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Stornoway for the winter

Ceil 3, with Ironbark 3 in the background.

It was a brisk start on the final leg to Stornoway but the wind petered out and we ended up motoring the last bit and tying up in calm conditions in Stornoway town harbour. This was the final leg of our travels and while we got the boat settled into her pen over the next week, my mind turned to potential next plans. Ironbark is not ideal for accommodating crew in the long term so it was agreed that I would see her into her winter quarters and then make another plan, so that Trevor could get on with his winter projects and contemplate his next voyages. All good, but was I ready to leave Lewis? Scotland?

A new arrival from the Faroes that will spend the winter behind Ceil 3

We had been in Stornoway for about a day when a familiar boat arrived. It was Ciel 3, owned by Bill, a Kiwi expat living and working in London. We met him and his crew Colin in Ullapool so it was a happy meeting of friends. Rather than returning to Southampton, Bill had decided to keep Ciel 3 in Stornoway over the winter so that he could continue exploring this part of the world again in spring. When he asked me to look after Ciel 3 in his absence over the winter, it provided a welcome opportunity for me to remain. While there was no urgency for me to change boats it was quickly and easily done and I am settled into my new home while I look at my options.

The castle quay looking toward the marina and town.

Stornoway marina is a happy little place with a small group of live-aboards right in the town basin and well protected from the wild winter weather common in these latitudes. The facilities are clean and tidy and there is a great fish shop right outside the gate with all sorts of delicious seafood and fish. There is a fleet of fishing boats operating out of here, the fishermen sitting on the quay mending nets and seals playing below. A river runs into the harbour and the tides are big here which means it is a clean harbour with plenty of bird life. The town isn't really tourist oriented, it is a landing place that people arrive in and then travel on from, but there are at least 3 shops dedicated to Harris tweed of course! So far I have counted 6 charity shops, which is great and I found a much needed warm jacket for 5 pounds. The Lewis butchers are famous and 'export' their products to the mainland though with so much delicious seafood I don't eat much meat. I haven't tried any restaurants, though there is one Thai and one Indian - exotic for here and I'm told the County Hotel does a really good curry. There is a great little old school pub called The Criterion where there are jam sessions every now and again, an assembly of fiddles, low whistles, tin whistles, guitars, and more. Most pubs have music and eventually I will make the rounds but I like the old-fashioned vibe of the Criterion.

Some of the fleet of traditional fishing boats maintained by the trust and the Victorian pile in the background.

Opposite is a 'castle' of Victorian vintage built from money made in the opium trade in the far east. Today the castle is a college and the castle grounds a marvellous walkers paradise with many miles of walking trails and mountain bike trails. The castle grounds are heavily forested with old trees, native as well as exotics, rushing rivers, glens, moorland, tidal islands and beaches and golf of course. Any reasonably dry day will find me exploring, breathing in the fresh green smelling air and laughing at the ravens and crows whose range of sounds always delight me. I have joined a walking group that meets there weekly in addition to doing other organised walks during the week, which is a great way to see parts of the islands that you wouldn't necessarily see otherwise especially not having a car.

Lewis is a reasonably small place, you can drive from one end to the other in about two hours and the length of Lewis and Harris in probably about 3. There is much to see and many little pockets of history and spectacular nature to enjoy from the wild cliffs at the Butt of Lewis to the white sand beaches and mountains Harris.

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