Becky’s January Squares challenge is words ending in light, so you might think lighthouse doesn’t qualify. I was going to include a lighthouse anyway – I like them! – under the category of a special kind of lamplight, then Kaz came up with the concept of guiding-light.Perfect! This guiding–light is on the Firth of Clyde at Port Glasgow. Tomorrow’s post is a variation on the theme.
Our last day! We chose two shortish walks with lunch in Port Ellen in between. The first started at Kilnaughton Bay, just outside Port Ellen. At the east end of the bay we explored this old building which looks like a ruined chapel but is actually the remains of a bathing hut where the ladies of Cairnmore House would once have changed. Underneath the sand, you can still see the tiled floor
From here, we crossed the bay and picked our way across rocks and walkways to the lighthouse at Carraig Fhada with its twin white towers.
Carraig Fhada lighthouse
Carraig Fhada lighthouse
Carraig Fhada lighthouse
The lighthouse was commissioned in 1832 by Walter Frederick Campbell as a memorial to his wife, Ellinor, and was taken over by the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1924.
Carraig Fhada lighthouse
Carraig Fhada lighthouse
Backtracking from the lighthouse, we took the path marked Singing Sands from which we had good views back over the bay. We’d been watching the cruise ship, Ocean Atlantic of Albatros Expeditions, and I looked it up later. It was on an 8 day voyage from Dublin to Aberdeen via Orkney and Shetland. Next departure is May 21st, 2020, should you be interested. I can’t see any prices – you have to request a quote: I suspect it might be well beyond what I would like to pay!
To the Singing Sands
The Singing Sands were a bit of a disappointment. The beach, Traigh Bhan, was certainly beautiful, but we couldn’t make the sands sing however we trod on them, although we’d had success before on Ardnamurchan. (The “singing” is supposed to come from the sound the sand makes as you walk through it, and depends on the size of the grains).
Traigh Bhan (Singing Sands
From Traigh Bhan, we climbed the grassy hill behind it, with more views back over Kilnaughton Bay until we came to a series of three cemeteries. The oldest one was by far the most interesting – Kilnaughton Old Churchyard in which you can still see the ruins of the old chapel, including a slab with a carved knight clutching his sword.
Knight with sword
As usual, I have far too many pictures of old gravestones. I think I just liked the angel and urn on the left below. The image next to it is one of those tragic tales which always give me pause. You have to really zoom to read it, so I’ll summarise. The stone was erected by Betsy Ferguson in memory of her husband, Donald Whyte, and their sons. Donald, 53, and son Daniel, 17, were drowned at Port Ellen lighthouse on 1st January 1916. Presumably they were working as the keepers. Two other sons were killed in action, Dugald (21) in December 1915 and Walter (20) in August 1916 – they are interred in Belgium and France respectively. So in less than a year, Betsy lost her husband and three sons. Another son, John, died in infancy and the longest surviving son, Robert, died in 1933 aged 28. Betsy herself died in 1935, aged 68, and the final name on the stone is her daughter, Jessie, who survived till 1950 when she was 52. How many tragedies can one family bear?
Angel and urn
I was also looking for Sinclairs because of my Great-Grandfather, John Joss Sinclair, who came from Islay. There were quite a lot! The stones below interested me the most because, although for a family of Campbells, one of the wives listed was Christina Sinclair, and the name was passed down to (possibly) a grandchild. It’s a family name with John Joss Sinclair’s descendants too – my grandmother and mother were both given the name Christina and my middle name is Christine. Could this Christina (born c. 1832) be a relative, possibly an aunt, of John Joss who was born in 1866? Maybe someday I’ll put the work in to find out – at the moment I’m happy speculating!
After exploring the cemeteries, we drove into Port Ellen for lunch, then continued along the south coast, past all the distilleries, to Kildalton. Here, there is another ruined church containing several carved medieval grave slabs.
However, the most notable thing about Kildalton is the High Cross in the churchyard, one of the finest early Christian crosses in Scotland, dating from the second half of the 8th century. The cross stands 2.65 metres in height, with arms 1.32 metres across. The biblical carvings, although somewhat weathered, can still be identified and include David fighting a lion, the Virgin and Child, Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, and Cain murdering Abel.
As we left, we dropped some money in the collection box by the gate, and were amused both by the fact that most people seemed to leave their offerings exposed at the foot of the cross, and by the warning notice on the gate.
Outside the churchyard is another cross, this one medieval. The other picture below is John at Kildalton on our previous visit in 1989. I think I must be taking the photograph from the base of this cross. In 2019 there was another, more modern feature, by the track visible behind John, but I’ll leave that excitement till the end …
John at Kildalton 1989
From here, we walked down a lovely woodland path to the small jetty at Port Mor. It was a lovely spot to sit and relax for a while – but not too long! We knew what treats awaited us …
Back at Kildalton, we made a beeline for Cake @ The Cross, delicious home-baking on an honesty box system. We had a cup of tea (£1 each) and a cake (£2 each) totalling £6. Now, we’d already emptied all our change into the collecting box at the church and the honesty box didn’t run to £4 change for our tenner. What to do? I bet you can guess the solution. Yes! Another two slices of cake brought the total neatly to £10 and we enjoyed them after our dinner that night.
The next morning, we packed up and drove to Port Askaig for the ferry. It was raining – hard – and we felt sorry for the people disembarking. We’d had a wonderful week and, apart from a few blips, had been so lucky with the weather. We’d love to go back to Islay, but our sadness at leaving was tempered by the though that in another 7 weeks (mid-July) we’d be off again, this time up the west coast of mainland Scotland. Coming soon – probably.
Sunday dawned wet. Bad news if you are looking for shelter on a Sabbatarian island where nothing will be open! We started with a walk round Tarbert, which took about two minutes, admiring the new distillery building (closed of course). There was nothing for it after that but to take a walk and hope for the best. In the end, we were lucky: the rain went off and we had a great day.
First we went to Scalpay, a small island to the east of Harris which, until 1997, required a ferry to visit, but which is now connected by a bridge. When it was formally opened by Tony Blair in 1998 this was the first time a serving Prime Minister had ever visited the Outer Hebrides, which seems rather shameful to me.
Our object was to walk to Eilean Glas lighthouse, according to our guidebook the most picturesque of all the Outer Hebrides lighthouses. It was certainly the first, the original tower being built between 1787 and 1789 by Thomas Smith, father-in-law of Robert Stevenson the first of the Stevenson lighthouse-building dynasty. Robert Stevenson himself added the present tower in 1824. (Robert Louis Stevenson is also from this family.)
As we looked around, I was intrigued to see that there was still a set of washing poles on the green area behind the living accommodation. There are some Victorian washing poles on Glasgow Green, and I would say these are at least as old.
We had walked out to the lighthouse via the “tourist path” of about a mile. We took a more circuitous route back along the south coast and across open moorland. Although part of the Hebridean Way, the signage was, to say the least erratic, but the wind helped by blowing us most of the way back.
From Scalpay, we drove west to the Hushinish peninsula. A winding, up-and-down single track road runs for 14 miles to the end, with some surprising sights. First was a rather elegant chimney, the remains of a Norwegian whaling station built in 1912. Even more incongruous is the tennis court, the only one in Harris and, allegedly, the most remote in the world. It just wasn’t possible to stop on the road to take photographs of either of these, but the next day we visited the community shop at Leverburgh where there was a display of tapestries of Harris history which included them.
The road now ran parallel to a small river, then the next surprise loomed as we passed through an archway and found ourselves at the front door of a castle. Amhhuinnsuidhe was built by the Earl of Dunmore in 1868, and has counted JM Barrie (author of Peter Pan) among its guests. Through another arch, the old stables held a shop with an honesty box where we were able to buy drinks and snacks. Even on a Sunday.
The road ends at the small settlement of Hushinish itself with its gorgeous sandy beach and (a final surprise) a beautiful new visitor centre with toilets and showers for campers. You can just see it centre-right below.
I was very impressed with the work of the North Harris Trust which has owned and managed the land for the community since 2003 (Scalpay became part of it in 2013). Tourists benefit too from its efforts (such as the path to the lighthouse and the new visitor centre). If (when) we return to Harris I would love to spend more time here. Although we enjoyed our walk round the headland at the end of the Hushinish peninsula, there were other trails leading off the road, including one to an eagle observatory, that I would like to have explored. However, it was time to head back to Tarbert for dinner and to pack up. The next day we were leaving for another island.
On days 4-6 of our Bermuda break, we continued to tramp the Railway Trail up and down the islands. As one lovely bay looks very like another, I’ll restrict myself to highlights.
On Day 4, we walked the North Shore through Bailey’s Bay (above) and on to Coney Island. From here, we could see the Martello Tower at Ferry Point which we’d approached from the other side a few days before. We visited two caves, one at Blue Hole Park that you just climbed up and walked into, and the more complex Crystal Cave which you paid to enter. The day finished at the Swizzle Inn where we tried one of the local tipples – rum swizzle (too sweet!)
Martello Tower from Coney Island
Cave at Blue Hole Park
On Day 5 we returned to Somerset Bridge where we started our very first walk, but this time we turned east instead of west. Highlights included Whale Bay and the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.
Whale Bay Fort
John had the energy to climb the lighthouse tower for the view. I relaxed on a bench with a cold drink!
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse
Our final walk took us along the South Shore from Horseshoe Bay – the prettiest part of the coast we had seen all week, and there was some competition!
Flora and fauna
Flora and fauna
Flora and fauna
Flora and fauna
Flora and fauna
The Railway Trail
Although we had almost a full day in Bermuda before our flight the next evening, this was our last excursion along the Railway Trail. I confess my expectations were rather more sophisticated than the trail turned out to be. At its best, it looked like this:
However, a lot of the time it ran parallel to a road, or even became the road, so I don’t think I’d want to follow it again. That’s not to say I wouldn’t go back to Bermuda – I would, but I’d spend more time exploring the towns and some of the lovely little museums which we missed because we were so busy walking.
One more post to go – on Bermuda’s capital, the City of Hamilton.
Our last few days in Shetland were spent at Busta House in the North Mainland. From there, we did three great walks, all featuring lighthouses and spectacular cliffs.
From the lighthouse at Esha Ness, a circular walk takes you past multiple features. The deep, dark inlet of Calder’s Geo and Moo Stack:
Loch of Houlland and its broch:
Loch of Houlland and broch
Loch of Houlland and broch
The Hole of Scraada, a blowhole where the ground has collapsed. At one end, a burn runs into it; at the other a tunnel leads to the sea which appears dramatically 300 yards inland from the cliffs:
Hole of Scraada
Hole of Scraada
Dore Holm, a sea-stack with a huge natural arch, which is said to look like a horse drinking, and then back to the lighthouse (with the ubiquitous sheep):
Esha Ness Lighthouse
Muckle Roe is a separate island, but it’s so close to the Mainland that you can reach it by a short bridge. There’s only one road, and when it ends a very pretty walk leads to the lighthouse.
Point of Fethaland
Fethaland is the most northerly point on Shetland’s Mainland. To get to the Point and its lighthouse, once again drive till the road ends and either follow the farm track or a coastal path (we went out by the former and back by the latter) before crossing onto an island via a spit of boulders and pebbles. Here, there are a dozen or so ruined fishing lodges used up until the early 20th century. On the way back, we visited the small churchyard of St Magnus with some unusual wooden grave “stones” – the one in the gallery below is for a two-year old boy who died in 1898.
St Magnus Cemetery
And so ends our adventure on Shetland. Next stop – Orkney!
(This post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. Take a look for some round-the-world rambles.)
On a glorious morning we set out for the southern tip of Mainland Shetland to visit Jarlshof and Sumburgh Head – there’s a lovely cliff walk between the two sites. We started off with morning coffee in the Sumburgh Hotel and thought we might be back in time for lunch, but there was so much to do that we only made it in time for afternoon tea and cakes. Not complaining….
You might think Jarlshof sounds like a Viking name, but it was actually coined by Sir Walter Scott. It’s my favourite of all the archeological sites we visited on Orkney and Shetland because its multiple layers cover such a long period from the late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. The picture at the top of the post shows the remains of a medieval farmhouse. There are also oval-shaped Bronze Age houses, an Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, Viking long houses and a 16th century laird’s house. The site is run by Historic Scotland and includes a small visitor centre.
After a wander round Jarlshof, we set off along the cliff-top path, with the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head clearly in view ahead of us.
It’s not very far, but there were many stops to look over the cliff edges (safely!) to see birds – so many birds. The puffins are my favourite – and presumably John’s too as he took umpteen photos of them.
We spent a lot more time at the lighthouse than we expected – I don’t remember there being such an extensive visitor centre last time we were there. You can even rent holiday accommodation there if you wish (though not in the tower itself).
Flags of Shetland, Scotland and the UK.
Finally, it was time to turn round and return to the Sumburgh Hotel via the other side of the Head. As the lighthouse retreated into the distance behind us, Sumburgh Airport came into view ahead, and from there it was a short drop down to the hotel.
I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. I wonder where everyone else is taking us this week?
Annapolis Royal is one of the oldest European settlements in Canada. It started in 1605 as Port Royal and changed hands between the French and the British many times in the next century or so, becoming Annapolis Royal, in honour of Queen Anne, when the British captured it in 1710. We had 3 nights there, here’s what we enjoyed:
Eating and drinking
We stayed at the Bailey House (above), the only B&B on the waterfront and the oldest inn in the area. It was beautiful inside and the breakfasts were outstanding – no lunch required. However, by dinner we had usually recovered our appetites. There aren’t many restaurants and one ruled itself out entirely by a) closing at 8pm and b) having nothing vegetarian on the menu, but we liked Bistro East enough to visit twice and Ye Olde Pub was fine for bar food, as you might expect from the name. John is eating a lot of fish and I am eating a lot of pasta, pizza and the odd veggie burger. Not a very slimming diet!
In Annapolis Royal
Suzan, the B&B owner, strongly recommended the Candlelight Graveyard Tour, so we did that on our first night. We met at Fort Anne at 9.30pm, were all given a lantern to carry and taken round the Garrison Graveyard by an undertaker-garbed guide. It was very skilfully done, and the stories of the dead served to bring history alive. We went back to the Fort and graveyard in daylight to have another look and were amazed at how many stories had been packed in to such a small area. The Historical Association, which provides this and other tours, also has a leaflet with a self-guided stroll around the town which tells you the history of many of the old buildings, takes you to the Historic Gardens and, if you do the whole thing as we did, French Basin Nature Trail.
Outside Annapolis Royal
The original site of Port Royal is on the other side of the Annapolis River from today’s town. You can visit a reconstruction of the habitation which itself is historical – it was built in 1939/40, which makes it an early example of this type of preservation.
Also across the river, and over the North Mountain, is Delap’s Cove Wilderness Trail which takes you down to the Bay of Fundy. It was pretty, but only half of it was open when we were there.
On our second day, we went down the “Digby Neck”. This is a narrow peninsula running parallel with the shore and connected by ferries to Long and Brier Islands. We started at the end and worked our way back up. Brier Island was the prettiest area with hiking trails, two attractive lighthouses (there are a lot of those in Nova Scotia) and a nature reserve full of nesting gulls.
Long Island’s main claim to fame seemed to be its Balancing Rock – however the 4km hike left us underwhelmed, it wasn’t that spectacular.
Finally, Digby itself had an interesting harbour with both lobster boats and pleasure craft.
Halifax is just over an hour’s flight from Montreal. We arrived on a balmy Saturday evening to find the Tall Ships in town. After a stroll along the waterfront, we ate Thai in a lovely little restaurant called Gingergrass just a few doors from where we were staying, the Waverley Inn. This is a place of Victorian charm, built in 1866 and a hotel since as long ago as 1876, but still very comfortable.
The next morning, we set off to walk around town and were just in time to catch the changing of the guard at Government House.
This was only the first bit of Scottish culture we encountered. At the Citadel, there was a lot more. Nova Scotia is obviously a whole lot more Scottish than we are back home! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit the Citadel – I’m not really interested in army history – but because there was so much live action I enjoyed it.
We found a great place for lunch – the Wooden Monkey, very near the Citadel and specialising in organic food, humane meat, gluten free and vegan dishes. I had a delicious chickpea salad, and the beer was good too. (So far, we’ve tried beer from three Halifax breweries – Alexander Keith, Propeller and Garrison – including blonde, amber and IPA – what a brilliant place to stay!)
Afer lunch, we did some more strolling and ended up in the Public Gardens, which, according to the guide book, are considered to be the finest Victorian city gardens in North America. I can believe that – they were just beautiful, and as an added bonus there was a band playing because it was Sunday afternoon.
After that, it was back down to the Waterfront to look at more Tall Ships before heading back to the Inn for a rest before dinner – pizza at Piatto with more beer and a free dessert because our pizzas were ready at different times. Thanks guys!
On Monday, we drove down the coast to Peggy’s Cove, a lovely little fishing village with a much photographed lighthouse:
For dinner, we returned to the Wooden Monkey because we liked it so much the first time. And that is the end of our brief stay in Halifax. We’ll have one more night here at the very end before we fly home, but for now we’re off to Annapolis Royal.
Looking for a break between Christmas and New Year, we found a good bargain at the Inn at Lathones near St Andrews. The plan, if the weather was good, was to do some small sections of the long-distance Fife Coastal Path. The first day, we were really lucky. It was bitterly cold and windy to start with, but pleasant once the wind dropped. We set off from Elie to do the section up to St Monans, where we had lunch in the lovely Mayview Hotel. We did think of walking further and getting a bus back to the car, but having done no research on this we decided not to risk it and walked back the way we came. It’s a very good section of the path with a windmill and several ruined castles and towers and it seemed even more beautiful on the way back in the late afternoon light.
Elie from the harbour:
Lighthouse at Ruby Bay where we parked:
Newark Castle and tower:
The windmill was part of the salt industry at one time; in the late eighteenth century it pumped water into the salt pans and you can still see traces of the panhouses – mostly just green mounds, but this one is clearer:
Some of the atmospheric pictures from the way back:
Our plans for the second day were to do a short section of the path near St Andrews, have lunch there and then drive further round the coast to do a bit more. However, while we were having lunch, the rain and sleet started and we abandoned that idea. We did get some walking in the morning though, starting from East Sands:
After lunch and a bit of shopping, we headed back to the log fire in the hotel bar. This had two advantages: it was warm and it had wifi so that I could write this post. The same was not necessarily true of the rest of the hotel! The bedroom was quite cold until the evening when the heating cranked up, and the wifi wasn’t strong enough to allow us to connect there. However, the food was very good, the staff were great and the place was otherwise comfortable. It’s an old coaching inn, but the bedrooms are all comparatively modern as they have been constructed from outbuildings such as the Smithy and the Old Forge. It’s also a local music venue and seems to have had some good gigs. Last time we visited it was summertime and I think if I was coming again I would wait for better weather – mind you, that’s probably true of most places in this country!