A single track road heads north west off the B road between Uig and Garynahine and leads to the island of Bernera. The island is separated from Lewis by a stretch of water with very strong currents. In 1953 following protests by the Islanders, the government built a bridge to link the two islands, using a newly developed form of pre stressed concrete. This used less steel reinforcing which was great given the post war difficulties. Above is the view looking back across to Lewis.
We’d headed across to visit Bostadh Iron Age House, which is situated at the end of a valley on a small bay at the other end of the island . In 1993 storms exposed the sand dunes on the south side of the beach and revealed the remains of a rectangular Norse house, which had been built on top of an Iron Age village. Excavations of five of the houses revealed that they were of a type found in the Late Iron Age – the Pictish period – 400-800AD. The houses had double walls and were built into the earth, with entrances in the south. Each had a main circular room with a central stone lined hearth, and other small chambers leading off it.
After the excavation, the site was backfilled with sand to preserve it, but a replica house was built further to the North.
Apparently the style is known as ‘jelly baby’ house. Because there was no archaeological evidence of how the roof was built, there was a certain amount of experimentation. In the end it was dictated by the shape and strength of the outer walls – the dividing wall between the two main chambers was found to be too weak to support any weight. It turned out to be a transition between the round houses of the Early Iron Age and the Blackhouses.
There was a charge to enter, which I balked at a bit, but it turned out to be money well spent. You had to stand at the threshold for a while until your eyes got used to the dark and you had to remember to duck as you entered (I didn’t and smacked my head!) There was a fabulous lady inside to answer your questions and show you around. It was originally thatched with straw but has now been turfed. There’s been a bit of a discussion about whether there would have been enough straw or heather to have used thatch.
During the excavations several quern stones were discovered – thought to have been used to grind barley, along with fish bones, limpet, oyster, mussel and scallop shells; and the bones of cattle, sheep and red deer. The presence of red deer indicates that the area was wooded at one time
Dunes over the backfilled houses, looking back up the valley. There was the remains of a blackhouse further up the valley by the stream.
A couple of views of the beach, absolutely glorious. In fact the whole area was magical. I would have loved to have lived there!
Just before the beach was another of those fantastic island graveyards enclosed in a stone wall overlooking the sea.
On the way back we stopped off in the layby just before the bridge and headed up the hill to a group of standing stones. These are known locally as Tursachan, or Calanais VIII. They have a commanding position at the top of a cliff which is pretty unusual.
These were a wonderful group of stones and have a great atmosphere. Before the bridge was built they must have been pretty remote. I loved the location looking up and down the straight and over to Lewis.
The hairy lichen growth on the stones shows how clean the air is on the Isles.
While we were sat amongst the stones we became aware of bird cries. Looking up we counted nine golden eagles soaring in the air. It really was a most amazing experience.
They seemed to spiral lower and lower and eventually Mr Stoatie managed to get one decent shot with the zoom. If you look closely you can see that the bird is wearing a radio transmitter and that there’s another bird in the distance. It was absolutely fantastic, what a gift.
A couple of the stones reminded me of people wrapped in cloaks looking out to the horizon. I wonder if that was deliberate?