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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Beachlife, in the Outer Hebrides? Oh yes, most certainly. We have some of the most stupendous beaches in the United Kingdom, and really, I don't think that's an exaggeration. Some years ago, the world surfing championships came to Lewis. Although at the time I was not here, I am told that Stornoway twanged to the sound of Aussies. Fancy t-shirts and shorts filing through Somerfields with the summer temperatures we get here. Last summer's heatwave culminated in a roasting 22°C / 72°F. Phew, I won't easily forget that day in July. Was able to take my scarf off, would you believe. More seriously, the beaches at Tolsta and Dalmore (pictures of Tolsta were published in one of my previous entries) are perfect for windsurfing. Swimming is a definite no-no at Dalmore, on account of the treacherous cross currents that occur there. The water temperatures aren't that brill either, 14°C / 57°F in summer. Dalmore was the scene for a filmshoot this Spring, when pictures were shot for a film about the Iolaire disaster in 1919.

The next beach to the east, 40 minutes' walk over the hills, is at Dalbeg. This is a stunning little place. Dalbeg itself is a small cluster of houses which stand along a road leading steeply down from the main A858 road. Today I found that someone had had a disagreement with the busshelter, which left one of the wings of the busshelter smashed up. It's a concrete shelter by the way. At the bottom of the road, you'll find a beautiful loch with reeds. In summer, it is choked with waterlillies. A short outflow leads the water to the beach. This is surrounded by high hills and a dun (fortification) on the top of an outlying rock.

To the west of Dalmore is the village of Gearrannan, which I discussed in an earlier post. There is a walk, which leads from Gearrannan all the way along the coast to Bragar. It is waymarked with posts, sporting a yellow bead, but it is always a good idea to bring a map (Ordnance Survey publish the excellent Explorer series, scale 1:25000) and please be careful along the cliffs, particularly in wet and or windy weather. The picture below gives but one reason: it is a blowhole, just outside Shawbost, and you don't see it until you're practically on top of it.

Now I quite agree that I don't readily anticipate deckchairs and windshelters popping up on the beaches in Lewis. Most of the time, the weather is way too inclement for that. In common with many coasts around the world, Lewis has seen its fair share of shipwrecks. One of the more spectacular ones occurred in 1953, at the time of the great storm on January 31/February 1. This was a hurricane, which wreaked havoc across northwestern Europe. It caused flooding in low lying areas of Essex and Cambridgeshire, sent a carferry to the bottom in the Irish Sea, and broke the dykes in southwestern Holland, drowning 1,850. In the course of that same storm, the SS Clan Macquarrie ran aground at Borve on the westside of Lewis. 66 were saved from the vessel in 100 mph winds, the largest number ever rescued using the breechers buoy. Further north lie the great beaches of Ness. Eoropaidh (pronounce Yoropee) sports another great surfers' beach. In high winds, it gets covered in thick layers of foam. In calm, sunny weather, it can easily pass itself off for a Mediterranean beach. The colours are just incredible, the turquoise, blue and yellow. It is actually perfect for kids, as there is a play area nearby.

During the winter and spring of 2005, I walked all the way down the West Side of Lewis, from Ness to Callanish. Admittedly not in the same day. But the initial few miles south from the Butt of Lewis to Dell offer some very spectacular scenery. The beach shown below is not accessible.

The last picture, below, does not show a beach, but shows one of the many small rivers that issue into the sea on the West Side. In this instance, it's the Dell River. The river at Galson proved to be a difficult proposition to cross back in February. It was a perishingly cold day, but there was nothing for it but to take boots and socks off and wade across.

It was at South Dell that I had a word with two elder residents. I had to speak to one of them, as I was barging through his croft. Not intentionally, but my onward route was barred by barbed wire and a broken stile, so I found myself in someone's backyard. Had a wee word with this very interesting gentleman, before proceeding through the village to the end of the road, where another gentleman accosted me. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, I went on my way, to catch the bus at Galson. One mile west of South Dell, I once came across a dead whale. I smelled it first - absolutely horrendous. I found it on February 25th. Three months later I was back there, and it was still there. Smell worse than ever, so I decided to contact the Coastguard, and I hope they took care of it. It was located in a small stream on a remote area of coastline, but needed to be removed for health reasons.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 20:21


"We have some of the most stupendous beaches in the United Kingdom, and really," More accurately, some of the best beaches in the world. I've been lucky enough to go to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and California (surfed off Malibu amongst other things). The beaches in all of these places are nice and pretty - but they don't compare, aesthetically and in terms of the feeling you get, to some of the beaches in the Outer Hebrides. Luskentyre, and others on the west coast of Harris; the beaches of Vatersay; the beaches of north Barra (around the airport); the beaches on the north and west sides of North Uist e.g. Vallay; the west beach of Berneray. I would have to rank these as the best I've come across. Your blog entries are very informative and we are following them closely; they'll be useful in planning our next Lewis trips.

John Kirriemuir from Berneray

The rock on the right of the mouth of the River Dell is called Arnistein. The river was once reasonable for salmon and sea trout until a valve was put in upstream to regulate water supply. The trout from the Galson River are browner and not as strong as the Dell trout. This is because the Dell is gravel bottomed and the Galson peat bottomed and the flow in the Dell stronger which builds the fish up. Many a day I've fished right up the Dell walked across and fished back in the Galson for a haul of thirty plus trout, all caught on flies from Charlie Morrison's ( now Digby Chicks )

calumannabel from Duneuskoch House Adabrock

There used to be sand on Dell Beach - (i.e there was a Dell Beach). I think I've got some snaps somewhere. I'll see if I can find them and scan them. The disappearing sand could serve as a salutary warning to the Heroch who suggested making egg-timers in Harris. (Dell Beach disappeared shortly after Robert's shop in South Dell started selling Mivvi lollies and gloy glue, an era during which a lot of emery boards materialised in Ness along with Avon catalogues.) I also remember swimming in Port of Ness Harbour - queue Jaws music - when a single black fin appeared and a basking shark swam in. Swimmers splashed as fast as possible to the now-rotted iron rungs in the harbour wall. The shark - not a man-eater, but scary nonetheless - became grounded and died. It also stayed there for weeks (near where Anthony Barber's gallery is now) and stank to high heaven. Eeeugh. Definitely not for the sushi. Lovely photos Arnish.

Annie B from Lone Sheiling 17

i know who had the disagreement with the Dalbeg bus shelter.

kirsty from Barvas

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