f0ba2bfd8f936a77d3b146acfe9443c7_LNotes from the Outer Hebrides

September 2012

At some point earlier this summer I get a call from my mother. She’s been so inspired by our family gathering at The Grey Wethers in Wiltshire, that she has decided to go exploring new landscapes herself. She’s booked herself a ten-day trip to the Outer Hebrides.

A couple of calls later and it’s clear she’d like my company ‘you never know how long I can keep doing this kind of thing, and I need to go while I can’

I think I’ve just been summoned to make a journey to the far flung corner of the British Isles, well why not, I’m still in the 2012 spirit of spontaneous intrepid adventures and book my flights.

Clippings and itineries arrive in the post throughout August and remain unread as I finish off a few Olympic gigs in London.

So I arrive in Stornaway by air on The Isle of Lewis completely unprepared for a seemingly vast dark landscape and a smattering of bleak pebbledash houses, ruins and random sheep.

Stornaway– the capital of the Outer Hebrides, is a very small town; two hotels, harbour, a co-op and lots of churches.

We pick up maps, walking guides and head out of town. Ah ha..here is a glimpse of things to come, long dramatic beaches and miles of sand and seaweed. We walk into the sunset and I begin to warm to this harsh foreign land.

Saturday morning, we wake to brilliant sunshine and high winds. Driving over a deserted moorland road we head for the small island of Berneraigh connected to the mainland by a causeway of rocks.

Even though these are ‘small’ islands, glorified rocks of land, each one feels so much bigger than it appears on the paper maps. Is this because there is almost no habitation, and what there is, is very dispersed?

However as we arrive at the community hall, there is a rare sense of a community here. A school that’s functioning, a shop and post office and a few locals doing weekly recycling.

We set off on a coastal route around the western side of the island and enjoy a varied route up and down cliffs and finally inland via a small loch down a valley opening out onto a beautiful cove and an excavated iron-age site with a reconstructed house. It’s a clever structure of heavy stone low walls and a large thatched roof weighted down by stones hung off ropes. Aesthetically pleasing.

The afternoon is young and as we are this side of Lewis I cannot resist driving on through a mountain range to Uig Sands. The drive is overpowering with high rock either side until it opens out to reveal huge, white open sands. I leap out of the car into fast and furious wind and run towards the sea lapping up the endless horizon. I come closer to the waters edge and realize that around the corner of rocks jutting out, is yet another vast expanse of sand, and amazing rock formations of gold, salmon pink and black. The extraordinary light makes each colour and every angle glisten and sparkle in the evening sun.

It’s good to go back to the hotel carrying this image in my head, a ray of light that pierces through the gloominess of the darkening moor.

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