A Re­turn to SCOT­LAND

Re­con­nect­ing with her na­tive land and meet­ing a long-time pen pal in per­son for the first time made this trip truly spe­cial

More of Our Canada - - Destinations - by Agnes Th­e­sen, Red Deer, Alta.

On May 15, 2016, I was off to visit my na­tive Scot­land. I was very ex­cited about this trip, as I was also go­ing to meet my pen pal Is­abella Ma­clean for the very first time. We be­came pen pals a few years ago through an ad in a knit­ting magazine. As I was plan­ning my trip, I man­aged to con­tact Is­abella’s daugh­ter and we set up my visit as a sur­prise.

After ex­plor­ing cen­tral Scot­land with my cousin Ivy Green­well—and re­con­nect­ing with many other cousins—we trav­elled to the Isle of Lewis, part of the Outer He­brides, off of the north­west cor­ner of Scot­land. We caught the ferry at Ulla pool, and after al­most three hours of smooth sail­ing and watch­ing play­ful dol­phins, we ar­rived in Stornoway, the cap­i­tal of Lewis, which is the north­ern-most is­land of the Outer He­brides, and the largest with an area of 683 square miles. The Gaelic name is Eilean Leod­hais; Gaelic is still widely spo­ken here.

The sight­see­ing was ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing, with beaches that you would think be­long in the Caribbean—but no biki­nis to be seen! Then, there were the Cal­lan­ish Stones, a cross- shaped set­ting of stones erected about 5,000 years ago, pre-dat­ing Stone­henge in Eng­land. Next, it was on to Dun Cal­loway to see the re­mains of a “broch” that was built around 200 BC. The hol­low-walled stone struc­ture is shaped in the form of a bee­hive and fea­tures an in­ner wall also made of stone. It is said that fam­ily mem­bers lived within the in­ner shell, which stands two storeys high, and their an­i­mals were housed in the outer shell. Ev­i­dence gath­ered over the years sug­gests that Dun Cal­loway was used and oc­cu­pied un­til about 1,000 AD.

There are still sev­eral “black­houses” on the

is­land, so named be­cause a peat fire was used for heat­ing and cook­ing, but there was no chim­ney and the win­dow open­ings were quite small. Th­ese black­houses were built of stone in the early 1800s and usu­ally had a thatched roof. Some were still in­hab­ited un­til the early 1970s, but th­ese had mod­ern fire­places and func­tion­ing chim­neys. There are two orig­i­nal black­houses that are avail­able to be toured; a few oth­ers have been com­pletely re­stored and mod­ern­ized, and can be rented for self­catered hol­i­days.

St. Cle­ment’s Church, another mem­o­rable stop on our jour­ney, was founded by Alas­dair Ma­cleod, 8th Chief of the Clan Ma­cleod. He died in 1547 and his tomb is sit­u­ated in the church’s re­cess.

Dur­ing our week on the is­land, I met up with my pen pal, Is­abella. We had a won­der­ful visit to­gether over the course of two af­ter­noons, and I am sure our friend­ship will con­tinue through our let­ters for a long time to come. ■

Clock­wise from top left: the Cal­lan­ish Stones, which pre-date Stone­henge; the Dun Cal­loway broch, a struc­ture unique to Scot­land; St. Cle­ment’s Church, built in the 1500s; Agnes with an arm around her pen pal, Is­abella Ma­clean.

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