I am currently working on a cream cotton sweater with square set-in sleeves for Megan. It is one of Debbie Bliss’s collection from her Baby Knits for Beginners book.
I started knitting this sweater when Megan was just a bump but I stopped knitting it as I was knitting too fast and I wanted to have something to do during those quiet times of the day I thought I would have after she was born. Clearly I had no idea how little time I would have to myself whilst looking after a new-born. Anyhow, given that she is already at the size where she would fit into it, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to try to complete it whilst on holiday and I have just finished the first sleeve to go with the front and back pieces that were already complete. I am really pleased with the pattern and think it will be a lovely sweater when it is finished. Unfortunately, however, in my hasty packing I forgot to put in the needles I need for the cuff of the last sleeve and neckband and so have ground to a halt whilst I try to source a pair of needles on the island.
After a restful morning when we caught up with some washing and took a local stroll to try and get some photos of the local wildlife (including a heron that feeds alongside a bridge close to the house that escaped us on this occasion) we set of for todays objective Suainebhal, the view of which has been taunting us since our arrival. This is a 428m peak and is the highest and most accessible for us in this southern part of Lewis.
We started our ascent just north of Cairisiadar where a 1km track led us onto the open moor. From here on, we had to find our own route – something we rarely experience in the more well trodden mountains of Snowdonia and the Lake District.
Off-track the terrain was pretty easy going (although it would be a very different story after a period of wet weather) and we made the summit in good time. Once at the summit we were rewarded with magnificent views of Uig Beach, undoubtedly a destination for later in the holiday, and the temptingly close mountains of North Harris. Megan however, who had been chatting away in Daddy’s ear for most of the journey, had decided to fall asleep about 20 minutes before we reached the summit so she remains blissfully unaware that she had just completed her first (assisted) scottish peak.
The journey down was pretty uneventful apart from a short break to feed Megan when she woke from her nap. She then remained unsettled for a while until we rejoined the track and having checked her temperature and offering her more food which was rejected we put that down to the bumpy ride she was getting as we negotiated the steeper slopes in decent. Something we will have to bear in mind when route finding on future trips.
Our outing today was to the nearby Calanais Stones – a complex arrangement of some 50 stones that are thought to have been positioned here to mark significant points in the lunar cycle.
This appears to be one of the more prominant tourist attractions in the area and as such the stones can be easily reached from the car-park on a well made path which passes a visitor centre where you could find out more about their origin and preservation over the years.
On our way home we encountered some highland cattle on one of the roads in Great Bernera – needless to say they had right of way!!
Lay and I decided to take it in turns to go for a run in-between squally showers this morning. Lay is training for a trail race in October so chose to do a cross country route in a northerly direction from our house in Valasay to the cairn near Tobson, whilst I went south and completed a 5.6 km road route to the Pier at Tacleit in just over 40 mins. Not the best time in the world but a more undulating route than I am used to and with a strong head wind on the return leg. Hopefully I will be able to improve on that time during our stay here.
We had to do a supermarket shop, which involved a 45 minute journey from our house in Valasay to Stornoway where we had a choice of supermarkets (co-op or tesco’s) where we could stock up for the remainder of the holiday. We thought we would take advantage of being in civilisation and look round the shops in town first only to discover that there really aren’t that many shops in Stornoway (or we were looking in the wrong place) so that took us no time at all.
Fortunately, we had gone prepared with a plan B and took Megan swimming instead at the local sports centre, where she amazed Lay with her submersion’s, free swimming under water and plopping into the water whenyou splashed the water in front of her.
With the car loaded with food we then made our way back to Valasay, passing some folk cutting peat along the way.
Weather wise it has been a bit of a mixed bag today with sunshine interspersed with hail and a bitterly cold wind.
Today Megan has learnt to go up on her hands and knees. She actually did it for the first time yesterday but today she seems to have cracked it and can pop up onto into this position with relative ease. She still has to fathom out what to do when she is in this position but I really hope she starts to crawl over the next two weeks as its such an amazing milestone it would be perfect if Lay gets to see it.
Our first proper day of honeymoon and after a much needed good nights sleep we were greeted by glorious sunshine and decided that we should take advantage and go and explore Great Bernera on foot.
Starting from our house in Valasay, we followed the coastal path to the iron age fort at the northern most tip of Great Bernera. Here we rested whilst we gave Megan a feed, before exploring the coastline in this area. We followed the road to complete the 7.5 mile circular route, deciding that given the quietness of the roads this was preferable to re-tracing our steps along the coastal path.
We made a detour towards the end of our route to check out the local shop and were pleased to note that whilst provisions in general were very basic, there was a good selection of red wine behind the counter!!
Setting off after the wedding at 3pm on a Friday we were taking a chance that we could have a difficult journey traffic wise. We had pre-booked the Premier Inn at Glasgow airport that night but were fully prepared to change a plans and stop earlier if the traffic was against us. However, we consider ourselves extremely lucky as after a quick pit stop at the Warwick Services on the M40, we sailed along the M42 and past Birmingham which enabled us to push on to Knutsford Services on the M6 where we fed, washed and changed Megan before continuing our journey. From here on in traffic was quiet and in the absence of any unforeseen circumstances we made it to the Premier Inn just before midnight.
I have to say I like Premier Inns – they are spacious, clean and the travel cot we had pre-ordered had been set up in our room so we were able to transfer Megan to bed without waking her. We then got some sleep, safe in the knowledge that we had broken the back of the journey and we had a much more pleasant drive ahead of us the next day.
After taking advantage of the Premier Inn breakfast, the rest of our journey was pretty uneventful. Our first stop was at Fort William where we went to Morrisons and stocked up on provisions to see us through till Monday (we had been forewarned that the Western Isles close on Sundays). We then continued our journey to the Isle of Skye where we first stopped at Portree to feed Megan and stretch our legs at the harbour there, before heading to the ferry port at Uig where we were able to give Megan lots of attention for being so amazingly good on the journey.
Our crossing from Uig to Tarbert was on the Caledonian MacBrayne passenger ferry ‘MV Hebrides’. We were fortunate that the sea was calm for Megan’s first crossing and we had great fun showing Megan the waves created by the boat from the safety of the mariners cafe.
We then took advantage of the excellent baby change facilities to get Megan washed, changed and ready for bed before heading up to the main lounge to watch the Isle of Harris drawing closer.
The last leg of our long journey was completed in an the evening sun, which made the mountains and lochs look absolutely stunning. Finally, we crossed the bridge that took us onto Great Bernera and wound our way round the single track roads to Valasay. Our property looked fantastic in the evening sun and we were greeted by Anne, the owner of the holiday home and her lovely young border collie Riley, named after the kind of life he has.
We swiftly got Megan’s room set up and her off to sleep, before opening a well earned bottle of bubbly to celebrate the end of a long journey and the start of what we hope will be a fantastic honeymoon.
Well actually it began some time back when we first met at Plas y Brenin, the national mountaineering centre in Snowdonia in 2003, but it is from this point forwards that I have chosen to start recording it.
Our wedding day was just perfect. We kept it low key and informal as it wasn’t the day itself that mattered to us, it was the formalisation of our relationship and more significantly our commitment together as a family unit that was important.
The day started with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast cooked by Lay – my favorite. After breakfast Clare had been appointed to assist with my hair and make-up (much to the horror of my hairdresser when I revealed the fact that she was indeed a primary school teacher and not a hairdresser and that given that she lived in Cumbria and was not arriving till the night before we would not be having a practice run). However, Clare rose to the challenge and on the first attempt managed to have my hair and make-up looking just right. We then got ourselves dressed – I had a lovely brown dress from Phase Eight and Lay had a stone coloured suit from M&S – whilst mum (aka Grannie Annie) washed and dressed Megan into her lovely white and pink dress. We then set off for the register office, leaving Mum, Dad, Clare and Tony to settle Molly and lock-up the house.
The ceremony took place at Portsmouth register office where we had all arrived unfashionably early and had plenty of time for introductions, reunions and pre-wedding photos. Lay and I were then taken away by the registrar to complete the marriage certificate whilst our guests (Brian and Anne Morgan, John and Edwina Harker, Clare and Tony Leck, Gareth, Michelle and Jade Harker) were led into the ceremony room. Emma, a very close friend of mine, had kindly volunteered to be the official photographer and made it to the ceremony in the nick of time.
We chose to start the ceremony with ‘The arrival of the queen of sheeba’ by Handel, and as this started, I was duly accompanied down the isle by Dad to be greeted by a very handsome chap ;-). The registrar then led us through the service, we exchanged the platinum wedding rings we had made for us by David Hill of Parchment Jewellers in Winchester, and despite me fluffing the words we were duly married. We signed the marriage certificate with ‘Amazed’ by Lonestar in the background as witnessed by Gareth and Clare.
We then posed for photos signing the register and headed outside where is was dry enough to get some group shots in the garden before heading off to the Old Customs House in Gunwharf for lunch. Here are just a few of the best shots from the day…
We started lunch with a few words from Lay thanking our guests for making the journey to come and share our special day and then with our glasses charged with Dom Perignon champagne Gareth proposed a toast. We then enjoyed a lovely meal (I had devilled mushrooms to start, lamb steak and salad for main and chocolate torte for dessert, whilst Lay had cheese on toast to start, rump steak for main and chocolate torte for dessert). The men changed places after every course as we felt that was a good way to circulate as we wanted to make a fairly swift exit after the meal and start our journey to Scotland.
All in all – I had a wonderful day and it is so lovely to be married to a truely wonderful man and to be united by name as a family.