Dollag's Cottage @ 7 South Shawbost

Photos taken around Dollag's Cottage in 2016.
Over the last few years some photos taken around Dollag's Cottage during the holiday season have been posted to the web site and they have been very popular with visitors. You can see images from the previous years here:

2014 holiday season photos    2017 holiday season photos

2015 holiday season photos    2018 holiday season photos

As you will appreciate Dollag's Cottage does not have an official photographer so these are just snaps taken during 2015 while out and about in the area around the cottage. There is a certain bias in the photos as, mostly, when I am out and about with my camera I am going fishing so there is a bit of a fishing theme running through them. There are, of course, lots of other things to do on the island and my fishing bias does mean that the beaches and other very famous spots of interest to most visitors might get ignored a little.

Despite this you are never far from a beach in the Hebrides and just after New Year, to get the head cleared, Dollanna, your host in the cottage, paid a visit to the very famous Losgaintir beach on a dark and overcast but relatively pleasant January day. Because of the clouds there was no spectacular sunset but even so it is hard to take a bad photo at Losgaintir:

The river also has some excellent water, and very nice pools, further up but as yet the fish were just nosing in from the salt water and were not actually running right up the river. This didn't stop me having a wander up the river and taking a look, just to be sure there wasn't a nice fish lying up there somewhere waiting for me:

Sometimes these horses are on the beach or in the sand dunes that border it but on this particular January day they were safely in their field. When they are on the beach they provide for great photo opportunities but the angle available from their field is a bit limiting as it offers a rather restricted view of the sands. By the end of the summer I imagine they were getting well used to having their photographs taken:

The beach at Losgaintir seems without end and it is rare, even in mid-summer, to find it crowded but in January there is a good chance you might have it to yourself:

Many people think the spring months are the best time to be in the hebrides as the moor starts to come alive with birds and new growth and there are lambs on the croft. Sometimes there are pet lambs on the Dollag's Cottage croft and visitors enjoy getting to bottle feed them. Although many people imagine that Lewis would be wet and cloudy it actually gets a lot of sun and averages about twice the hours of sunshine as similar holiday destinations such as the Lake District. Generally May is the most sunny month of the year and averages 202 hours of sun for the month, or around six and a half hours per day. It can also be a good month to head to the river though, of course, bright sun doesn't generally please the angler so a little bit of cloud is welcome:

The longer days, warmer weather and approach of summer sees the moor alive with lots of interesting plants and animals. Visitors who come for the wildlife often overlook the interesting plants that make the moorland their home:

Red deer on the Isle of Lewis
Care must, however, be taken when studying the plants that you don't miss out on the furry friends who also wander the moor. Red deer are common on almost all areas of the moor but they are relatively timid and if they get your scent or spot you before you spot them you are unlikely to get close. With a bit of care however it is often possible to get close enough for a photo:

Loch side plant life
Asphodel on the Lewis moorland
Juniper plant on the Lewis moorland
As is often the case with the erratics this one was balanced on a much smaller stone, perhaps just larger than my fist, which has been supporting it for the last 10,000 years. There are some massive erratics on the island which are so finely balanced than they will rock back and forth if you rest your hand on them but this one is relatively small and seems to be quite solid:

The Dollag's Cottage visitor who is interested in archaeology and the stone circles will be pleased to hear that the cottage has, almost, its own stone circle. Just a short walk from the cottage on a hill side overlooking a freshwater loch is a stone circle that has not, to date, been excavated. As many will be aware the climate when the stones were put in place was much warmer than it is today and so it was too warm for peat to form. Since that time, however, the climate has cooled and so peat has grown up around the stones. At the main Callanish circle about 1.5m of peat has been excavated from around the stones and at the Shawbost circle, nearby the cottage, no one knows exactly how much peat has grown up to cover the stones:

The arrival of better weather also means more work with sheep and your host at Dollag's Cottage, Dollanna, keeps sheep on her croft and also on the moor. There is a lot of work in sheep and it means a lot of time on the moor gathering them in, or putting them out. Shiela the dog is a useful asset when working the sheep and these photos of Dollanna and Sheila were taken overlooking the cottage. As the cottage sits on a working croft it is, of course, impossible to allow visitors to bring dogs or other pets and even Shiela has to stay on her lead when she is not actually working:

Camping and fishing on the Lewis moorland
The Isle of Lewis is famous for its stone circles with the large complex at Callanish being the most remarkable. In September Dollanna dropped into the Callanish Visitor Centre for lunch and a few photos of the main circle were taken, this is the West Row which extends to the west from the circle:

The Lewis moor is not always easy walking and so it is useful to be able to fish a number of lochs on the way out to the "target" loch. With this in mind I had a cast on about 4 other lochs before the intended fishing location came into sight:

Lewis lochs and the hills of Uig
There are currently only two stones left standing in the circle but evidence of the other stones can be found and some have fallen and can be seen lying on the ground. Before man came to Shawbost to put up stone circles the retreating ice left a lot of erratics in the area. These stones were "dropped" by the ice as it melted at the end of the last ice age and they are not uncommon on Lewis, this particular one is located just a few yards from the stone circle pictured above and it is interesting to contrast the man made circle with the stones nature has left behind:

Boat fishing on a Hebridean salmon and sea trout loch
Once I found a decent spot I got the tent up and spent a night out on the moor. The home comforts of Dollag's Cottage are great but once in a while it is nice to abandon them for the wilds of the moorland:

It is always a pleasure to walk the Lewis moorland and take in the views and on one evening I wandered out to a trout loch some distance from the road:

Lewis fishing can be very productive and these two sea trout provided great sport on a light 4 weight rod, they weighed in at almost exactly 2.5lb each and made fantastic eating. I return almost everything I catch but now and again it is a real treat to keep something for dinner:

My fishing also took me to some of the most remote and spectacular spots on the island:

There were also salmon to be had and this photo shows a local angler fighting a small salmon on a river close to the cottage, you can see the salmon leaping into the air but it was landed successfully and quickly released:

Isle of Lewis angler fighting a salmon
As well as the lochs it is nice to get a cast on a river or two and the island has a lot of salmon and sea trout systems to keep the angler busy:

On the day the photo above was taken I had a brace of decent salmon and one of them put up a titanic stuggle and cunningly spent some time in the weeds before coming to the net, the fish were released to go on their way:

An Isle of Lewis grilse
A nice Isle of Lewis grilse
Of course fishing actually has very little to do with catching fish and on Lewis there is almost infinite scope to explore the more remote lochs which lie out on the moor. One notable salmon and sea trout loch is about a 12 mile walk and is very rarely fished so during the year I took a little wander out to pay it a visit. First I had to pass a trout loch which had an old shieling on its banks:

January sunset on Losgaintir Beach
Losgaintir Beach on the Isle of Harris
Horses at Losgaintir on the Isle of Harris
Once New Year is past it isn't long until the days start to lengthen and the sun gets higher and warmer. In April I took a little wander along a bit of the coastal walk. The walk passes very close to the cottage but reaches right along the coastline on the West Side of Lewis. This photo was taken near to the village of Barvas:

Coastal walk on the West Side of the Isle of Lewis
Spring salmon fishing on the Isle of Lewis
Red deer on the moorland of the Isle of Harris
Working at sheep above Dollag's Cottage
Working sheep in the Hebrides
The West Row at Callanish stone circle
Shawbost stone circle
Glacial erratic above the Shawbost stone circle
Small stone on which the glacial erratic is balanced
A Lewis sea trout river
A brace of Isle of Lewis sea trout
Playing a salmon close to Dollag's Cottage
remote Isle of Lewis trout loch
Isle of Lewis salmon and sea trout loch
I had a great time fishing the loch, although everything I caught was small, and from the tracks left behind by the deer on the small beach it was clear I wasn't the only visitor even if anglers were rare. Once my scent made its way up the little feeder streams I spotted the deer heading off across the moor to find a better hiding place:

Deer tracks on a remote Lewis loch
Trout fishing beside Dollag's Cottage
Once more Dollanna has enjoyed welcoming all her guests who have come to stay over the 2016 holiday season and she is looking forward to seeing new, and returning, guests in 2017 with the cottage already filling up for the 2017 season. While these photos are not exactly a balanced representation of a holiday on the island, as they are a little biased towards the fishing, hopefully they give some idea of the varied and interesting landscape. The photo below, just to finish up, shows a young angler, on his first fishing trip, having a cast on a loch beside the cottage on an April evening. He managed to catch himself a decent trout for his efforts:

Lewis can have some fantastic early Autumn weather and the older generation report that they would often harvest their crops in November. In the last week of November 2016 Dollanna took herself off on a little walk up the hill that overlooks Dollag's Cottage. The hill makes for a lovely walk and has a good view out to the hills of Uig:

Uig from the hill overlooking Dollag's Cottage
North Lewis moorland from above Dollag's Cottage
As well as looking out towards the hills of Uig anyone willing to climb up the hill will also be rewarded with a great view of the rather more flat northern part of the Lewis moorland with its many lochs and the little line of villages along the Atlantic coast:

Overlooking Dollag's Cottage
Dollag's Cottage, the villages and lochs of the West Side of Lewis and the Atlantic also provide a great view and this is your host at Dollag's Cottage, Dollanna, looking down over the village and surrounding area:

On the way down a handy rock provided a good spot for a quick rest and another chance to take in the view, Dollag's Cottage can be seen in this image, and the one above, if you know exactly where to look:

Taking a rest while out walking
Late on in the year I took a little run up to the Callanish stone circle. Most of the photos posted on this site don't show the full circle as some of the details are quite interesting but here are a few taken in late 2016 that attempt to show the main circle. The circle actually sits on a little hill and so it is surprisingly difficult to get a good photo of it as you are almost always looking up to the stones plus, as you can see, on this particular day the light wasn't very good for photography. Even so hopefully you will enjoy the snaps I took:

Late in the year it can be interesting to walk the smaller parts of local rivers and the feeder streams to watch the salmon, sea trout and brown trout spawning in the gravel that is found in these moorland rivers. On this particular day I headed out onto the moor in some wonderful winter colours and light:

I wandered down one of the upper reaches of the River Creed and although I didn't spot any salmon I did see some trout. Out on the moor in this area the river is quite small but even so there are always interesting things to see even if it is just the view:

I wandered down to the beach on Loch an Ois, and I actually got my stove going and made lunch on the beach enjoying the view in the process. The River Creed flows through this loch:

Around the corner from my lunch spot, just where the river enters the loch, another angler had left his tracks on the little bit of beach that extends a short distance up the river. Although I didn't see the otter they are often on patrol when the fish are spawning as a distracted fish in shallow water makes an easy dinner for the otter: