With over 5000 cold nautical miles under the keel at this point in the journey we are both elated to be on our way further south to warmer latitudes, and just a little weary of the increasingly wintery weather. On one hand, we are certainly glad that we diverted to the European coast as the entire North American coast is presently beset by incredibly strong winds emanating from Cyclone Sandy (see image). On the other hand, the situation here in the Outer Hebrides Islands could hardly be called settled (see image)! Indeed, an occasional flurry of snow hasbeen the only real break to the continued gloomy wet weather and strong winds we have experienced since arriving in the Isle of Lewis!
One advantage of being pinned down to wait out the weather systems is that we have had a chance to stretch our legs (though only when encased in our full Arctic wardrobe!). What has amazed me most about this landscape is the continuity of human occupation on this windswept island that was first settled around 8000 years ago. Walking over the rolling hills becomes difficult due to the constant need to scramble over the remains of some long abandoned dwelling. The reminders of the past are scattered over these rock strewn hills in a myriad of ruins and historical monuments – the crumbling remains of old stone houses stand side by side with modern occupied houses in the small villages; the crest of a hill overlooks an impressive rings of stones raised as tributes to gods long gone; the walls of an iron age fortification still stand guards against the bitter winds sweeping over the ocean … it seems there it a story buried under every rock in this place.
The history of the island also includes many influences from Viking raiders and settlers that intermarried with the Celtic inhabitants – yet for us we feel like we have finally stepped into a new dramatically different culture from the Scandinavian dominated countries of our route thus far. Don’t get me wrong, we have met some fantastic people in every country we have visited, and learning the habits of the diverse nations of the far north has been highly rewarding. Then again …. as an Australian I have to admit there is something extremely comforting about being able to but a cheap beer in a dingy pub and tuck into a meat pie with sauce for lunch …
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