pleasant view – the grass was artificial!  Full serviced pitches and washing load done!

743 – 8th June:  Ancient Settlements and Free Falconry

On our way to ancient settlements, we spied a man in a field with a bird of prey – stopped to have a look from Jez. To our amazement, he called us over – to have free personal interactive demo! K obliged and I took photos… One of those truly ’gemstone’ encounters – huge thanks to Ian. We met him again on the road after our village visit, hitching a lift, but we were turning off the road in 200 yds.  The mill/kiln, iron age fort and the blackhouse village visits were inspirational – bonus for Oscar – he was allowed to come along, too.   The Callanish Stones are really special – Stonehenge-esque but bigger over 3 sites – and completely free to enter. And no fences so we can get up close.  Indeed the cattle did to Callanish Stones III, churning up the soil by this ancient monument!  Again, spectacular sunsets – lots of folk capturing the images – up to 11:00 pm!  We overnighted right beside the Stones with a German van for company – try staying at Stonehenge overnight free in your motorhome!   

What a busy and amazing day!

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Norse Mill and Kiln: barley grain into meal powered by a diverted stream … a left over of the Scandinavian past of Lewis.

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We stopped off at the Blue Pig gallery as I’m always looking for gifts … I treated myself … again.  The knitter takes local pix and then chooses the colours and patterns to reflect the image.  Most were inspired by the coast and seaweed and “Easter Snow” inspired me into a purchase!

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OK, so how often do you see someone training a Harris Hawk in a field, pull over to watch and then then get asked “Who’s first?”  An absolutely phenomenal piece of luck … J not keen as worried about the bird on his injured finger, so I got all the goes!  Ian wants to set up Falconry experiences on the island.  Oscar was not amused! 

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Gearrannan Blackhouse Village:  restored cottages – some are to rent.  There were informative films about Harris Tweed production and turf cutting.

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The black faced local sheep are no longer used to make the tweed as consumers want softer and lighter cloths, so Cheviot wool is brought onto the island but carded, dyed and woven here, to make it authentic Harris Tweed.

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There are remains of blackhouses all over the island.  

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Carolway Broch: An Iron Age fort.  The iron age lasted longer up here as the Romans did not make it this far.  Brochs are only found in Scotland and this is one of the best preserved.

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They are made from two concentric circles with stairs between the walls to what would have been three floors.

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Callanish Stones:  5,000 years old.  One of the most significant and important megalithic complexes in Europe and we had to stop Oscar from peeing on it!

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Two satellite sets of stones are walking distance from the main stones … Callanish II has good views up to Callanish I.

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We moved Jez to park up for the night right next to the stones … so close this view was taken out of the roof light!

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We were not the only evening visitors waiting for the sun to set, but at least we were in the warm until 10.38 … we could could’ve made a fortune selling hot toddies as the wind was bitter.

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744 – 9th June:  Beauty in Bosta, Great Bernera

Over a bridge to Eillean Bernera – the locals succeeded in getting the bridge built by threatening to blast rock for a causeway – innovative?  Our nights stop was at Bosta beach – how many times have we used the word ‘stunning’?  Lots and we expect to continue in the same vein.  Sun, sea, sand – lovely neighbours – sitting outside with wine – how much more can we ask for?  The photos speak (again) for themselves – the site is so popular that 9 vans were with us overnight… many small campers as there was a water tap and toilets.  Our walk to the next village was nicely up and down – we needed to guide Oscar past a serious ram with horns that would have made a giant corkscrew/wine bottle opener. 

We visited a Iron Age house which had been buried under tons of sand – hence well preserved – a guide who ‘lived’ the story and brought the detail to life. K wants to buy it for when Mr Trump uses the atom bomb to wipe out the planet – our personal air raid shelter!  Our van neighbours live on Hoy next to Orkney and they invited us to visit in the next couple of weeks – fantastic – thanks, Catherine and Michael!  The colours of the sunset were blue, gold and white with the dark dunes beneath…

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Another amazing view from Jez.

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In 1992 a storm removed a lot of sand from the beach revealing a stone wall … this led to the identification and excavation of some of the iron age houses that had remained hidden.  One was beneath a Viking house.  The houses were round and built underground, with only the roof showing.  All the walls were still intact and when they built the replica further up the beach they were able to work out many of the building techniques and how the buildings had been used. As usual, it is the staff that make the difference … a local lady opens up the house foe visitors only Monday – Friday 12.00-4.00 in the summer and was very informative and enthusiastic.  She pops down a couple of times in winter to light a big turf fire and air it.

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Not to be messed with … Oscar was promptly put on the lead.

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The beach has now totally covered over the iron age settlement … probably the best conservation for it.

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Views of our walk.

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Oscar was not amused when he fell into the muddy bog.

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Our cup floweth over again … sitting, for once, protected from the wind, in sunshine, with an amazing view and a glass of wine.  What more can one ask for?

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Our view of the setting sun.

745 – 10th June:  Uig

Another day – another part of Lewis – Uig – another adventure….  How could we be blasé about all this?  Some people ask (when they learn we are full-time) – are we not bored?  Our answer is always emphatic!  Bob Dylan – “The answer is blowing in the wind”. 

We are on our own overnight on a small pitch overlooking the sea, beach and the hills beyond.  Who sang “The hills are alive – with the sound of music”? Answers on a post card to – “Jez, Outer Hebrides, Heaven”!!!  

Oscar 

Me again, readers. Today, they made me swim! In the ocean!  It was 50 fathoms deep with whales and sharks (I’m sure I saw Jonah)!  When I dragged my near drowned body from the briny, I rightly shook myself over K and jumped up at her in relief.  What did she do in her gratitude?  Tell me off and said “you little fecker”.  I’m taking her to the Hebridean Court of K9 Bites!  I’ve appointed my lawyer – Mr Anguish McFarts – of McFarts, Bizzybizzy and McPoos, from – Kolihull, my home town.

Goodnight, boyos (that’s Welsh, you see).

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OK, so just a small river to wade across.  We removed socks and boots only for this.

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Our view from Jez … just as well we came back from our walk when we did … we’d have had to swimif we’d left it another 30 minutes.  As it was, the tide was coming in the small river and we had to remove trousers and wade across.  Much to the amusement of the two couples drinking wine on the deck of a holiday cottage … we again considered doing a moony!