The Grey Nomad
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The Grey Nomad - The Journey to the Western Isles
Travelling in my reliable Polo car, I set off North. By the second night of travelling I decided to stay in a B&B alongside Loch Lomond. From my room I looked over the lake and mountains. The clouds were pink in the evening sunset and were reflected on the lake.
The next morning the road alongside the lake was beautiful, waterfalls everywhere. Driving past Loch Linnhe was wonderful. Loch Lomond is 23 miles long and Loch Linnhe is 17 miles and is Fort William’s sea loch to Mallaig. Fort William is a gem of a town sheltered by Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis had snow on the top and wisps of clouds. The Great Glen of Glencoe is awesome.
I went to Nevis Range Torlundy, which is very near to Ben Nevis itself, and ascended to over 2000ft in the new Gondolas. There before me the mountains rose in splendour in the early spring sunshine. I lunched in the restaurant at the top, and then came back down to earth. I visited Fort William and explored the town. It was so clean and full of surprises.
For my 3rd night I stayed at Corpach a few minutes away from one of the Caladonian Canal Swing Bridges, with a view of the great mountains. They were covered in snow again by the next morning.
I drove past the war memorial high up in the mountains. The road twisted and climbed through woods whose leaves were just showing. I passed wonderful lochs with the mountains reflected in their waters. Such scenes have to be seen to be believed.
Next came the Great Glen of Shiel with the Five Sisters of Kintail leading to the Skye Bridge and Isle of Skye. The bright colours of browns, and greens against the white clouds and blue skies were wonderful. I drove past a loch with a backdrop of purple mountains. Then onto and across the Skye Bridge, and on to the Misty Isle (otherwise known as the Isle of Skye). It was a day of sunshine and showers, moody and bright. I went to Kyleakin to find my B&B, it was an amazing place.
The following day, I went to Broadford, driving between yellow gorse lined roads to the Craft and Arts Centre. The woven and knitted garments of wools and silks, sold by weight were lovely and I bought myself a purple coloured shawl. The Art Gallery was inspiring with paintings of Skye and the islands. The tapestry of ever changing colours of light and texture is the inspiration for many artists and craftspeople living and working on Skye.
The peaks catch the clouds and the horizon fills up with rugged peaks. Outside my bedroom window was a view of the winding river with its horseshoe bend; its sandbars and salt marsh. In the river the herons, about 20 of them, were catching and eating eels. There were also Northern Shovelers there (a type of duck). The wind was blowing and the distant mountains on the mainland, near the Kyle of Lochalsh could be clearly seen, showing pink in colour in the evening sun. As the great fold of mountains faded into the distance, the ruined castle on its island promontory was etched against the skyline in the small sea village of Kyleakin. It was all truly stunning.
The drive to Uig along the coastal road with the Isle of Raasay and other tiny islet offshore was so beautiful. I stopped at the Information Centre at Portree enabling me to see the Red Cuillins with their red rocks.
Uig is a tiny seaside town with a brewery and a pottery. The ferry boat arrived on time and I drove the car on board and went with my binoculars to scan the sea and the Ascrib Islands for seals, dolphins and birds.
Dawn and John were waiting for me at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, the ferry crossing having taken 1hr 40minutes and a total of 25 miles.
We drove through and over the mountains of Harris, with their lively twisty roads, that become single track roads with passing places. Lewis is a flat island, like the high moors of Southern Ireland and is largely rolling moorland. Being islands they are surrounded by clean and unpolluted waters. To the East is the Minch, which is a turbulent stretch of water that has often protected Lewis from outside interference. On the western side the Atlantic waters are full of fish and oil. There are few trees but the air is so pure that you have so much energy. It’s as if bubbles of energy “bounce” off your skin.
Gaelic is the first language on the islands and the names and signposts are in Gaelic. To this day, village children only learn English in school. There are religious beliefs deeply held on the islands of the Western Isle. For instance there is no public transport on Sundays, shops tend to be closed, so are the petrol stations.
The gorse was brown. The heather black, with huge white granite boulder stones on the hills. When I left Lewis 2 weeks later the weather was warm and the Machair blooming with orchids, daisies, vetches, gorse etc. These islands are warmed by the Gulf Stream with little snow but huge winds.
The torturous roads finally arrive at the village of Lemreway, South Lochs, where Dawn and John had their croft. A village on the side of this beautiful sea loch, with 37 people, looking out over the Chiants, with the Isle of Skye on the horizon. The seas are turquoise blue with great headlands.
The sea dances silver in the sunshine with the seals that are there trying to get at the salmon. A simple but beautiful sight.
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