Greece thinks it has this beautiful island thing all locked up, but I think Scotland’s Outer Hebrides have just as much appeal, and the added attraction of hairy cows, or “coos” if you want to sound like a local.
Before we could head to the islands though, Greg the Haggis Adventures Guide (who is equal to three normal men, in case you forgot) had a surprise for us. He took us to the greatest beach in the world: the beach where every stone is perfect for skipping. And so we did this:
Our group had a mostly calm crossing in a ferry from Ullapool on the Scottish mainland to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, and I loved watching the front of the ship open up its big jaws to let all the vehicles off. It’s not often you get to see a big machine yawn and spit out cars.
Our home on the Isle of Lewis was a cozy hostel with free wifi (yay!) and one shower in a room of eight girls (ooooh). It was a super nice bathroom, but it took some planning to make sure everyone got a turn to clean up.
[Side note on bathrooms, kitchens and hostels in general: People who are flexible and patient will have a much better time on this trip, and most trips that involve keeping to a budget and staying in hostels. Because if you're someone who gets upset over something as silly as bathrooms, then you're missing out on the big picture - you're in an amazing new place! Your regular hair drying routine can skip a day.
So if you feel yourself starting to get frustrated from time to time when you're on the road, take a deep breath, smile, and then go watch a sunset or something. You're having an adventure, not a spa weekend. </advice>]
Our first morning on the island Greg the Guide took us to a grocery store so we could pick up things for a picnic lunch. Then it was back on the bus to drive to the Butt of Lewis (yes, that’s the real name of it) with a competitive round of tractor spotting on the way. Greg really likes tractors.
The Butt of Lewis is home to a lighthouse and some really rugged, raw landscape. It’s windy and fierce and beautiful, and despite the sheer drops into the ocean – which would totally kill you – there aren’t any railings or fences or anything. I appreciate that Scotland trusts people not to do anything stupid. Or maybe they just don’t get that many visitors here, because we had the place to ourselves.
Our afternoon picnic took place at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. These are old stone houses that were inhabited up until the 1970s, even though they didn’t have electricity or running water. There are still one or two on the island that people live in, but everyone else has opted for a more modern living arrangement.
My favorite stop of the day though was the Calanais Standing Stones. The stones are like a mini Stonehenge, but instead of dozens of tour buses and fences keeping you away from them it’s just your little group and you can walk around and touch them and take pictures and think about the people who put them there back in 2000 B.C.