I spoke to many people leading up to our trip to Isle of Lewis Scotland and most people were asking “aren’t you going to Edinburgh”? When I would reply “no we are going to Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis” the inevitable strange looks and raised eyebrows ensued. Most people wouldn’t dream of travelling all the way to Scotland without making the usual tourist destinations part of their itinerary. Many people I spoke to had no clue where the Isle of Lewis even was and when I would explain that it’s located in the Western Isles of Scotland most would comment “it sounds cold”. Even when we arrived in Glasgow and had small talk conversations with the Customs lady or taxi driver or what have you, not even those locals had ever been to Lewis and they kind of looked at us in a strange way as if it’s such a remote, far-off land and quite bizarre that we would be coming all the way from Canada to go there, of all places. Of course if we had unlimited time and money we would have visited as many places in Scotland as possible. As I had explained in my first travel photo blog post the motivation for this trip was to return to my Mum’s hometown of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to reconnect with our relatives and explore as much of the Island as possible.
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis from the top of Gallows Hill in the Lews Castle Grounds.
One of the sites I was most excited to visit was the Standing Stones of Callanish, pictured below. I was fascinated with this ancient ceremonial location and remember visiting with my family many moons ago. There was a cryptic folklore legend my Mum told us during our last visit there together which I was able to verify with a couple different sources and will share in a future post. Very interesting stuff!
Sunset at the Standing Stones of Callanish, Isle of Lewis Scotland.
Isle of Lewis Scotland is off the beaten path to be sure, but the place has something to offer that I believe is a very different experience to anything Mainland Scotland could offer. Of course, I am biased since it’s the birthplace of my late Mum and I have so many fond memories of our visits there as a family on 5 different occasions throughout my childhood and early teens. As I made the journey back there this time I wondered if I would find I felt the same about it or were my feelings about it all just sentiments created in the mind after decades of grieving the loss of our Mum? Or was there more to it? Would my Mum’s relatives remember me or think it was a big deal that I was visiting? To say that we were treated like royalty by my relatives in Stornoway would be putting it mildly. It had been 30 years since my last visit there and it honestly felt like we were all picking up right where we left off. Their enthusiasm for our visit was so genuine and their generosity with their time, dinners, prayers, tours, knowledge, tales, laughter, love, food, baking, tea, recipes, sweets, tea, more sweets, more tea, old photos and so much more, will never be forgotten. Each person I met asked the same question “how many years now Heather since you’ve been home?” As a result of my past memories and present ties to this place, it will always feel like a second home to me and I am already planning my next visit!
Me standing on the Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Our Mum died when I was on the verge of turning 16 and my Sister was only 11. The only people on Mum’s side of the family who were with us in Canada when she passed were her Mum and two cousins who had all come over to be with us during the latter stage of her illness. All of them have since passed away and eventually over the years we also lost contact with the rest of our Stornoway relatives. So we weren’t only grieving the loss of our Mum, before long we were also grieving the loss of the connections to our dear relatives in Stornoway and were feeling really cut off from a place and people that had been a big part of our childhoods and our identity as well. After many years and through the magic of Facebook we were reconnected with some of the relatives. Thank you Mark Zuckerberg! As those digital connections came on line, thoughts towards making the trip over to Lewis started to percolate. The photo below was taken on the west coast of Lewis somewhere between Uig and Breanish; next stop Newfoundland, Canada. It’s only a wee pond that separates us 🙂
Somewhere between Uig and Breanish on the west coast of Lewis, Scotland.
Over the course of our recent visit to Lewis there were a lot of conversations about the loved ones that we’ve lost over the years but those conversations were not super heavy or emotional. There is a stoicism that’s the norm; stiff upper lip sort of thing, and I’m rather proud of that trait to be honest. There was an undercurrent of sadness that we were all sharing but what these conversations and visits did for me was close that circle that had been left agape for 28 years. We all got the chance to share our memories and reconnect which helped me immensely as we never had the chance to do that until now. And the strangest part? I had expected to be super emotional during this trip but there was so much laughter there was barely a moment for tears – only tears from laughter. Everyone there has an incredible sense of humour! And as much as we are sad over our losses, I can see how much joy the new generation is bringing to everyone and what a blessing they are for the family. Life goes on and it was such a treat to meet my cousin’s two children who are keeping everyone laughing and moving forward. Pictured below is Lucas, on the moors of his home village, Bayble. What a wonderful place to be a child.
Lucas, King of Bayble!
And not to be overlooked is the newest addition wee Annie, who has inherited a name that is very dear to our hearts as it is a name that was shared by the many wonderful women of our family most of whom have now passed, my Mum included. I believe this wee Annie will be a force to be reckoned with!
Wee Annie on the go at Bayble Beach.
The personal connection aspect added a quality to this trip which is something completely different from any other travels I have done. Even if there wasn’t a personal connection for me, Isle of Lewis Scotland is a stunningly beautiful corner of the world which is rich in beautiful landscapes, an intriguing history and home to a culture that cherishes family values and preserves past traditions in a fierce way. Life is slower there with still quite strict observance of the Sabbath where most shops are closed on Sunday and many services only available half a day on Saturday. With the preservation of the Sabbath observance I found there to be a perceptible rhythm to life there that we have lost in most of western culture where business hums along 24-7, 365. Lewis is the last place in the UK to maintain this age-old tradition and even if you are not a devout Church-goer there is something to be said for having one day of rest where life slows down.
A Sunday stroll along the peat-stained River Creed in the Lews Castle Grounds.
Thanks for taking a look! I have many more stories to share about our visit to Isle of Lewis Scotland and will do so as soon as I can. I would love to hear your comments or questions below.
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