Hallo everybody. We are back to Skye island after five days in the Outer Hebrides: Lewis and Harris (two different names for the same island) and North Uist. As we did five days ago, we are sending this new page of our diary from SkyeDat, a helpful telematics centre in Portree. They have been so nice in allowing us to connect to the Net: as we've had serious problems with our cellular phone, in our touring around we are always desperately looking for a phone plug for our laptop computer. Thanks again friendly Fiona and Maggie and all the boys of SkyeDat for your patience with these two new Roman invaders!
Well, back to our megaliths...
Last Friday we sailed to Outer Hebrides, drove in a thick fog through
Harris & Lewis and arrived in Callanish (Calanais in Gaelic). By the
way, in the Outer Hebrides all signposts are only in Gaelic, so if you
don't want to get lost you can either buy a bilingual map or follow the
assonances between English and Gaelic (sometimes an easy play as for Charlabhaigh
-> Carloway, sometimes an impossible task as for An t-Ob -> Leverburgh!).
The next day, in an atrocious
weather, we visited Steinacleit, an enigmatic
site half a roundhouse and half a chambered cairn; Clach
an Trushal, a 6 meters tall pillar nearby and Dun
Bragar, one of the many brochs situated on an islet in a loch and
linked to mainland by a stone causeway.
On Monday we made a quick visit to the ruined chambered cairn of Cnoc a Phrionnsa, to the recently discovered Achmore stone circle (only one stone stands, the other lying in the peat) and to the little Sideabhal stone circle by Loch Seaforth, partly incorporated into a later building. Then it was time to drive to South Harris, where at 19:45 we had to take the ferry to North Uist. After a quick photo to Coire Na Feinne, a Neolithic chambered burial cairn covered by colourful flowers in a private garden, we walked along one of the beautiful sandy beaches of the island and reached an impressive standing stone called Clach Mhic Leoid. Another short stop to the smaller Borvemore (Buirgh Mohr) standing stone and then we drove to the ferry.
In North Uist we had only one day, that's yesterday, to go around and visit the various sites, because today at 11:50 a.m. we had to catch another ferry to sail back to Skye. So, yesterday was a busy and tiring day, because lots of the sites are situated in very remote places, far away from roads and tracks and we had to walk in open moorland for miles to reach some of them (detailed maps are essential!). We began with the easily reachable Clettraval (Cleitreabhal) Neolithic chambered cairn and Iron Age wheelhouse (a circular drystone structure with stone piers radiating from a central hearth area; these piers once supported a wood and turf roof). Many of the stones from the cairn have been used for shielings nearby. Shielings (or airidh) are small huts built for the use in the summertime by groups of people, especially younger members of the family, who brought their cattle to the hills to graze. About one of these buildings in Benbecula island, we found a gruesome but fascinating legend (warning: it is not for impressionable readers!).
In the late morning we walked
in open moorland and through very boggy soil for 2.8 km (1.7 miles) to
reach the similar but much less ruined structures of Unival
(Uneabhal). Next stops were two of the best preserved archaelogical sites
in North Uist: Pobull Fhinn stone circle
and Barpa Langais chambered cairn. Then
we drove to the northern tip of the island to go to Dun
an Sticir, a broch situated in the middle of a lake, and linked to
mainland by three causeways. This fort is traditionally associated with
Hugh MacDonald, who in 1601-2 laid claim to part of North Uist, but was
beaten by the chief of Clan Sleat, who owned the island, and sought refuge
in Dun an Sticir. Betrayed by his stepmother, Hugh was imprisoned in Dunvegan
castle in Skye. Some versions of the story say he broke out of prison
using the beef bones from his dinner, others that he went mad after being
immured in the dungeon with a plate of salt beef and an empty jug.
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