Some of these photos have appeared elsewhere on the site but I thought that visitors coming to the cottage might like to see some photos taken around the cottage, and in the wider Lewis and Harris area, over the season 2014. (click for 2015, 2016, or 2017 images) These are, basically, a random selection of pictures all taken during 2014 with the possible exception of the one above. The photo above shows Dollanna, your host at Dollag's Cottage, working her sheep on the hill nearby the cottage and it was taken either on New Year's Day 2014 or on New Year's Eve, so there might have been a few hours of 2013 remaining when it was taken.
The sheep in the photo above went on to produce lambs in April and although this year wasn't great for the sheep and lambs, despite being relatively mild and moderate in terms of weather, the surplus of lambs were sold off in September. The photo below shows the big truck that comes from Dingwall Mart picking up the lambs at the Shawbost fank (sheep pens) just up the road from the cottage:
Dollag's Cottage @ 7 South Shawbost
Over the period of the year a number of sheep had gone missing and searching the remote Lewis moorland can be hard work as the sheep could be in any small dip in the ground. However a good plan seemed to be to go and sit on some higher ground and have a little look with my telescope to see if I could spot the missing animals. There is a ridge of high ground that reaches out from the front of the cottage for several miles and it makes a nice walk and an ideal spot for spying for missing sheep. During the day as I walked a golden eagle, who had come on a similar plan, was sitting on the little ridge watching me, and keeping a close eye out for something to eat:
Lewis, and the attached Isle of Harris, now have a large number of both native golden and reintroduced sea eagles. Unfortunately the high density of the sea eagle reintroductions would appear to be having a significant impact on the golden eagles but the visitor can now see both types of eagle nearly anywhere on the island. It can be tricky trying to get photos of them with my little point and shoot camera but these are two quick snaps of pairs of eagles I took during September 2014. The eagles were actually rather closer to me than appears in the photos but, of course, by the time I get the camera out of my pocket and get it turned on and get the right setting the eagle is half a mile away:
The cliff face which can be seen in the first of the eagle photos is Sron Uladail which is said to be the biggest overhang in the UK, or even some say in Europe. Although it is not easy to see in photos the front of the cliff actually overhangs the base by something between 180 and 200 feet! That's like having a 15 storey building sticking out of the cliff. It is a most impressive place. Uladail is in Harris but many visitors who come expecting the area to be relatively flat are amazed at the hills and the huge cliffs and Sron Uladail is a favoured destination of many climbers from across the world as it is considered very hard indeed to climb:
The loch below Sron Uladail can produce some very remarkable fishing for sea trout and also salmon and although it is a long walk from the nearest parking spot it makes for a most impressive place to fish. There is even a little fishing hut so the angler can enjoy a cup of tea and some shelter from the sun which was beating down on me for much of the day I was out there this year:
On the subject of fishing the salmon fishing has been very challenging on Lewis this year due to very dry weather since about the end of April. Lewis is without question one of the best salmon destinations in the world but without water getting fish can prove hard work. The photo below shows a local angler playing a fresh grilse on the River Creed:
Lewis is very well positioned for the angler as when the salmon fishing is not going so well there is always the option of an almost infinite range of trout fishing and, even when conditions are difficult, the trout can be caught. The image below was taken within walking distance of the cottage and despite the almost flat calm conditions and bright sun I managed to catch these fish for our lunch in just about an hour of fishing using a small wet fly on a long leader dropped right at the edge of what little ripple there was:
Despite the less than ideal conditons the guests at Dollag's Cottage appeared to enjoy their fishing, and some did manage a salmon, and the picture below shows some guests that joined me for a day out on some slightly more remote lochs. Despite the calm and bright sun we all had decent numbers of trout with one guest reporting that he thought he had well over 20 for the day:
The local fisheries trust working with a fisheries biologist and local fishing clubs put in a lot of effort to ensure that the stocks of salmon and sea trout remain healthy and even increase in numbers. The picture below shows the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust staff and members of the Fideach Angling Club netting an estuary pool in order that fish may be tagged and numbers assessed. Despite very low catches of salmon and sea trout in most systems this year it would appear that there are a huge number of fish in the systems but they are simply not getting caught. Over two draws of the net this small pool produced in excess of 140 sea trout to over 6lb - day permits to allow access to the visiting angler are readily available:
As well as fish and eagles many visitors also like to see the red deer and they are a common sight on the Lewis moorland though they are not always so easy to spot as their colouring can cause them to vanish against the moorland plants. These deer were all watching me carefully while they got their photos taken:
Traveling around on Lewis can be a rather more relaxed affair than in some other parts of the country though it is best not to be in too much of a rush to allow time to take in the surroundings and enjoy the countryside. This is the Pentland Road which starts nearby the cottage and eventually ends up in Stornoway.
Getting a parking space can also be a little more relaxed than in other parts of the country though on Lewis and Harris even the car park can be rather more dramatic than the best views that many holiday destinations can offer up and once you start walking from this particular car park the view gets even better:
For the adventurous visitor Lewis has many, many square miles of remote, interesting, and largely empty hill and moorland. Even the road that takes you to where you start walking is more remote than anything experienced by a very many people in Europe in the modern day and getting to the end of this particular track is a voyage of discovery in itself even before the visitor has left the car and headed into the hills:
After a journey like that what the visitor needs is a little cup of tea in yet another spectacular Lewis location:
For the visitor who doesn't want to stray more than a few minutes from the cottage, or who prefers the coast to the hills and lochs, then the nearby coastal walk makes an ideal day out and passes almost literally past the end of the back garden. This year your host at the cottage, Dollanna, took herself out along the section of the walk that starts at Shawbost beach and goes over to the little beach at dailbeg. The image below shows Dollanna walking up from Shawbost beach at the start of her walk and this was probably taken within shouting distance of the cottage:
On her wanderings Dollanna stopped along the shore for a quick picnic:
And her little walk terminated at the beach at Dailbeg:
For the last 3 years Lewis has had the most wonderful summer weather and has, generally, been warmer and drier than much of the rest of the UK. This gives the visitor plenty of scope to visit the beaches for which the area is famous. Losgaintir is, perhaps, one of the most famous and is recognised as being among the top 10 best beaches in the world. The photo below shows Dollanna on Scarista beach on a day when the car said it was 24 degrees and right in the peak of the holiday season. As you can see overcrowding is not an issue on the beaches on Lewis and Harris and you can imagine what the other beaches are like when Scarista is considered rather unremarkable compared to the likes of Losgaintir.
Hopefully you have enjoyed these images taken during the 2014 season here on the Isle of Lewis. It seems like such a shame to be surrounded by such wonderful countryside and not to post some images to let the visitor to the islands know what to expect. For the holiday visitors the weather this year has been just amazing though the angling guests with the sights set on a salmon have not been so pleased with the bright sun and heat. Lewis appears to be increasing in popularity as a holiday destination as more and more people discover just how wonderful it can be to visit and Dollanna has already taken quite a few bookings for the main holiday period in 2015. Given that she is looking forward to welcoming her guests to Dollag's Cottage in 2015 and is hopeful that you will all get the chance to share in the many wonderful things there are to see and do on the island.