Home > travel > Barvas to callanish via black house museum, Norse mill and kiln, and rebuilt shielding. Outer Hebrides day 3

Barvas to callanish via black house museum, Norse mill and kiln, and rebuilt shielding. Outer Hebrides day 3

Breakfast of muesli with boiling water (a kind of porridge which I really like when camping) and tea. Then broke camp, went back to local shop for cheese and a couple of tomatoes, and headed out on road towards callanish.

Almost immediately we came across something that looked interesting on side of road, which turned out to be a rebuilt shielding. Inside was set out as it would have been, with an explanatory leaflet. Shieldings were one room buildings up on the moors where some women and pre school children would go to with the cows for summer pasture. Inside was 2 parts, separated by a wooden bench the width of the building. Behind the bench was the “bed” – a platform with bags of straw for a mattress and wool blankets. The front half had a fire, and basic cooking facilities. Apparently it was an warmly anticipated time away from the oppressive winter life in the black house. I imagined also to be away from the dour men folk!

It was another very warm, sunny day. I’m convinced the Hebrides are always blue sky, bright green hills and sparkling water.

Black house museum was fascinating. Very friendly, helpful, and informative assistant explained that the last person living in a black house had still been there til the 1960s. We’ve seen a lot of ruined ones, just behind post war houses. Poverty kept people from living in modern buildings until very recently.

Surprisingly spacious inside, but the immediate impression was smokey (peat fire kept going) and dark (occasional oil lamps but otherwise no lighting). Incredibly thick walls – double drystone, turf filled for insulation. In from the front door, to the right was the byre. Keeping animals inside must have helped protect from raiding/predation as well as warmth. To the left was large main human room, with peat fire in the centre, over which was a large iron kettle hanging from the ceiling by a chain. Sitting on the long bench down one side of the room I imagined how cosy it would have felt, as well as crowded, especially during the long hebridean winters. Box beds with curtains in front provide some minimal privacy, though clearly they were all multiply shared.

We lunched on bread, cheese and tomatoes.

Further along the road to callanish was a whale’s jaw bone made into an arch.

At 3:15, 7 miles short of callanish, I foolishly believed google maps stating the visitor’s centre (which we hoped would purvey ice cream…) was to close at 4. So I raced ahead to get us both ice cream, and am chuffed that though fully laden, and the road being hilly, I made it by 3:45, to discover they were open til 8 during the summer! Lovely cafe, shop and “story of the stones” exhibition / mini museum, all run by local people as part of a community trust. Good food, good prices and great setting. Most importantly, they do sell ice cream!

Not to seem too “seen it all before”, but I’ve seen a fair few stone circles and they are less exciting to me in general now. So I wasn’t expecting to feel much at callanish stones. We climbed the path up to the site, me feeling blasé, and then… Oh Wow! So many of them, so close together and in this intriguing unique shape. Radiating arms to the compass points, one, an avenue of parallel stones. Such beautiful rock too, studded with white and black crystals. From the 2nd circle, 10 min walk around a bay onto another hill, the main stones were clearly silhouetted across the water on top of their ridge.

We camped on a hillock, once again metres from the sea. Temperature dropped when the sun did, bringing the harr in, so we ended up picnicking in my tent.

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