May 10th, 2002


Back from the sea and sun (late post)

Last weekend's trip to Lewis/Harris went well. We managed to arrive at Ullapool, where you get the expensive ferry from, at about 10:30 pm, as it was just getting dark. Ullapool is surprisingly attractive as it is in fact built facing its sea loch, and not with its back to the sea as some other seaside towns seem to be. There is a good bar/food place called the Ceildih Place or something like that. Lots of tourists of the friendly climb-hills/make-music type, none of the buy-knitwear/play-golf type.

We got the expensive ferry to Stornoway the next morning. Stornoway itself looks like a mess from an aesthetic and planning point of view. It didn't take us long on the island to discover that:

  • Everyone under 20 is deeply frustrated at being there, so they get very drunk on Saturdays and have mini car races on Sunday (as everything is closed).
  • Everyone in the 20-50 age group just doesn't live there any more, unless they're artists recently moved in from England.
  • Everyone over 50 is deeply religious, as in going to church twice on Sunday in stiff black suits and hats
We met a Manx journalist (more like a tourist with a good notebook and a good camera) who commented sourly that "the locals are practicing Calvinist Protestant, great combination". It certainly felt strange to be surrounded by Christians for whom religion is strong. Apparently, the history of the islands was similarly uninspiring On a brighter note, most people from the island can speak Gaelic and often do so with each other. They don't just write Gaelic road signs as a tourist attraction, as we at first thought.

Although we didn't blend into the culture that well, the landscape was breathtaking. There was bright sunlight for something like 18 hours a day, which everyone said was very atypical but we didn't complain. The islands are mostly flat, but have bright open skies and giant beaches of clean white sand and (at least visually) sparkling clear water. The beaches were even warm enough to take our clothes off, although I wouldn't try to get into the water.

We didn't get cut off by the tide, thanks to our clear understanding of the lunar cycle. We did get sunburnt (stupid Greeks, not familiar with the strength of the sun, yada, yada...) and, Sibelian, there is more than one tree on the island. We had a really good time, overall, and I recommend going to a bright and sunny place like northenr Scotland to lie on the beach.


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