In 2013 I got to spend the 2nd week in July staying in Dollag's Cottage and I was also there that week in 2012 so I thought to combine the photos into a little report on what the visitor might like to do on a summer holiday visit to the cottage. This year (2013) most of my time was spent fishing for trout on the lochs but last year I also did some of the more general tourist type exploring so combining the two might give a more general view of what you might get up to. As ever the list of what I didn't do is much longer than the list of what I did get up to but here goes...
The photo at the top of the page is a panaroma of the Shawbost area taken from almost exactly the same place as the photo in my report on an April trip to Lewis so you can compare the two and spot the differences.
Dollag's Cottage is the ideal holiday spot for kids and especially kids who enjoy the outdoors or who live in a less rural area and want to be free to wander, feed pet lambs, enjoy the nearby beach and just generally get up to all the things kids should be getting up to on their summer holidays.
Despite the weather reports and the general perception I've always had great summer weather on Lewis and this year was no different with temperatures reaching 20 degrees. Last year was the same and my mum, who popped up for a short visit, managed to get sunburn. Of course the lack of rain and hot days mean that there is very little water in the rivers so salmon fishing was not an option either last year, when this photo was taken, or this year when there was just a little more water in the river.
Dollag's Cottage @ 7 South Shawbost
Of course Lewis is a land of hundreds of lochs and so for the angler lack of water is not such a problem as he can always take to the loch for his fishing. I had several wonderful days walking the moor to trout lochs and enjoying the wildlife that joined me on my trips.
To assist the visiting wildlife watcher Dollanna has left a Hertel and Reuss spotting scope in the cottage. This scope offers magnification between 25 and 60 though the best image quality is usually achived from 25 to 40. The scope allows the visitor to lie in the heather and watch the eagles or the otters on the loch.
As is usual for July there are always plenty of corncrakes calling in Shawbost and in the evenings they can be heard on the croft on which the cottage sits. The corncrakes like the long and undisturbed grass and so many crofters leave areas like this for them to hide and nest in. This is a photo of one such area on the croft by the cottage and not only does it encourage the corncrakes but it also often has a good selection of wild flowers. You can see not only the flowers but also the sea mist rolling in onto the croft and this can be a feature when the weather is hot.
Despite my being a keen trout angler it is always a pleasure to watch another angler at work and during the week I got to watch the expert otter catch his dinner and play at the lochside. Although his focus seemed to be on having fun and also eating the nice trout he caught he still had time to keep an eye on me and this prevented my getting any decent photos of him in action. Eventually he got fed up with my lurking and so swam off while giving me the evil eye. I always think otters are so funny in the way they often take the time to ensure that you realise that you are the visitor to their loch and that they are not so pleased about it. However, I have a good idea where he is living and will be taking the Hertel and Reuss telescope onto the hill by the loch to watch him when I'm next staying in the cottage.
Many Lewis visitors like to visit the beaches and while I didn't spend much time on the beach this year last year my parents spent some time in Dollag's Cottage and, of course, we had to take them to see Losgaintir beach. Even for someone like myself who isn't keen on spending his time on beaches I must say that Losgaintir is spectacular and every visitor should try to get to see it. I'm told it is considered among the top ten beaches in the world and it is rare to find a visitor who, once they've been, doesn't consider it the best in the world. The view into the hills of North Harris is stunning and even on a bad day Losgaintir can always produce a mixture of light, sea, sand and hills to impress even someone like me who might rather be casting a line on a trout loch.
Visitors to Lewis also like to see the standing stones at Callanish, about 15 - 20 minutes drive from the cottage, and there is no doubt that they make a most impressive sight plus the visitor can get something nice to eat in the visitor centre. While the main circle at Callanish is the big attraction there are a lot of other, smaller, circles to attract the visitor. This year I dropped by one that I hadn't been to see in some years and enjoyed a walk around and among the stones.
As those who know me, and who have fished with me, will be aware most of my time is spent brewing up tea in some remote spot and the many old shielings that dot the moor are ideal for this purpose. This one saw good action come lunchtime, with the little shelves built into the structure making ideal spots to brew tea and heat food, while I walked to a trout loch:
This shieling is only a short walk from the cottage and, of course, it is a shieling with a view
The months of July and August are sometimes said not to be good for trout fishing on Lewis but I suspect the reason for this reputation is because many anglers are, at this time, ignoring the trout and heading for salmon fishing. This year I had some great fishing, even on bright sunny days that would have been difficult or impossible anywhere, and I also caught some great wild brown trout from a wide range of lochs, not all were big but they display great colours and put up a wonderful fight and despite only rarely seeing an angler they can be surprisingly difficult to tempt.
When you factor in remote trout lochs, often with a view, and which may not have seen an angler for years even in the "bad" months of July and August Lewis makes a great destination for the trout angler.
Despite the rather rural and remote location of Dollag's Cottage there are still lots of things to do that might fall into the category of more "traditional" visitor attractions. There are quite a few places to eat on the island and many are very high quality indeed. Just two examples are Auberge at Carnish which is in a most remarkable setting allowing the diner a view across the Uig sands while they sample an excellent menu or Digby Chick in the centre of Stornoway which always produces an excellent meal. Visitors also often enjoy getting to see Harris Tweed woven and a visit to a working weaver can usually be arranged by talking to Dollanna, two of her brothers carry on the long tradition of weaving in their "loom sheds" by their houses. Ten pin bowling is available at Ness, there is a swimming pool in the local school about a mile from the cottage, a Norse Mill may be visited on the nearby loch, wildlife tours may be taken with some very knowledgable experts on the wildlife of the islands (ask Dollanna for info), or you can even take to the sea either to tour the inshore waters of the area or to head out into the Atlantic to visit the amazing islands of St. Kilda.
No matter what the time of year, the weather conditions or the requirements of the visitor you will not be short of things to do on a visit to Dollag's Cottage and your only problem will be fitting everything in, and planning the dates for your return visit.