The Western Isles – or There and Back Again (I)

By Bernie Bell

Five years ago, in May, we visited the Isle of Lewis, and, on the way, visited Smoo Cave.  We went down the big steps and into the cave, and it was…..another world. I tell of this, is a previous piece for The Orkney News. Our Trip to the  Isle of Lewis: 1

This May, we visited the rest of the Western Isles – Harris and the Uists, and, on the way, stopped off at Smoo Cave again, but this time we went up, along the cliff top walk, which gives a different perspective on the cave.  First thing of note, is a gloup, very like our own Orkney gloup at Halcro Head. Here are two pics, for comparison.

Going along the cliff paths, gives a better idea of how the cave and inlet formed – you can see how the geology played its part, with limestone being worn away by water, cave roofs falling in, etc.  The cave is understood to have been used by Vikings for repairing and working on their boats, and, from the cliffs above, you can see how the inlet would lead conveniently to the cave, as a sheltered place to work on a boat, without having to haul it up the steep cliffs to the village.

Inlet Smoo Cave B Bell

 We walked along to the point, where you can look right up the coast

Smoo cave up the coast B Bell

 And right down the coast

Smoo cave down the coast B Bell

 And then, back to the car, and onward. The road goes ever on an on.

And, with another Tolkien reference, I take you into a landscape straight from ‘The Lord of the Rings’.


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6 replies »

  1. Friend Hannah sent me this………

    “Read your piece in TON and reminded me of another thing I saw in Shetland- bog butter! Apparently back when Shetland was owned by Norway they paid tax in butter and to keep it “fresh” they buried it in the bogs. Also it turns out the butter wasn’t for eating, but was largely used as we would use grease today!”

    And I answered……..

    “I’m now picturing the Vikings in Smoo cave, using the butter/grease on their boats.

    And, I wonder if they used butter/grease to waterproof their clothing, especially for going to sea? Not their woolly clothing, that would get a bit sticky and stinky – rancid butter and wool – yuk. But, maybe rubbed onto their outer, leather clothing, as a protective layer? The original waxed jacket?!”

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