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Adventures in Design: The Scottish Highlands Part 5

Thanks for joining me on this, the final leg of my trip to the Outer Hebrides in the Scottish Highlands. So far we've explored Amhuinnsuide Castle, fly fishing, Harris Tweed, and the land and architecture of the Isle of Harris. Today, we hit the road!

The people of the Outer Hebrides are very devout so not much goes on on Sundays - you can't even buy fresh dairy until Monday! So what to do? A road trip to a church of course! St. Clements Church in Rodel, on the southern Isle of Harris.

The road you see above is typical of the island - no trees, few manmade structures, like driving on the moon! Every time I look at this island I feel like I'm on top of the Earth!

Most of the roads are very narrow, what we could consider one lane in the U.S. So every now and then you see a sign like the one below designating a "Passing Place" which are small paved pullover spots. Whoa! Funny how the sheep (who wonder the island unfettered) know it's the UK and walk on the left side of the road.

Yes, they aren't fenced in, but no they don't really take the bus! Just out for the day and looking for a little shelter. See the bright color paint on their coats? Those colors are how each sheep farmer identifies which animals are his.

As I mentioned in my post about Harris Tweed, most of the wool used in the fabric is from Black Face sheep. This one gladly posed for a glamour shot.

Along with sheep, you'll see lots of Highland cattle which are much furrier and shaggier than a typcial American cow.

There were many kinds of birds on the island. We even saw a golden eagle at Scroust Loch and both golden and green plovers on one of our fishing days. This day we spotted a flock of Greylag geese.

As we drove we came upon the Isle of Harris Golf Club's 9 hole links course. Between the wind and land, quite a challenging course!

This map gives perspective on our drive.

Our ultimate destination was St. Clements Church in Rodel. Built around 1520 for the Chiefs of the MacLeods of Harris, the clan that owned the island. And would you believe it was restored in the 1870s by the same Lady Dunmore that promoted the Harris Tweed industry? She was a woman ahead of her time.

The church is an imposing, sturdy structure. This is the pathway leading up to the main entrance.

Here we are looking at the tomb of Alexander MacLeod the 8th chief, who was also known as Alasdair Crotach or Humpback, dated 1528. An "oracle"  (or "seer") predicted that he would die on a certain date in the near future so he commissioned his tomb so that it would be ready - and up to standard for a chief of his caliber. Fortunately for him, the oracle was wrong and he lived another 19 years!

The church is built mainly of local Lewisian gneiss rock (the gray rock). Alexander's effigy is made of black gneiss. Framing the tomb are carvings of the 12 apostles and the Virgin Mary along with hunting and battle scenes all around the tomb, while  sculpted crouching lions gurad him at his head and feet. His tomb is considered some of the best Midieval carving in existence.

Alexander's son, William the 9th chief, is buried in this tomb on the south wall of the church. It is dated 1551.

This tomb is believed to be that of William's son, John, the 10th chief.

There are also five grave "slabs." Four are Medieval and were removed from the church floor to protect them. The fifth is dated 1725 and is believed to belong to members of the Campbell clan. Chief MacLeod would not be happy about that! The MacLeods and Campbells feuded for generations!

We took these very narrow stone stairs up to the top of the big square tower. I can't believe people were that little a few hundred years ago! No railings, years of wear and a rainy day made for a slippery climb and descent.

The graveyard outside of the church has many MacLeod family markers.

Our magnificent view as we left the church yard.

After reluctantly departing from the church, we had a wonderful lunch at the Rodel Hotel where I noticed a plaque on the side of the building.

I was so excited to learn that Queen Elizabeth visited here just a few days after I was born!

Later we came across the remains of an old whaling station at a place called Bun Abhainn Eadar. This was the last functioning whaling station in the UK when it closed in 1929. Whaling was once a major industry in the area.

The most identifiable structure is the chimney for the boiling house where they rendered the whale blubber to use as heating and lighting oil as well as to make soap and margarine. Whale margarine?

On our way back to Amhuinnsuidhe we were lucky to catch a rainbow over a loch. What a wonderful way to end our trip to the Isle of Harris.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and all of the beauty and adventure they have to offer. If you ever have the opportunity to go there, by all  means GO!

I can't thank our friends enough for bringing us to this magnificent place. Memories of a lifetime were made here and I look forward to our next adventure together.



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Cindy's Blog

I'm Cindy Galvin, owner of MAZE Home Store and Bardes Interiors. In my blog I hope to inform, inspire and entertain you with lessons I’ve learned, insights on the beautiful things all around us, and stories from my adventures in design. I hope you'll join me on my journey through the world of design!

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