Sunday, January 18, 2009


This is my favourite lighthouse. It's sited at the Northernmost point of Lewis, about 30 miles from here. The light, made of red brick, became operational in 1862 and was built by David Stevenson. It's 121 feet tall and has been fully automatic since 1998. It has a range of 25 miles. The lighthouse functions as the monitoring station for automatic lights on the Flannan Isles, North Rona and Sula Sgier and is itself now remotely controlled from the Northern Lighthouse Board headquarters in Edinburgh. There are great views out to sea from all round the light and it's probably the best place on the island to look for whales, sharks and dolphins. The cliffs all around the Butt are home to a variety of seabirds, making it a birdwatchers delight. A few years ago, I was sat on the cliff top there when I watched a Peregrine falcon strike a rock dove out of the sky, before taking it away to eat.
I love sitting quietly near the lighthouse on rare warm and still sunny days, watching the Gannets plunge diving for fish, just offshore.
The Butt of Lewis, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the windiest place in Great Britain.

Which brings me nicely to current weather. It's cold and moderately windy right now, but the Met Office have forecast overnight winds of between 50-60 miles an hour from about midnight tonight. I've just looked up the Beaufort Scale, which describes winds of these speeds as:
'Storm force 10-11, seldom experienced inland. Trees will be uprooted, there will be loss of roof slates and chimney pots and considerable structural damage is likely'.

I've been working away in the Southern Isles this week and was stranded again on Barra for two days on Wednesday and Thursday, when the ferry was confined to harbour as a consequence of poor conditions at sea. Finally got home yesterday evening and very pleased I am to be here. It only takes about an hour to get the central heating to warm up the house and the stove roaring away. Now that the renovation is complete, the house is easy to heat, largely draught free and welcoming.

Although jobs continue to be lost here, some new posts are being created. Scottish Natural Heritage are advertising for 15 temporary field workers for the Uist Wader Project. As in previous years, the successful applicants will trap and collect hedgehogs, which have been eating their way through the eggs of ground nesting birds and causing a reduction in the bird population. Originally, the captured hedgehogs were killed, but attitudes have changed and the spiky beasties are now sent to the mainland for rehoming. The field worker posts pay £7:50 per hour for a 37 hour week, between now and mid May.
The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers are also advertising an interesting sounding job, for an apprentice to work on the management of Machair- the fertile, species rich coastal strips of land here. The person appointed will work as part of the RSPB team and learn about habitat management for Corncrakes, Corn Buntings and the endangered Great Yellow Bumble Bee. Sounds like a wonderful opportunity and I quite fancy it myself, age and lack of relevant qualifications notwithstanding.

Have gathered up a sleeping bag, torch, mint imperials and a glass of red wine. Almost time to go to the Anderson shelter to wait for Armageddon. Hope to blog again if I'm spared.


Anonymous said...

I too love to Butt seen some amazing sites up there in terms of wildlife in recent months.
think the met office were a little under estimating the wind - here just 5 miles south of the Butt it is gusting at 113mph with speeds of 92mph!

Lewispot said...

Well, that was a bit fierce! The wind was much stronger than expected and kept me awake most of the night.Quite scary.Probably the worst gale since I arrived here three years ago.Have lost a few more tiles from the roof, but no other serious damage. Hope you came through it unscathed.