Saturday, August 15, 2009


Gearrannan Blackhouse village, which is now a major tourist attraction, is sited on the Westside of Lewis, near Carloway. The village was lived in until 1974 and is thought to have been the last group of blackhouses to be inhabited in the Outer Hebrides.
After lying empty and derelict for many years, a trust was established in 1989 to undertake the ambitious task of restoring the entire village. The project took about ten years to complete and is now a great success. There is a Youth Hostel, a number of self catering cottages, cafe, shop and museum, as well as public toilets. The village sits in front of a pretty cove and there are wonderful views all around. It's a bit of a gem and I suggest you stop what you are doing right now, get on a bus/bicycle/train/ferry/plane/car/walk and come and see it. For more information about Gearrannan, go to

It's been a bit of a struggle this week. Most things that could go wrong have done. My car decided to break down with gearbox trouble and is now sat in a compound at the garage waiting for some obscure spare part to arrive from England. Goodness knows when it will be mended. There were no hire cars available, possibly because of the sheer volume of tourists we have on the island at present, but the garage staff came to my rescue and have loaned me a car until mine is fixed. That's very nice of them and they will get a Christmas card from me.

Went fishing a couple of nights ago and caught absolutely nothing, but the ten year old boy fishing with his dad at the side of me managed to pull enough fish out to feed the five thousand. Oh the shame of it. To rub more salt into the wound, he came over, told me my weight wasn't heavy enough and offered me his spare. Still caught diddly squat and then went home after thanking the boy nicely.
Have bought a pack of Icelandic cod fillets ( line caught and on special offer) at the co op tonight and I'm going to pretend I caught them when I eat them tomorrow.

Lost my wallet containing money, cards, driving licence etc a few days ago and slipped into blind panic mode until I found it some hours later, in the kitchen waste bin where I'd thrown it. Then discovered an empty baked bean tin in the kitchen food cupboard, so assume I must have descended into a fugue state at some point as a means of avoiding stress caused by expensive broken cars and clever boys who can fish better than me.

In a further off message moment, I managed to fill my petrol strimmer with diesel, but in a stroke of good luck, spotted my deliberate mistake before any damage was done. It's time for a lengthy holiday I think.

That fine provider of fascinating facts, the Registrar General, has published statistics showing that the population of the Outer Hebrides has dropped by about 5% during the last ten years and continues on a downward trend. There is much wailing and beating of breasts about this in the local press and I rather suspect that in ten years from now, if the doom mongers are right, there will only be me, the harbourmaster and my neighbour's cat left on the islands.
A local councillor blames it all on "the general downturn in the economy and migrant workers leaving the islands in the wake of the contraction of the fish farming sector". All the Polish plumbers, including the one who walked out of my house renovation leaving me in the lurch, have gone home because life is now more agreeable in Poland than it is here.
Do you know, that in 2008, there were 346 deaths here and only 256 births? Perhaps the way to develop the economy is to turn the Islands into one huge Las Vegas style gambling venue and develop a side industry of coffin making.

On the other hand, there might be a future in promoting the Outer Hebrides as a world centre for retreats and alternative therapies. Scaravay is a tiny uninhabited 40 acre island in the Sound of Harris which seems to be owned by a man who is marketing 'associate ownerships' and various 'heritage artefacts' connected with the island, to romantics with spare money. If desperate to fritter away your fortune, go to
Last week, a man described as a retired millionaire banker, cast himself away on Scaravay for a month as a means of doing cold turkey to withdraw himself from a thirty a day, forty year cigarette habit and to lose weight. There are no houses on the island and he is apparently living in a tent, eating tinned food and jogging regularly. He has taken a guitar with him to learn to play and is dispelling boredom by listening to books on his Ipod and playing with his mobile phone, both of which are solar powered.

News headline of the week - ' Unstable plane hits Benbecula airport runway.'

Must have been very upset to take such drastic action.


Marty said...

Great shot of the village - nice perspective. Thanks.

Cathy said...

I hope you have better luck this week. Sounds as if you had a hard time recently.
Rural areas always suffer when their young are lured away to a faster life style but it seems some always return to raise their children. At least, it seems to be that way around here. Couples get discouraged with the "big city" when their children are in unsettling situations with drugs and gangs. They want life for their young to be simpler and that means moving to more rural areas.
I hope the best for your islands and I cannot wait until I can set foot on them.

Jill said...

Great post. I visited the blackhouse village in July and it was indeed very interesting to see and to go into the buildings (the shop! the cafe! terrific). The village street was just lovely. Hope your luck changes soon.

Knitting Out Loud said...

Great post! Love the blackhouses. Wish I could rush right over.

landlady said...

Just discovered this blog via someone elses- am loving it!