Awoke to pretty good weather and was itching to get out of Stornoway and into (what I hoped) would be the more remote parts of the islands. It was also a Sunday - and things are very different on a Sunday here in Lewis! There is almost universal sabbath observance here - EVERYTHING is closed. Not just shops and restaurants, but also visitor attractions etc. I was aware of this, so I had prepared myself and ensured I had enough food on the bike for the day and night. I was certainly right about the remoteness - I was rewarded instantly with a ride across the A857. Empty road as far as the eye could see - excellent. Very few cars indeed. Saw these enormous dragonflies - not that I had never seen one before, but I was a little concerned about the effects of hitting one these whilst going downhill - that'd hurt quite a bit! Also on the road over the moors was plenty of evidence of peat cutting season. It's quite a complex operation by the looks of it and there were dozens of pallets with peats stacked on them.
One of the most interesting things on that road was the Clach Aonghais Greum (Angus Graham Stone). This was an enormous stone painted white with a little plaque on it. Apparently Angus moved the stone in about 1850. It did not say how far though! He was known as The Strong Man Of The West Side.
I hit the coast again and turned north towards the Butt Of Lewis. There is some fantastic archaeology on the side of the island and the next thing I saw was the huge standing stone at Ballantrushal (Baile an Truseil). This magnificent stone was nearly 6 metres high - very impressive indeed and really whetted my appetite to see much more over the coming weeks.
Just beyond that is a very enigmatic stone circle and cairn at Steinaleit. The site is very interesting and has a real hold about it.
I carried on and saw some worrying weather rolling in - things looked a little grey and I saw my first ever twister in the UK. I might be making this up, but I am sure I heard somewhere that the UK has more twisters and tornadoes per square mile than anywhere else. They're (fortunately) very small though. Still it was great (and a little worrying) to see.
I then saw what was one of the more amusing sights of the trip so far - suddenly, out of nowhere, at 11:45, the quiet roads became jammed up with cars. There were dozens and dozens of cars on the road - all containing men and women in perfect morning suits and dresses with big hats! There were, of course, all on their way to church. The midday service at most of the churches in Lewis was a Gaelic service. There would be an English service at 6pm. I did wonder which was the most popular - did people go to both? Anyway. the Gaelic service must have been packed based on the number of cars that suddenly appeared!
As a non-church goer (and my Gaelic is a little patchy!), I carried on towards Port Nis, where there is a pretty little harbour and beach. I sat on the sea wall and made my lunch and relaxed a while watching the ocean. There's always something special about sitting near the sea. Brings life back to you.
After lunch, I headed up towards Eoropie and the Butt of Lewis. At Eoropie is a very interesting church - the church of St Moluag. It was interesting for many reasons, but in particular I liked the little side building. The church was always associated with strong healing properties and this small building was rumoured to have been built to enable lepers to watch services through a small viewing window. The main church was locked, but I was able to go in the lepers chapel. Very pretty little church indeed.
I then carried on to the Butt Of Lewis. I guess for many people, this is the end of their trip (if they are sensible and ride the islands south to north), but, to me, it felt almost like the beginning of the trip even though I was a couple of days into the trip already. I LOVED this part of the coast. The rock there is some of the oldest on earth (the Lewis Gneiss is around 3000 million years old) and the landsacpe is very brutal with incredible distortion of the rock. Even on this calmish day, one could see the power of the sea - it must be awe-inspiring here on a stormy day. Truly an exciting bit of the coast. I really enjoyed it here and thoroughly recommend it as a place to visit.
Sadly, I had to leave this amazing place and returned down the road towards Shawbost. This section did prove quite tough with headwinds and worried me for the rest of the trip!
On the way to the campsite, I first stopped at Arnol where there is a very interesting blackhouse museum. Blackhouses are a typical Hebridean home with thick stone walls and a thatched roof. They had no chimneys and were known as blackhouses due to their colour from the peat smoke. Sadly (it being Sunday), the museum was closed, so I wasn't able to visit. But interesting non-the-less.
I stopped by Bragar where there is an enourmous whalebone arch outside a house. This came from a blue whale that washed up on a nearby beach and the bones were recovered by a local school teacher. It really is a humbling experience to see just how big this creature must have been. Quite amazing!
I arrived at the campsite and had a chat with the owner - it's a nice campsite again with good facilities. The weather was still pretty sunny and I sat on the grass for a while. I ate some food and then decided to head down towards the beach for a walk. Sadly, it did start raining heavily whilst I was out - but it did not stop me seeing a lovely beach and then (once the sun came out again) a double rainbow (and you don't see those every day!). Back to the tent and then to bed after a great day.
Read about day 4 here!