Week 18: A trip to Stornoway (The Isle of Lewis and Harris)

The week started out the same as usual but I knew I only had three days of office work this week because we were heading out bright and early Thursday morning to take a new car to the sisters in Stornoway.

Tuesday was a great day!!  I got a package from home!!  It came from the cutest 6/7 year-old primary class ever.  They drew pictures of themselves as missionaries and sent them to me.  Their teachers – Sister Maybe and Sister Barrett included a few treats and a cute notebook and pen.  I love notebooks.  I never have enough.  So that was so perfect.  

Wednesday I took Elder Arenas and Elder Price to the doctor again.

His hand is looking almost like new.  Just a few issues with one finger for the most part. He was happy to pose for a picture.  He was so happy to have the brace that usually covers his whole hand now only over one finger.


So Thursday we made a full day of driving to Ullapool to catch the ferry.  We actually stayed overnight in a town called Dingwall which was about 40 minutes below Ullapool.  First stop on Thursday was Glamis Castle.  What a great way to start the day.  We were there in time to be the first tour of the day and there were not a lot of people around yet.  Glamis Castle is just above Dundee.

Glamis Castle is over 600 years old. It was the childhood home of the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and current home to the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.  It was also used as the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The castle was built in the 1300’s and has always been owned by the Lyon family.  In 1900, Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was born in the castle.  She spent most of her childhood in the castle.  During the First World War the castle was used as a military hospital. On 26 April 1923 Elizabeth married Prince Albert, Duke of York, second son of King George V and Queen Mary, at Westminster Abbey. Their second daughter, Princess Margaret, was born at the castle in 1930.  Their first daughter is of course Queen Elizabeth II.

Just to keep all this royalty straight in case your knowledge is at the same level as mine – Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions from the time her husband ascended from the throne in 1936 until his death in 1952.  After his death she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to avoid confusion with her daughter who became the Queen and is currently the queen.  The Queen Mother was also the last Empress of India.  She lived to the age of 101 continuing to be an active public figure until just a few months before she died.

Glamis Castle
Balmoral Castle

Next stop was another castle – Balmoral Castle.  This castle is up in Cairngorms National Park and I thought this was going to be my favorite castle of the day but it wasn’t, Glamis was.  Balmoral is the Scottish holiday home for the royal family.  They use the castle during the months of August, September and October so we were there on the second to the last day that it was open.  Prince Albert purchased Balmoral in 1848 for his wife Queen Victoria.  They had been on a trip to the Highlands of Scotland a few years ago and loved it so much they wanted a place of their own.  The original building has been torn down and this is the castle he built in its place.

After Balmoral we headed to a small town that was close by that was supposed to have a great little place to eat in an old train station.  We drove all around the town a couple times and couldn’t find it.  We finally parked and went into another restaurant and actually asked about The Station.  Apparently it burned down a year ago.  We were working with old information apparently.  So we stopped in at a little cafe and had a sandwich which was just fine.

We had one more castle we were hoping to see this day.  Cawdor Castle is just west of Inverness and we have read several places where this is a great castle.  We thought we were going to fit all this in on one day but castles close at 5:00PM and we didn’t get to Cawdor until 5:30 so no luck.  We couldn’t even see it because it is down a long road which was already gated closed.  A lot of the castles are that way.  They are down long roads that are gated at the top.  So Cawdor Castle will have to wait until another time when we are in the mood to drive that far.

From there we headed up to Dingwall and found our hotel.  By the time we got there the entire town was shut down but we walked up and down the main street and enjoyed stretching a bit before heading to bed.  Bed was a very uncomfortable night.  This was literally the only place we could find two weeks in advance to sleep and it was not somewhere I would want to go back to.  The beds were very uncomfortable.  I didn’t sleep much.  But breakfast was great the next morning and then we were off to find the ferry.

The ferry ride from Ullapool to Stornoway is about 2 1/2 hours.  Not too bad.  We

had the best seats.  Not sure how we lucked out but we were in the very tip front of the boat and on the front row of very nice padded seats looking right out the window at where we were going.  It was raining a bit but it was really pretty to watch.  I felt like I was on the bridge of a Star Trek Craft. Of course because I was so comfortable I slept most the way!!

We arrived on the Isle of Lewis (Stornoway is the town) and the sister missionaries and Elder and Sister Marker were standing out in the pouring rain waiting for us to drive off the ferry.  They were right on the corner across from where we come out waving wildly.  The church was literally less than a block down from the ferry exit and they had us go there to park.  They took us to lunch after that and t

hen we did our shopping.  Being on the Isle of Lewis and “Harris” I really wanted to find a Harris Tweed bag to keep my scriptures in.  I had told the Markers this before we came so they were ready with the best stores to go check out for my Harris Tweed bag.  Then we walked over to their flat, stopping to take a picture with this cute Viking.  So let me explain a bit better about the area.  The western isles of Scotland are grouped together and called the Outer Hebrides.  (heh – bre – dees)  There are about 8,000 people in and around Stornoway and about half of them speak Gaelic. (Gah – lick)  So all the signs in town are in Gaelic.  The Vikings settled Stornoway in the 9th century.  They called it Steering Bay but over time the words with the Gaelic influence became Stornoway.My favorite part of this day was after dinner we went to the senior citizen center for music night.  This is a Friday night activity on the Isle and people show up to play their instruments and sing.  The missionaries take part every week with one or two songs.  We sang Love One Another while Sister Hebert did sign-language to the words.  Elder Marker who is a senior missionary with his wife in Stornoway plays the piano very well and sits in on all the pieces when they are jamming away.

Everyone is welcome and it was the highlight of the day for me.  This older lady kept looking at me and when I walked by her she stopped me and said I know you from somewhere.  I just smiled and said yes, from heaven.  She thought that was the funniest thing.  She laughed and laughed.

Saturday the Marker’s took us to see the Isle.  First stop, Donald Trump’s mother’s house where she was born and raised.  Then we headed out to a bridge called the Bridge to Nowhere or Garry’s Bridge.  Apparently Garry wanted to finish the loop that goes around the Isle so he built a nice big bridge to get over the loch but then never finished the road.  If you look at a map of Stornoway you will see how the road only goes around the one side of the Isle on the coast.  This bridge was the start to finish the loop.  Never happened.  But I took this really pretty picture just off the bridge.  This is not doctored up at all.  This is exactly how it looked.I thought it was so beautiful.  You can see the heather just starting to come out in it’s purple color and the blue stream heading out to the loch.

From here we drove out to the Callanish Standing Stones.  Archeologists believe that in 3000BC a structure was built at this site and the stones were placed in a circle around the structure.  It is thought that the stones are an astronomical marking of the moon and acted as a calendar.  The area was abandoned in the year 800 AD or somewhere there abouts.  The story of the stones is lost as well but that doesn’t keep scientists from trying out new ideas.  Pixar actually came to Stornoway when they were researching for the movie Brave.  The Callanish Stones are used in that movie.

Next stop was Dun Carloway which is one of the best preserved broch towers in Scotland. It was probably built somewhere during 100 BC to 100 AD.  A family could have lived here along with their animals inside the broch.  Over the years it has been used as a place of defense and a hideout for cattle rustlers as well.

  A little farther down the road from here were the Black Houses.  These were actually inhabited up until the 70’s.  The reason they are called Black Houses is they didn’t have chimney’s.  (They do now as you can see from the pictures).  The people would burn their peat in the houses and there was no place for ventilation so they would turn black. We didn’t take the time

to go into them but they were really neat looking from the outside. The outside walls were doubled with mud packed between them to help with insulation.

So now I feel I need to talk about peat.  The ground around the Isle of Lewis is spongy and thick.  It is called “peat” and it is made from partially decomposed vegetation, mostly sphagnum moss. The land is so waterlogged that it creates this peat and many people for lack of other types of fuel use it for heat. It is thought that the peat moors of Lewis began to form around 7,000 years ago. The peat is very deep and people dig it and cut it with their spades to form a type of brick shape and then lay them in piles to dry.  We drove in a few areas where we could smell the fires built with peat.  It reminded me a bit of how fireworks smell. Not unpleasant but kind of different when you think of a fire burning.  Here is a picture of a pile of peat that we saw in someone’s yard.  

One of the highlights today was an unplanned stop.  The Marker’s like to set a daily goal of visiting with three people each day, not including lunch time at certain places or other things they would normally do.  We stopped at a couple houses and no one was home and then we headed to the Blue Pig where a member lives and has a shop in her home where she sells her art and other crafts.  I bought a pair of fingerless gloves that were made by her friend. We sat around her shop and had tea with her.  I don’t like tea so I just nibbled on some fudge.  Her sister showed up with her family and we enjoyed getting to know some people from the area. Then we headed off to find another man who is a wood-worker and makes very unusual things out of wood.  But on the way to his place I glanced over at a house and saw a sign that said loom demonstrations.  I asked if we could stop.  The Marker’s had never been there before but we met a man and asked about the loom.  Tweed is a big deal over here and there are not a lot of working looms anymore among the towns people.  He invited us into his garage where he showed up the big wooden loom where he starts his projects.He was so nice and answered all our questions.  He taught us what he does with this loom and the bobbins of yarn. But now that I’m trying to explain it I guess I really don’t understand what it is he does here with this loom.  This doesn’t make the final project.  We were really interested in what he does and asked questions and thanked him up and down so he asked if we wanted to see some of his weaves.  He is retired, having worked with Harris Tweed (I think) and now just does it for fun and occasionally sells stuff to the factories.  He took us to his trailer and it was full of bolts of tweed.  They were all his own design.  There were a few I really loved and I wish I had thought to ask him if he would sell me some to make a skirt.  Next time…  He then asked if we wanted to see the loom.  Yes, of course we did.  He was working on a tweed for his nephew to make drapes for their living room.He demonstrated exactly how this works.  It was so interesting.  First he individually has to tie the fibers onto the loom (vertical fibers).  There are over 600 of them.  Then he pedals his loom with his feet and a shuttle slides across the fibers creating the horizontal fibers.  He has calculated before hand when the color has to change using little metal plates with holes in them that move along turning the holder of the shuttles of colored fibers so the right color flies across the loom.  It was really fun to watch.

All day I had my eyes open watching for a Highland cow (coo) but we only saw one from a distance.  I am going to get up close to one before I leave.  But we did see a pretty neat lamb.

Last stop was the Marker’s favorite spot.  It was beautiful.  The Atlantic Ocean with a beautiful beach.  This particular spot is called Loch Dalbeg.
Saturday night was ladies night out for the ward so we went along to dinner at a nice restaurant.  They served Italian and Indian.  That’s pretty normal to find very different types of food at one place I’m finding.  I was happy.  I had my usual Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Sister Hebert and Sister Fisher

The Sister Missionaries here are Sister Fisher from Roy, Utah and Sister Hebert from Brigham City.  The Marker’s are from Ogden so they all are from the same neck of the woods.  These girls got a baptism not too long ago.  The first in Stornoway in over three years.  They now have a man and wife coming to church as investigators.  I met them both having dinner with her at ladies night as well.  They are very interested in the church and enjoyed the services on Sunday.  They even stayed after with us for dinner at the church before we headed over to catch the ferry home.

We had such a great time in Stornoway.  We talked in church on Sunday and after a lunch at the church drove across the street and boarded the ferry.  Can’t get any simpler than that.

Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness.

On the drive home we drove over to Loch Ness.  What a great little town by the lake.  Too bad it was Sunday.  I would have loved to explore the shops and stop to eat at one of the outdoor seating restaurants.  Nessie Town is the cute place we drove through.  I’ll have to remember that.  They have boat tours to go out and find Nessie as well.  But we did drive over to the castle on Loch Ness to take a picture.

Well I hope this was enough information for you.  I could go on but I won’t.  Tomorrow is zone conference so I have a few things I need to do so I better get to bed.

I love you.

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