HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 3 – Coo’s, Seals and Historic St. Clement’s Church

We left Stornoway on Day 3 of our Compass Buster tour and boarded our Wild and Sexy yellow bus, headed leisurely towards our destination for tonight – Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye! We were excited because this meant more adventures and exploring, of course.

Day 3 started with more epic skyscapes! You could literally be driving anywhere in Scotland and mother nature will treat you to a beautiful landscape.

We actually stopped by the site to take some pictures because of the particular beauty of the clouds and the rays of sun beaming through. It was a somber scene, because of the cemetery, but it was made even more epic because of the clouds above!

After getting back on the bus, Greg told us we’d see a number of different sites that day including a few beaches- which we would be surprised were located in Scotland, and a historic church, before heading to Portree and finishing our night there.

We were literally just back onto the road when Greg SLAMMED the brakes on our yellow bus and we thought perhaps we had hit something!!!

Little did we know we had finally come upon some of Scotland’s most majestic creatures (after the unicorn, of course!): the Hairy Coo! (Or also known as the Highland cow, Heilan’ coo or just… coo)

Just look at the stylish hairstyles these coos’ have! Adorable!

A little backstory on these Highland Cattle:

They seem to have originated in Scotland and are mentioned as far back as the 6th century. They are certainly in no danger of extinction!

“They are a hardy breed due to their native environment, the Highlands of Scotland. This results in long hair, giving the breed its ability to overwinter.”

As you can see below, we were more than a little excited to find some Hairy Coo!

After this, we would constantly be searching for Hairy Coo wherever we went! We fell in love with them!

Sidenote: we even went as far as searching for a hairy coo back at home! And voilà – here we are meeting a new friend at a farm about 20 minutes away from us. A little piece of Scotland in the suburbs of Vancouver!

The landscape and clouds continued to be amazing, matching our shadowy Hairy Coo on the cliffs.

Just look at that light glowing on that small loch. Mesmerizing! Somebody take me back to Scotland right now!

As we drove on, we continued our animal spotting and actually came across some geese…

And then we had to actually stop the bus because we found SEALS! Take a look at all those little heads bobbing in and out of the water greeting us. We took way too many pictures to count, even though we had seen seals on our trip already…

Leaving our new animal friends behind, we made our way to one of our main destinations for the day: St. Clement’s Church on the Isle of Harris.

St. Clement’s Church is very well preserved and built around the 1520’s, named after Pope Clement.

“The church was built using local Lewisian gneiss rock. Its ground plan is cruciform and there is a tower at the west end, accessible through a door at the west end of the nave and a set of stone staircases and wooden ladders.” – Wikipedia

The church was supposedly built for the Chiefs of the MacLeods of Harris, probably around 1520. Above is a photo illustrating the wall tomb that Alasdair Croatach MacLeod built for himself in 1528.

It is rather eerie how the shadow of the body still looks so present in the space!

The art work is exquisite and very well preserved.

The church had many uses throughout the centuries, from supposedly being a monastery to being used as a cow byre.

The 9th chief’s son William built his grave on the south wall of the church, while the 10th chief built a third grave in the south transept.

The graveyard which surrounds the church contains a number of MacLeod tombs.

It was in 1873 that the Countess of Dunmore restored the church and in 1907 the tower was rebuilt after being struck by lightning!

Here’s how it looks today – standing fast in the Scottish landscape.

The church was truly different than what we had seen before. It is currently under the care of Historic Scotland. For more information on visiting St. Clement’s Church, check out their website here.

The Isle of Harris was already proving eventful! The scenery was much, much different than on the Isle of Skye and we also came across some Harris Tweed which we will comment on in a future post!

Next up is some beach combing!

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 2 – Callanish Standing Stones

And we’ve finally reached my favourite part of Day 2 of our Compass Buster Tour: The Callanish Standing Stones <3.

After finishing with Dun Carloway Broch, Greg told us we’d finally be making our way to the standing stones! If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you’ll know that we did come across some standing stones at Blarney Castle in Ireland. Since then, I had been more than a little excited to get to Scotland and see these standing stones up close!

Again, as you may know, we have been searching for Jamie Fraser…yes, yes we tried again here. Obviously and sadly, it didn’t work but it was a lot of fun!

From the moment we stepped out of the bus, I knew this place would be magical! Just look at that view as we approached the site:

It’s not often you get to see a procession of standing stones so greatly preserved!

“The Callanish Stones (“Callanish I”) are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. They were erected in the late Neolithic era.”

They are near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

It was a great feat for the people who lived near the site to be able to build it over 4,000 years ago. The stones were supposedly moved with rollers, wooden frames and brute strength. This cost them a lot of time and effort, to be sure!

It is still a mystery as to why these stones were built. This is obviously not the first and only site to have standing stones. During the Neolithic period, many communities across north-west Europe constructed these monuments!

It is most likely they were built for worship or religious reasons. Another common finding is that they may have been built according to astronomical events such as the midwinter sunrise and sunset.

It’s so exciting to still be able to see these standing stones and to speculate as to what the site was constructed for and what the stones mean!

As noted above, this particular site is built in a cruciform pattern. Inside the circle is a stone burial cairn. Supposedly, the cremated bodies were despoiled with pots and beakers which dates to between 2000 to 1700 BC.

“The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.”

Perhaps, the site being used for ritualistic purposes is the most realistic explanation for the stones after all.

Of course between the two of us, our imaginations got away with us again and took us on a hopeful journey towards finding Jamie Fraser. We tried several stones which we thought might work to transport us back in time, but alas, it didn’t exactly work.

Searching for Jamie was getting tiring! We tried several stones that called to us but no Jamie resulted :(.

That being said, it was amazing to be able to touch these stones, which had been erected by people thousands of years ago and it was even more incredible to be able to stand on the same land they had stood on, but for obviously very different reasons!

It was such a pleasant day out and our Irish Rainbow luck still hadn’t evaporated! We took the opportunity to fool around a bit and take some epic photos for our collection :).

Today, the stones, as with Dun Carloway Broch, are managed by Historic Scotland.

Perhaps the Historic Scotland website has the best way to explain the stones:

“This is a story with no ending. Against the backdrop of their 5000 years, the stones have witnessed countless changes in the people and the landscape around them. The story tells about developing landscape, the evolving environment, a land of circles, stones, archaeology and conservation along with many other topics.”

The site was so peaceful, with so very few tourists buzzing about, I am very grateful Greg let us stay and absorb the power of the stones for so long! He basically told us to ponder our lives within these surroundings :P.

And ponder we did. I literally sat there in the quiet landscape listening to the wind and looking at the stones and the sky and the surrounding lochs, not wanting to leave!!!

It’s true when they say Scotland is magical. It’s just a feeling you get when you are out and about viewing the natural and ancient landscape!

We unfortunately had to leave our lovely Callanish I stones and move on to the Callanish II and III, which were not quite as extensive as Callanish I, but made supposedly with the same purpose in mind.

Callanish II and III are located not too far away from the main stones site and comprise of similar stone rings. Callanish II, which was dug out of the peat in 1858, is in the shape of an eclipse, while Callanish III consisted of two concentric eclipses.

It was rather difficult to get to the Callanish III site as it was extremely muddy and not as touristy as the main Callanish site. Nevertheless, we were in Scotland! Which meant we must adventure and explore as much as we could! It was still worth it to get pictures like the ones below!

All in all, this was a definite experience. I don’t want to say once in a lifetime, because I know I will go back again! If you travel to the Outer Hebrides and to the Isle of Lewis, you MUST visit the Callanish Stones. Information on visiting this amazing site can be found here.

This is not a site to be excluded from your Scotland trip! And don’t just spend 5 minutes, take a photograph and leave! Make sure to allot enough time for you to take in the standing stones, explore the area and take some time to reflect and think – as was recommended to us! We think it would be an amazing place to experience a sunrise or a sunset – the rays of light dancing between the stones. Or even to spot the Northern Lights here, with the Callanish stones as a backdrop? Amazing! We’ll definitely have to come back for another visit!

This was one of our favourite sites and is likely to be one of yours as well!!!

We end day 2 with a little evening stroll around Stornoway!

Stay tuned for more on that coming soon!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

 

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 1 – Corrieshalloch Gorge and Falls of Measach

After visiting Dunkeld and finally waking up (maybe) with the help of some coffee, Greg told us that our next major stop for the day would be the Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach. After that, we would be heading to the port at Ullapool to take the Ferry to Stornoway, our stop for the night!  Our excitement level was starting to increase!!!

Before we reached our destination, we had another short stop that would definitely give us a taste of what we should be expecting from our tour around Scotland. Greg pulled to the side and we got views of a landscape that was exactly what I had hoped to see!!!

Through a wiki search (always accurate, right?!), google maps and a list of dams in Scotland, we figure this is probably Loch Glascarnoch.

The mix of hills and lochs and Scottish Heather made for a spectacular view!  I think it was at this point that I finally realized we were going to travel around SCOTLAND and see sights like this all over the place – if not even more impressive!

It also happened to be World Ballet Day at the time, so Natalie took the opportunity to do an arabesque with a beautiful Scottish landscape behind her!

It was at this point that we found out that Scottish Heather is specific to this landscape and that it can be used to make rope! That’s how strong it is.

At this point I was a bit reluctant to leave this calming landscape. I literally just wanted to sit there and absorb the scenery <3.

Greg burst my bubble by informing us we had to get a move on for we had more sights to see. This leads us to our next stop: Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach.

We would be walking across a suspension bridge that day to get to the Falls! The bridge was actually:

“Built by John Fowler (1817-98), joint designer of the Forth Railway Bridge.”

The gorge itself is 61 metres deep and is one of the best examples of a boxed canyon in Britain. It is located on the River Droma, south of Ullapool. It’s actually 1.5 km long and there are two walking paths to explore the area. We took the shorter, less strenuous one that would lead to the viewing platform, as we still had a lot of travelling to do.

Luckily for us, the sun decided to stick around and we got great sunny weather to explore in. As we crossed the bridge, boys, of course, would be boys and they shook it. We already knew our trip mates would be a fun crowd! There was even a sign warning of the maximum number of people on the suspension bridge at one time! But we weren’t too worried… (Plus, we had an engineer in the group and he said it would be safe – so we believed him!)

The pictures we got of the Falls of Measach were gorgeous! It was another lovely example of what Scotland had to offer.

On our way back to the bus, we got another look at the River Droma and the gorge. The gorge was actually made at the end of the Ice Age so the rock formations we saw were very interesting and somehow reminded me of the geological formations in Ireland! Dare I say that the colour of the water and the foaming parts that hit the rocks reminded me of GUINNESS!? Because it really did 🙂

This was another beautiful landscape to add to our list that day.

After snapping some epic pictures of water and sky (yet again), we were back on the road.

Our next stop would be something that I hadn’t expected in Ireland and again hadn’t expected in Scotland: A BEACH! More specifically at Ardmair Bay, overlooking Loch Kanaird.

The village of Ardmair is a fishing village in Wester Ross, north of Ullapool. It is small, quaint and just plain beautiful! The houses were all white surfaced and fit perfectly with the bay it is situated on. I was just as shocked at the beauty of this beach and little town as I had been in Ireland when we traveled along the coastline.

The beach is full of perfectly smooth rocks, which are PERFECT for use as skipping stones!

We, of course, had to try our hands at it but we had to be careful because it was low tide and the moss on the stones made it extra slippery to get around, but it was so worth it to get to the water and look out at the landscape <3. It was just amazing. So, if I left part of my soul in Ireland, I was already leaving another part of my soul in Scotland!

Here’s a look at Ben Nor Coigach in the distance.

The sun didn’t fail us that day and came out in another glorious display of sky and water.

After getting our fair share of photographic opportunities, we were back on the road to Ullapool – where we would be catching the Ferry to our final stop of the day: Stornoway. Ullapool is a village in Ross-shire, Scottish Highlands which is nestled on the shores of Lochbroom. We didn’t have much time to explore Ullapool but it is supposedly a ideal place to stay on a trip to Scotland because of its proximity to several other Scottish villages and sites, not to mention Inverness Airport!

If you want more information about Ullapool, you can find it here.

Ullapool would be where we had to grab a quick bite to eat before our 2+ hours Ferry ride to Stornoway. We wandered the streets for a little while, before deciding to eat some fries (chips?! 😉) while getting to know some of our group mates better.

We were treated to another amazing light and water show. I honestly have never seen such beautiful sky scenery as I did in Scotland. Just look at how that ray of Sun comes out of the clouds specifically on that spot on the water -truly magical!

We would be taking the Calmac Ferry to the Isle of Lewis and we only hoped the waters would be calm! The clouds that were rolling in looked a bit threatening but I was really excited to be on the water and experience Scotland in this way. The Calmac Ferry runs both in the summer and the winter out to Stornoway and you can find more specific information on the rates and the schedules here, in case you are planning your trip to the Hebrides!

As we left Ullapool, we made sure to take a seat by the window to snap some more shots of the beautiful scenery before us!

After first exploring the Ferry a little bit, we decided it was time to eat our dinner. The Ferry had a rather good selection of food from their cafeteria! I believe both Natalie and myself got the fish and chips and I finally gave in and wanted to try the Irn Bru that seemed to be a popular drink in Scotland. Greg had talked it up enough on the bus ride that a bunch of us were willing to try it. Apparently Irn Bru is good to cure anything :P. Whether this is a true or false statement, I will leave it up to you to decide once you try it. In my opinion, it is a rather acquired taste!

Before we knew it, our Ferry had docked in Stornoway and we were on the road to our accommodations! Our accommodations for the next two nights, as we explored the Outer Hebrides, would be the Heb Hostel in Stornoway. It was a pleasant little hostel with enough room to house our whole horde of people. There were quite a few of us in one room and there were washroom facilities on each floor but, even so, it took quite the coordination for us all to share, especially with more than 10 girls under one roof!

Once settled into our respective rooms, we decided it was time to shower and make use of the Wi-Fi they have in place in order to tell our families back home what we had seen that day! One thing about the Heb Hostel was that the Wi-Fi worked perfectly in the common room but not so great in the rooms themselves. But it really seemed to depend on the phone you had, as some people could catch the Wi-Fi and other people not so much (I was in the not so much category).

It was already dark outside by the time we had all showered and gathered in the common room. I was so tired out but our group mates were insistent in going out and finding a pub to grab a drink from! Greg informed us of a specific pub that would be hosting a karaoke night that we might enjoy going to. The only store open so late would be Tesco so we wouldn’t get to see much of the city itself at this hour. We decided to go to Tesco first to grab some snacks for the bus ride the following day and told our group mates we would go to the Pub that was recommended after.

Unluckily for us…we didn’t manage to find the pub. We wandered around a rather quiet Stornoway (there was nobody on the street so late) but couldn’t find the pub! We did stumble into an empty pub and got stared down by a bar lady! We did meet a cat along the way which I befriended and hesitantly left behind though. Having been unsuccessful, we decided to go back to the Hostel and turn in early so we would be refreshed for tomorrow.

Overall our first day in the Highlands was amazing! We were even more excited for what was to come the next day. You’ll notice that our days were packed with different stops and adventures and this is because of the number of places there are to be amazed by in Scotland.

Stay tuned for Day 2 where we explored some cliffs, finally saw some standing stones (Outlander shots to come) and found some historic ruins!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!