Swings and Slides and all things fun

With heavy rain forecast we decided to have another day at home playing with Megan. We are really enjoying spending time on the floor with her and watching her explore things, try to move about and interact with us. She has started ‘giving’ us things, or rather she offers them but doesn’t actually let go, but she seems to enjoy repeating this time and time again and giggles infectiously when we reach out for the gift saying ‘thank you’.

In the morning whilst Megan napped, we got on with the job of writing thank you cards and postcards – determined to get these written before we were on the journey home!! In the afternoon, the weather looked like it was going to hold so we decided to take a stroll to the post office to get some fresh air and post the bundle of cards and at the same time let Megan try out our local swings.

We were a bit disappointed that there were no baby swings at the play area.  However, there was a toddler climbing wall and a slide that after some initial apprehension was a great source of amusement and provided us with another photo opportunity!!

Megan on the climbing wall
Ready, Steady......

Bosta Beach, Great Bernera

One thing we have learnt about living in such a remote place is that you soon rack up the mileage getting about visiting different part of the island and we decided that today we should have another no-car day and re-explore Great Bernera.

The decision to stay local co-incides with probably the best (warmest) weather we have had all holiday so being true Brits we wasted no time in doning the shorts and t-shirts and heading for Bosta Beach.

Bosta Beach

Other than a small group of holiday makers who had set up wind-breaks and were enjoying the warmer weather on one part of the beach we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  We headed straight for the shore where the turquoise sea enticed us in for a paddle.  I think our brains must be pre-programmed that golden sands and turquise sea equate to warm seas and the shocking reality of the ice cold water took us by surprise.  However, after the initial numbing of your feet it is wonderful to walk along the shore with the waves gently breaking over your feet.

Walking along the shore at Bosta Beach

We then found a sheltered spot on the beach to let Megan play in the sand and have a feed before heading back through the nature reserve to our house.

Wildlife (and not so ‘wild’ life)

We have seen some interesting wildlife on this trip, most of it remains unidentified and unphotographed, but here are a few shots of the beasts that didn’t escape us on this trip..  Any help in properly identifying the animals in these photos would be appreciated as it would be good to keep an accurate record.

11 May 2010

Highland cattle can be seen grazing at various locations, but this particular herd was making its way along the road from Breacleit to Circebost on Great Bernera creating probably the longest traffic jam we witnessed all holiday (there must have been three cars waiting at one point).  They look so friendly with their long shaggy coats but their sheer size and their menacing horns prevented me from finding out whether they enjoyed their backs scratched!

Highland Cattle on Great Bernera

12 May 2010

My entry in the not so ‘wild’ life category is of course the domesticated sheep.  There are plenty of sheep and baby lambs to be seen throughout the Western Isles at this time of year.  Here are a couple of shots of some fine specimens seen on Great Bernera.

A fine specimen of sheep
Baby Lamb

17 May 2010 – Tolsta Head

It was here along the shores of Tolsta beach that we caught our first glimpse of seals.  The quality of the photograph is not the best as they were a little too far out to get a decent shot even with the maximum zoom being used and were slightly unpredictable as to how long they were prepared to remain on the surface to be photographed by a novice.  I will try and improve on this photo before we leave.

Seal at Tolsta Head

We have seen deer several times on our holiday whilst out walking, but have not been quick enough with the camera to get any decent shots.  However, on the journey home from Tolsta we were fortunate enough to come across three deer close to the road on the journey through the moor that stayed put long enough for me to get the camera out, switch lenses and still end up with a cracking shot.  Maybe they could spot an amateur a mile off!!

Deer on the moor south of Stornoway

And if that hasn’t impressed you enough, our last bit of good fortune for the day was to manage to capture the camera shy Heron as he scarpered from his feeding spot close to our house as we approached.  I still want to try and sneak up and get a photo of him standing on the shore but I am not going to let that detract from this action shot!!

Heron in flight

Tolsta Head

Today’s excursion was to Tolsta Head, which is situated north of Stornoway right at the end of the B895.  We took our usual route across the moor to Stornoway, pausing to take some photos of the peat cutting process and crofters cottages, which you can see and read about in a separate entry.

The beach at Tolsta is seriously impressive, with the golden sands stretching for over a mile to Tolsta head in the distance.

Tolsta beach with Tolsta head in the distance

Once more, we found ourselves sharing the beach with only a handful of people who were easily lost in the vast openness.  Kitted out in shorts and teva’s we enjoyed paddling through the shallow waves as we wandered along towards Tolsta head.  I would love to know what Megan was thinking as she was carried into the sea – she certainly was fascinated by the waves.  We haven’t yet been brave enough to venture in further than knee deep and the way my feet went numb in the short time we were paddling a dip would certainly be a very refreshing experience!! 

Daddy and Megan in the sea

We were fortunate to see a few seals heads bobbing above the surface as we made our way to Tolsta head, the pictures of this and other wildlife seen on the island during our holiday will be provided separately.

Once at the end of the beach we climbed the grassy slope to the top of the cliffs where we had a wonderful view back across the golden sands we had just walked.

Tolsta Beach

On our return journey across the moor we spotted three deer close to the roadside and managed to get some great shots before they bounded back into the distance.  To complete what has been the best day so far for spotting (and photographing) wildlife, I managed (more by luck than judgement) to get a photo of the Heron that feeds close to our house as it flew from its usual spot when it heard us approaching.  All these pictures can be found on the wildlife entry.

Megan’s new jumper

Yay – having sourced the right size needles in Stornaway and having had a few evening knitting sessions I have now finally finished Megan’s new jumper.  I have to say I am both pleased with the end result and relieved that it still fits her.  Megan agreed to a photoshoot so you could see the results…

Megan looking gorgeous in her new sweater

I worked out this probably took about 40 hours in total to complete, so if you put a cost on my time it is probably the most expensive outfit Megan owns.  Off out now to see if it keeps her warm as well!!!!

Uig Sands

Today was forecast to be the a clear day so we decided to head for the beach.  Uig Sands are immense, as we had previously witnessed from our unrestricted viewpoint on the summit of Suaineabhal.  Walking onto the sand there was no evidence of the owners of the cars in the parking spot who had vanished into the vastness, although we did later stumble across one family who’s daughter was taking a dip in one of the pools of water left over from the high tide and assured us it was really quite warm!

After initially crossing the widest section of beach, our route for today took us off the beach and on a footpath over the low cliffs.  This route took us past an old burial ground with a plaque translating the wording on the headstones that made interesting albeit rather somber reading of some of the misfortune that had occured.  Beyond the burial ground we had great views of the extensive sands and Suainebhal towering above.

Daddy and Megan with Suaineabhal towering over Uig Sands

We then dropped back down to the sands, crossing a stream (which posed no problem given that we had followed the advice in the guide book and planned our day around low tide) to arrive in the village of Cradhlastadh.  Here we detoured from the guide book to walk to the jetty rather than inland again and after descending to the beach we had a slightly more tricky crossing of the stream to negotiate that required us to remove our shoes and socks and roll up our trousers!

Daddy and Megan crossing the stream by the jetty at Cradhlastdh

From this point we had nothing but sand seperating us from the end of our route, so we allowed ourselves time to dawdle and admire the patterns left in the sand by the waves and the distant Harris mountains.

Harris mountains rising over Uig Sands

Before leaving we had time to let Megan have a play so headed for the softer sand in the dunes where our ever so photogenic daughter willingly posed for photos.  Here are a couple from our extensive collection…

Megan playing in the sand
Megan's first go at bouldering

Butt of Lewis

Today we opted for more of a sightseeing day after the long walk yesterday and after the rain eased we set off for the long drive to the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the island and home of the now automated lighthouse.  Here the rugged cliffs and Atlantic swell created some dramatic scenery.

Cliffs and breaking waves at the Butt of Lewis

After wrapping up warm we set off for a blustery stroll along the coastline where we were rewarded by more splendid views, although with the strong winds and considerable evidence of coastal erosion we did not venture too close to the edge.  We were left pondering how long the lighthouse had left to stand in its current location as the path on its seaward side had virtually disappeared.

Daddy and Megan at the Butt of Lewis lighthouse

Having had a good dose of sea air we decided it was time for a treat for Megan and headed inland a short way to a play area we had spotted on the way out.  Here Megan played on the swings which had her shreeking with laughter – I can just imagine her shouting ‘push me higher mummy’ in a few years time.

Megan enjoying the swings

This was so much fun it deserves another photo….

More fun on the swings

Then after a quick circuit of the rest of the play area it was time for us to head back home again.  All in all another good day with the strong winds adding a new dimension to our holiday.

Rhenigidale and Todun, Isle of Harris

What an awesome day!

Today we decided to venture into the Isle of Harris to explore some of the hills and villages.  We chose a route that had the option of summiting the peak Todun and after breakfast we set off to the village of Rhenigidale, which until 1989 the only access was by boat or a walk along the cliffs to the nearest road.

Todun rising above Loch Mharaig

After a short walk up the road the allure of the summit of Todun was too great so after pausing to give Megan a quick feed and doing an assessment of the weather we cut across the moor to gain the south ridge.

Daddy and Megan on the south ridge of Todun

Once on the ridge the going was fairly easy and at the summit we were rewarded by spectacular views of Clisham (the highest peak in Harris) and the impressive Loch Seaforth.  We could also just make out the outline of the Isle of Skye in the horizon.  Megan, however, in what is becoming a rather regular occurrence, was sleeping soundly as we reached the summit so will once again have to be shown the photos as a reminder of her adventures as a baby.

Daddy and Megan at the trigpoint at the summit of Todun (528m)

After descending Todun on the broader northern slopes we set about completing the remaining 10 miles of our 13 mile route.  The first few miles were along the access road built in 1989 before heading over the moor on a well defined track that rose to a col between the peaks of Scrachabhal and Cleit an Ruisg where we enjoyed views of Lochannan Lacasdail.

Walking towards Lochannan Lacasdail

By this point in our journey it was approaching 3pm and we had not stopped for lunch, preferring to be dictated by Megan’s requirements rather than our own.  However, as we started the descent to the lake Megan awoke and was sending out clear signals that it was lunchtime so we decided to seek out a suitable spot for lunch.  Well, it would appear that this couldn’t have been more perfect timing as in the distance we spotted a lovely green mound with a wooden structure that turned out rather unbelievingly to be a bench.  How about that for a spot of good luck – well done Megan!!

The bench in the middle of nowhere at Lochannan Lacasdail

Refuelled, we made steady progress along the length of the loch and completed the short stretch of road to the footpath that marked the last leg of our journey.  By this time we were both feeling rather weary and the undulating coastal route became more of a mental challenge than a physical one as we kept dropping down to sea level only to have to rise up and over the next bit of headland.  However, step by step we worked our way back closer to Rhenigidale with spectacular views of Todun towering above us and crystal clear waters below.

Quite simply it was a fantastic day out – a proper mountain day in glorious weather which I am sure will be one of the highlights of our honeymoon.

Rain stopped play

We decided to head back up to the north of Lewis today to do a short walk around the coastline at Tiumpan Head.  Driving there we pasted the end of the runway of Stornaway airport  (quite literally) – a dramatic place to be if you were there to witness a take off or landing I am sure.  We parked up at the lighthouse at Tiumpan Head and were contemplating the route when it started pouring with rain so without much dithering ,we abandoned our plans and made a swift retreat (admiring the views from the comfort of the car window).

The day was not a total wipe out though as we ventured back into Stornaway where we picked up on provisions and found a small shop were I managed to source a pair of 3.75mm knitting needles so the sweater project is back on!!

Megan’s cotton sweater

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.

Debbie Bliss - Sweater with square set-in sleeves

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.