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Day 10 – Last day on Orkney

Today was a long day since we had to hang around until 11.30pm to catch the ferry to Lerwick.   It was very windy when we got up but not raining although it had rained during the night.  I decided to risk taking the same walk as the day before but the sunrise was not quite as good.   Even so, I hope I got some good pictures on the good camera.

After a large breakfast, we set off to visit Stromness, stopping in Kirkwall to do some shopping so that was out of the way.   Stromness is a pretty town with a paved main street that ought to be pedestrianised but we managed to drive down it with care because I didn’t know what I was doing.   It would have been much better to avoid it completely.   There are lots of little alleys and lanes going down towards the harbour which was also interesting.

Once we had walked the length of Stromness, I decided to walk towards the point because I thought there was a good walk that way.  It turned out that the path went alongside Stromness golf course.   And it was windy – definitely a links course with not a tree in sight and blowing a gale.   There were lots of golfers out and even Dexter had a good look at one of the tees.

We continued out to see some battery placements that had been built in First World War.   We continued on and eventually came back into Stromness.  

We had time to explore some more so I decided to drive around the northern route of the Mainland to the Broch of Gurness.   This is an Iron Age settlement that has been brilliant excavated and shows how the tower was an exhibition of power and this tower was particularly large for the time.  It was interesting to look around and I could take Dexter around as well which is always good.

I was going to have tea in a local tea room but the building has collapsed so it is closed indefinitely.   I couldn’t find anywhere else open so I ended up having a cup of coffee at the back of the car and then fed Dexter.  To kill more time, we had another walk around Kirkwall and then sat in the car for a while.  

I then tried to find somewhere to eat where I could take the dog.  I ended up in the front bar of a hotel where I could sit and have a meal and Dexter could sit with me.   It was filled with soccer supporters who had been watching the Rangers/Celtic game and were rather the worse for wear.  It did remind me of the traditional Scottish pubs with no women in the public bar – I was the only one!   At least it wasn’t smoky and the food was good.    After spending as much time as felt comfortable, we went back to the car to wait for the ferry. 

When we got on the ferry, Dexter had to go into a kennel.   He was the only dog in the kennels and so it was a bit lonely down on the car deck.   I went to my cabin and tried to get some rest – I can’t say I slept much but I was happier horizontal than upright.   Once we got off the ferry, I drove to the rented house for a rest.



Day 9 – Exploring Orkney

The day started with a typical Dexter adventure.   I had been aware of Dexter moving around during the night and then about 4.45 am he started squaking and I couldn’t work out where he was.   He was under the bed and could not get out!   He must have slid under the bed on his side as he shuffled around and then tried to get up but couldn’t.    Having woken me up, I then had to lift the bed to get him out.   The first attempt didn’t work because he did not move but the second time I lifted the bed, he crawled out and managed to get out before I dropped the bed on his back.   I took a photo afterwards so you can see Dexter in relation to the bed.


Tonight I will move his bed well away from mine in the hope that it keeps him safe.   I don’t want to be woken up at that time again.

It was a beautiful morning with a fantastic sunrise but I didn’t take my big camera with me and the phone doesn’t really do it justice.  We went for a walk around the point at St Mary’s and we were doing fine until we saw the cows in the field above us and they saw us.   They chased us on their side of the fence and then I realised that we had to cross a style right beside the fence with interested cows standing looking over.  

I persuaded Dexter to go over the fence but while I was crossing, he decided that he would run towards the cows and bark at them.   I got him back under control just before the cows charged through the fence.   The next challenge was when he saw a rabbit running towards a cliff and wanted to follow them.   Keeping him away from the edge and then under control through a field of sheep meant that by the time I got back to the B&B, I was pretty frazzled and this was all before breakfast!

After an excellent breakfast, we set out to follow the Craft Trail starting with a tapestry artist on South Ronaldsay.   Her work is amazing but not photos allowed.   On the way to our next stop, I stopped at a beach so that Dexter could have a run. …. and run he did!   He ran into the surf and then came back, he did that a second time but the third time he ran to the end of the beach, up the grass and then towards the road.   He eventually came back and fortunately, the road had very little traffic but needless to say, Dexter didn’t get another run on the beach today.

The next stop was a knitwear shop with a gallery upstairs.   There was an exhibition of felted hangings but again – no photos.  Third stop was a jeweller who lives near a farm in the middle of nowhere.  Celina Rupp was a delight and she has been making jewellery for 10 years.   She was happy for me to take a photo of her workshop.  She makes all her jewellery and sells it in some stores, by mail order and from her workshop.

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I visited another jeweller who happens to design jewellery made by quite a large group of jewellers.  I didn’t get to talk to anyone because they seemed to be too busy chatting to a local who was visiting so after a look around the gallery, I left.    It didn’t make me want to part with any money even though I liked her jewellery.

Having made Dexter sit in the car for a while, we went to the Ring of Brodgar so that he could have a walk.   “The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring and a later expression of the spirit which gave rise to Maeshowe, Stenness and Skara Brae.”

We had a walk along the loch that was nearby as well as around the stones and having had some exercise, I went to visit a woodworker and then another jeweller.    I drove back to Kirkwall to visit a maker of Orkney chairs.   The workshop was open but there was no-one there.   Orkney chairs are made with straw backs laced together with twine.   The seats are wooden and some had a drawer underneath the seat.   Other than that, no information so off for another walk.

This walk was not so successful because the instructions were not great and I cut the walk short.  It probably wasn’t a bad thing because the wind had come up and just as we got back to the car it started raining.  Walking in that would not have been fun.

Tomorrow the plan is to go to Stromness to have a look around and then there is a lot of hanging around waiting for the ferry at 11.00pm.   I just hope I find a bar that will let Dexter in so we can waste time there.

Day 8 – Travelling to Orkney

This was a transition day of driving to the ferry at Gill’s Bay near John O’Groats to get to Orkney.   When we got up it was dry, having rained heavily during the night so Dexter and I were able to walk from the B&B to Castle Varroch.    This is the view from the Castle.


I went in for breakfast and by the time I came out, it was raining.   It rained for the 70 miles to John O’Groats so I didn’t bother to take any photos.  When I got to John O’Groats, having checked where we were to get the ferry, it was raining lightly so I had a quick look around and visited the Visitor Information shop to see where we could go for a walk.   It had stopped raining so Dexter and I took a walk to the shore.

It proved to be an ‘exciting’ walk.   Dexter clearly loves the sea, probably because I let him off the lead so he can run into the surf but I had a bit more of a surprise today.   Dexter had been happily running into the sea and then coming back but then he saw some birds.   He chased the birds into the sea and out of his depth so he was swimming and then he saw something else further out to sea.  I don’t know if it was a buoy or a dolphin or whale which frequent the area but he was busy swimming out into the Atlantic!   I called him back and resorted to the dog whistle.   After a few blows of the whistle, he stopped swimming and then I was able to get his attention because he seemed disoriented.   By this time he was at least 100 metres away from the shore and too far out for me to get him.   Fortunately, he then decided to swim back and I managed to get  a photo when he was nearly back to shore.    Dexter is the black dot at the top of the photo.   20170921_110954


I thought this may have frightened it but he was happy to run into the surf a couple of minutes later so I ended up putting him on the lead and taking him up to a path that was away from the sea.   It took several more minutes before my heart rate came back to normal.  We got back to the car just as it started raining again.   The left hand photo is a sculptural installation and a view over the bay at John O’Groats

After that excitement, the ferry ride was uneventful although on this ferry Dexter had to stay in the car which he did not enjoy.   It rained while we waited and also throughout the ferry crossing and once we got to Orkney, I went to the B& B to check in.   Having found where we were staying, I drove into Kirkwall to get some information from Visitor Information and also to pick up some shopping.    Kirkwall had a cruise ship visiting and there were lots and lots of Chinese visitors as well as some Americans.   Several people wanted to take photos of Dexter.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore Orkney following the Craft Trail in between giving Dexter lots of walks.

Day 7 – Stornaway to Tongue

We were up very early this morning to have a short walk, breakfast and out of the accommodation by 5.30 am to get to Stornaway for the ferry to Ullapool.  Apart from the early start, it all worked and we were on the ferry and settled in for our crossing to Ullapool.   Fortunately for us, the weather was not as bad as forecast and the crossing was pretty smooth.  I had given Dexter a sea sickness tablet that just made him a little dopey but that worked fine.

When we got to Ullapool, I parked the car and we had a walk around Ullapool which took all of half an hour.   We then set off on our way to Tongue on the northern coast of Scotland.   It was just over 100 miles and unfortunately a large proportion of this was on single track road with passing places.    It makes for very tiring driving because you are always looking to see if you need to stop for traffic coming the other way and this is the main A road in the north of Scotland.

On the way, we stopped at Ardvrack castle for a walk and then at a sandy beach at lunch time.   Dexter had great fun at the beach where he played with a puppy as well as chasing the waves.


By the time we got to the accommodation at Tongue, I was pretty tired.   Here we have been given the caravan which means a room for me, a living room for Dexter, TV and internet access!

Tomorrow we are off to catch a ferry to Orkney.

Day 6 – Last day in Stornaway

The weather is still dry which is amazing and it was another bright morning.   I decided to take Dexter on a different walk this morning so we walked through the village and then found a track which was not so much walking on the road.   We followed the track and then thought I thought I would see what the view was over the ridge to our right.   We went through a gate and walked through the peat bog and when we got to the ‘ridge’ there was a loch the other side so Dexter had his morning swim after all.   We walked back to the chalet for breakfast.


Today we went off to a reconstructed village, the Blackhouse Village at Garrenin.   On the way, we passed the Carloway mill that had a shop so I called in.   The shop was not open until 11.00 but there was someone having a coffee outside who said they did tours of the mill and I could go into the office and ask.  Unfortunately, they were fully booked for tours today but they said I could buy some yarn at £9.00 per kg.   I was taken into the warehouse and told to pick whatever I wanted and then they would weigh it.   Silly request so I ended up buying more than I meant to but it turned out to be to keep me busy weaving this winter!

At the Blackhouse village, Dexter and I had a walk before going into the two cottages that are open.  Dexter was able to come with me around the village which made life much easier than having to leave him in the car.   The first house is set up as a museum with furniture and fittings from the early 20th Century.   There has been a village there for 2,000 years and the village was finally abandoned in 1974.   Since then, the village has been reconstructed to show what the houses were like.   Some are used as a youth hostel and others can be visited.   As well as the living room and bedroom in the museum house, the third room has a Hattersley loom and a resident weaver.   I had a great chat with him.   He weaves for the Carloway mill who supply the yarn and the pattern that they want him to weave.   There was one sample he had that was a herringbone pattern on one side and a plaited twill on the reverse.   I asked him how it was done and he said that the boards (ie shafts) were lifted to make the herringbone pattern and the ‘tappets’ were set up to weave the plaited twill.   He showed me a diagram of how the tappets were set up but I didn’t really understand it so I need to investigate.    He was also weaving a pattern with two colours so he had a chain that managed the fly shuttle holder which allows 6 shuttles of different colours and manages which shuttle is thrown for each pick.    Again, I took photos on my camera, not phone so I will have to post them later.

After leaving the village, I took a single track road back to Stornaway.   It was the most direct route across peat moorland and I met one other car in 14 miles.   There were no houses or any other dwellings across the whole route so it is obviously pretty uninhabitable.   When I reached Stornaway, I visited a couple of shops and then went to find another weaver.   Unfortunately he wasn’t in and he said he would phone me tonight but since I have no mobile coverage at the chalet, that won’t work.  

I took Dexter for the same walk we did on Sunday around Castle Lews which Dexter enjoyed including a detour into the local river.   At the end of the walk, we were able to stop and have a coffee at the café.   


After that, it was time to go back to the chalet to pack up to leave.   Tomorrow we have a ferry at 7.00 am to go to Ullapool and then on to the north of Scotland.  Unfortunately, it looks as if it is going to be a wet journey so I may take the fast route via Lairg rather than going around the coast.

Day 5 – Looking for a Tweed weaver

Up early again this morning although Dexter was very good until 6.30 am.   The weather was glorious, clear skies and even a slight frost so, after breakfast we went for a walk near the loch.   I forgot to take my phone or camera so no photos but the morning was clear and just wonderful.   I decided to explore a little further and ended up having ‘an adventure’.    We followed the fence from the loch along the hillside, trying not to fall down the dips that happened between the clumps of grass.   The underlying land is peat bog with clumps of grass and small shrubs but sometimes your foot keeps going down further than you think.  It makes for interesting walking and you have to make sure each foot is ok and on firm ground before taking the next.   At the end of the fence, I decided to turn right because this led towards the road and, at this point, I was quite warm and removed hat, gloves and unwrapped my scarf.    What I didn’t realise was that in removing the scarf, I had knocked the lead from my neck,  although I didn’t realise this until later.   We walked on down the hill and found a gate to get out.   What I didn’t realise was that, with all the grass growth, the gate wouldn’t open so I lift Dexter’s legs onto the gate and then lifted him over the fence.   So far, so good. 

On the other side of the gate, the slope was quite steep so we went slowly down the slope ski style ie we went across, turned and started back but then I realised that the slope got even steeper ie a cliff!   I retreated back up the slope and then decided that I could follow the fence to the point where the slope met the road but we had a few bushes to negotiate.  At this point, I was trying to stop Dexter jumping off the cliff edge and follow me along the fence – not easy.   Got to the end and reached down for the short lead – it wasn’t there!    I tied Dexter to a gate beside the road and then went back through the bushes and retraced my steps to see if I had lost the lead in the section after the gate.  No luck.   I went back and Dexter and I walked home.

After breakfast we set off for our day’s adventures starting at the Callanish Stones.  These are ancient stones, about the same age as Stonehenge – possibily earlier and there are three areas of stones.   We visited the main site and then walked on to the second and then third site before walking back.   Since the weather was clear and sunny, Dexter enjoyed his walk although we did have to negotiate the cows before going to the second site.


Having visited the stones, I went in to the visitor centre where I had to help the sales person to work out which colour some tee shirts were – clearly colour blind but didn’t want to admit it.  He was trying to serve someone on the phone but struggling with the colours!   We drove on from there towards my primary goal, a Harris Tweed weaver.     On the way, there was a signpost to a gallery so I turned off to see that.  The person who owned the gallery is a painter but it turns out that she also does some spinning and has done a little weaving so we had a long chat about spinning.   She tried to give me some yarn but I resisted!   She is a much better artist than spinner!

I drove on but when I reached the village where the weaver lives, I saw that there were lots of cars and activity at the local church.  It looked to me as if there was a funeral going on.   When I reached the weaver’s workshop there was a note saying they would be back later so I  to drive on towards Port Ness.   This is the most northern point on Lewis.

A short while later, there was a sign to the Hebridean Soap Company so I went for a visit.  It is owned by a lovely lady who was an IBM systems analyst before giving it up in 2000 to live in the Hebrides!  They make 15,000 bars of soap a year as well as other products and local people help her with packaging but essentially she does most of the work.   As she said, there isn’t much call for systems analysts in Lewis.

I drove on towards Ness thinking I might find a café for lunch.   No such luck!   The two cafes I saw were closed so I carried on, ending up at the beach at the Port of Ness.    Dexter had a great time and a good run.   He particularly liked chasing the surf!


I saw a notice for a Tweed weaver who was supposed to be open but there was clearly no-one there when I went into the house.   So, I wasn’t having much luck – nowhere to find food and no weavers!

I decided to go back to see if I could find the weaver at Carloway.    This time, he was there and he was busy talking to another group so I talked to his wife.   There had been a funeral this morning.  The person had died unexpectedly last Friday and was buried on Monday.  

I was allowed to take photos and I have just realised they are all on my camera not my phone so I’ll have to post them later.   The yarn which is Hebridean wool comes from two local mills – in Carloway or Shawbost and this weaver, who is independent, weaves and sells his own fabric not through one of the big mills.   He warps on a huge warping board – 60 metres at a time and then he sets up his loom.   He has two Hattersley looms that he weaves on.   The Hattersley looms were invented in Keighley in the 1920’s – not sure how old his looms are.  They are 4 shaft looms with a pedal drive of the fly shuttles so it is semi-automatic.   Essentially, they weave 2:2 twills although they may be threaded at herringbone.   The yarn is sett at 20 ends per inch and he weaves about 18 picks per inch  When he presses the right pedal, the fly shuttle is sent from the right and when he presses the left pedal, the fly shuttle is sent from the left.   Norman can weave about 3 metres an hour if he is working undisturbed and one bobbin of yarn weaves about 4 inches.   He has a great bobbin winding machine where he can wind 200 bobbins an hour!   Once he has woven 60 metres, he folds the finished fabric and sends it to one of the mills for finishing and inspection by the Harris Tweed authority to confirm it is genuine Harris Tweed.   He then gets the fabric back to sell.   He makes a few scarves and throws but essentially he sells fabric by the metre and at a price of £20 per metre, this looks like good value.   I saw it selling in Tarbert at £30 per metre.  

After this visit, I decided that I had done enough sight seeing and it was time to go home, particularly since I had missed lunch!   We got home and had a rest before going for another walk to retrace our steps from this morning to see if I could find the lead I had lost.   I was relying on Dexter to some extent to find it.   After walking to where I thought is might be, I noticed Dexter rolling in the grass and there it was, the lost lead so mission accomplished!    We retraced our steps to avoid the adventures of the morning and then got on with chores in the chalet.


Day 4 – Exploring Stornaway

Woke up this morning after a great nights sleep to a bright morning.   After breakfast, Dexter and I went for a walk down to the loch and Dexter went in for a swim just to check it out.   We walked along the loch but it looked as if we could not walk all the way around so we walked up the hill and through a neighbouring field before walking along the road for a while.   Here, the orange crocosmia that I have in my garden grows like weeds.  They are everywhere including along the verges on the road and the hardy fuschia bushes are huge.   They are more like trees.  It is amazing.


Since it was a nice morning and dry, I decided that we would go into Stornaway and walk around Lews Castle.   Since it is Sunday, Stornaway was shut but we had a quick look around the town centre to see what shops were there.   The grounds are extensive and obviously a very popular dog walking area since we met a lot of dogs on the way.   We walked for two hours and then made our way back to the car. 


I thought I would check out what time I needed to be at the ferry on Wednesday morning.   It turns out we need to be there very early!   The ferry leaves at 7.00am and we have to be there an hour before.   While I was checking this out, a driver waiting for the next ferry asked me if Dexter was a flat coat so we had a chat about the difficulty of training flat coats.  He has working Labradors but knows someone with a flat coat that won’t do a recall!   We then met a lovely German couple who had a 16 month old flat coat so Dexter and he played together for a few minutes.   They were travelling with a group of 10 dogs who all belong to the same dog club.   They are all in motor homes and have driven from Germany up to Lewis and were on their way to Edinburgh and then back home. 

I had an idea for another walk on a peninsula called the Eye to the northeast of Stornaway.   Unfortunately, I could not find the starting point for the walk so instead we drove to the end of the peninsula to Tiumpan Head lighthouse.   The lighthouse is now automated and there appears to be a kennels using the buildings but the views were spectacular.    We walked to the top of the hill behind the lighthouse avoiding the steep cliffs and then made our way back to the car over a peat bog.   I was very surprised to see lichen growing in the grass and other bushes.   I always thought lichen grew only on trees but it was everywhere.   There were clearly ditches where some peat digging had taken place but given the limited nature, it was possibly for personal use only.


To get back to Leurbost we took the scenic route over moorland with one building every mile or so, some of them clearly derelict.   The road was single track with passing places although all we passed were cyclists.

Back to the chalet for a rest and relaxation for the rest of the day having been out and about for 6 hours.