A glorious Hebridean double act . . .

Morecambe and Wise? Ant and Dec? Lewis and Harris? Not another comedy or presenter duo, surely?

Not by any means. Lewis and Harris is the largest island of the Outer Hebrides. Often referred to as the Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris, Lewis occupies the northern half of the island, and North and South Harris the southern end. South Harris is almost an island, and there is only a tiny isthmus at Tarbert connecting North and South.

Our journey around the island took one and a half days, to the northern-most tip at the Butt of Lewis, to Rodel on the southern tip of South Harris. We set out from Stornaway to the Butt of Lewis under heavy grey skies, that grew darker and darker the further north we traveled. It was blowing a real gale by the time we reached the Butt of Lewis, the rain was horizontal, and I did wonder whether we’d get chance to see anything at all. But, as on most days of our holiday, the weather improved at the right moment, and it stopped raining. The wind did not drop, however.

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Blowing a gale at the Butt of Lewis.

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Butt of Lewis panorama – next stop North America!

On our way to the Butt of Lewis we had seen a signpost for a stone circle known as Steinacleit, near the township of Upper Shader. So we decided to stop there once we had begun to make our way south.

At first there didn’t appear to be much to see on the ground. But once we had our bearings, it was possible to discern the remains of an outer circle of stones (the remains of an enclosure, perhaps) surrounding a central cairn. The site has not been excavated scientifically, so not much is known about who built the circle and when. What artefacts that were found in the 19th century have been lost.

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Next stop on our Lewis itinerary were the Standing Stones at Callanish—a truly remarkable, mystical yet peaceful location, erected on a low hills overlooking mountains and lochs to the southwest.

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Our third archaeological site was at Bostadh on the north coast of Great Bernera, where an Iron Age village was discovered, and one of the houses reconstructed.

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Then we headed further south, into Harris and on to our B&B a few miles south of Tarbert, at Drinisiadar.

Loch Seaforth

Loch Seaforth.

Hills of North Harris

The hills of North Harris.

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Evening sunshine across the loch in front of our B&B.

The following morning, we had a couple of hours free before we had to take the Sound of Harris ferry from Leverburgh to Berneray (and the Uists). So we had a leisurely drive along the coast of South Harris, ending up at Rodel—the end of the road, where’s there is a beautiful little sixteenth century church of the MacLeod clan, St Clement’s (apparently dedicated to Pope Clement I).

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St Clement’s Church, Rodel, South Harris.

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Peace and tranquility . . . just west of the M6 in Lancashire

Last Monday was the last day of our holiday in Scotland. We’d reached Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway on Sunday night, and just had the journey down the A74(M) and M6 to reach home.

Two hours is about as much as I can take driving on the motorway before I need to take a break. And we had discovered that there was a National Trust property, Rufford Old Hall, in Lancashire just south of Preston, about equidistant between Lockerbie and home. The ideal place to stretch our legs, have a bite to eat, and enjoy another of the Trust’s delights. In fact, it seems that many holidaymakers have exactly the same idea. One of the volunteers told me that Monday is usually a busy day, with many visitors breaking their journey north or south at the hall. Rufford Old Hall is very convenient to the M6, just a handful of miles west of Junction 27.

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20150608 057 Rufford Old Hall

Formerly the home of the Hesketh family, Rufford Old Hall (is there a new one?) has two main wings: an original timber-framed Tudor one built in 1530 for Sir Robert Hesketh, oriented east-west, that may have once also had another wing on the west side (there are two ‘external’ doors on the west wall) but this no longer exists; and a later seventeenth century brick wing, north-south. The main entrance opens into what was once the kitchen, but that was moved to another location in the same wing at a later date.

The crowning glory of course is the Tudor wing, which consists primarily of the Great Hall with its magnificent bow window and small section of original Tudor stained glass. The roof of the Great Hall is a wonder to behold in timber architecture and construction. There is also a moveable screen just inside the hall. Photography is permitted only inside the Great Hall as the National Trust does not own all the items on display elsewhere throughout the property.

There is a small formal garden, with renowned squirrel topiaries, and walks through orchards, woodland and meadows alongside the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (built in 1781) on the east side of the property.