Dollag's Cottage @ 7 South Shawbost

Winter walking around Dollag's Cottage.
As might be imagined most of the guests to Dollag's Cottage come in the Spring, Summer and Autumn but the island is not without appeal in the Winter and, in fact, I really enjoy walking on the beaches and moorland in the area around the cottage during the winter. Over New Year I spent some time on both the beaches and the moor and hills beside the cottage and while out and about I took a few photos to document my travels. All of the places in these photos are within walking distance of the cottage and while they certainly look different in Winter there is a lot of appeal for the more adventurous visitor who might enjoy a mid-Winter break. One one morning I took a little wander along some local beaches and first I went to Dalbeg which can, in a big storm, produce the most fantastic waves however on this day it was relatively calm:

On the day we were on the shore there was a weather warning in place for strong winds, as you can see the weather forecast for the Western Isles can be a little unreliable and this photo shows the village and the loch:

And now she is having a quick look across the beach and out to sea. At this time of year, after a few big winter storms, the beach is often littered with weed which comes off the relatively hard sea bottom just offshore from this part of the island. In summer, as you can see on other pages on the site, the beach is ideal for kids to play on but you'd be brave to have a paddle at New Year:

If you look carefully you can see that some of the rocks in the stream have what appear to be little sandcastles balanced on top of them. This is because when the tide comes in it fills the bed of the little stream with sand washed along the beach. As the tide goes back out so the freshwater in the stream takes control and it once more erodes a channel but in some cases the remaining sand, balanced on top of rocks, is above the level of the fresh water and so it remains as a little naturally produced sandcastle.

Dollanna, your host at Dollag's Cottage, then took herself onto the shore in Shawbost for a quick walk across the shore to blow away the New Year cobwebs. This is only a few minutes walk from the cottage and there is both a freshwater loch and also a sea loch with a wall of sand and boulders keeping the two apart, this is Dollanna wandering along between the sea and the village freshwater loch which you can see behind her:

The light breeze that did come and go didn't strike us as worthy of a weather warning:

Winter can often produce quite impressive sunrises, and sunsets, on the island and as I had some plans to do some walking it was good to be getting up to a decent sunrise before heading off:

The hills in this photo, taken from Dollanna's back garden, were not my target for the day but rather I was going to go along another ridge that runs due South away from the village and out onto the moor. I didn't really have any big plan but just wanted to wander along and take in the view plus, of course, making tea in a few spots with a view would also be in the plan:

If you are not fed up with large stones then here is another erratic. This one isn't finely balanced but has clearly had a large chunk drop off and I wonder did this happen when it, perhaps, dropped from the top of some retreating glacier or has errosion over the 10,000 years since it was dropped here caused the chunk to detach. You can't see the broken chunk in the first image as it was taken from behind the main mass of the erratic but the second photo clearly shows that a big bit has fallen off:

On the hilltop are a number of small lochs and I was interested to note that one of them appeared to be almost flat calm despite a breeze that was blowing:

Along the line of the hill are a number of glacial erratics and it can be interesting to take a look at them. They were left behind when the ice retreated and when you actually study them closely they usually give you something to think about. This one is, in part, balanced on another much smaller stone and while this is quite common I'm often left wondering exactly how it happened. Firstly we have a wide view of it, taken in the early morning light, with the villages of the West Side of Lewis behind and then a closer view of the same erratic which shows how it is balanced:

Once onto the top of the hill the lochs were a little more exposed and so tended not to be frozen plus I had a great view down into Carloway and out across the Lewis moorland right to the Harris hills and also the hills in the Uig area of Lewis. With the low Winter sun getting a good photo was sometimes tricky as, of course, the sun was always behind the hills I wanted in the photo, but in other cases perhaps the low sun added to the effect:

This little loch was clearly in a relatively sheltered spot compared to some of the others in the area and so it had frozen over. There were still some small areas that remained unfrozen but it was a little odd to see a perfectly still loch when most of the others had a good ripple on them:

I was using the old, disused, shielings as waymarkers as I went along as they are interesting to see and also provide good places to make tea, or lunch, plus in this case they also often had good views over the surrounding countryside. I enjoy wandering from shieling to shieling taking in the view and so to finish this little report on some January walks around Dollag's Cottage I will post a few photos of the shielings spotted as I went along:

While wandering along the hilltop I spotted some juniper bushes. Here on Lewis they grow along the ground and never get very tall and they produce a very limited number of berries so that probably means making your own gin is out of the question but even so it is interesting to see them, and interesting to crush them and smell a pine forest, or even some gin, while sitting on top of a hill overlooking Dollag's Cottage:

Dalbeg Beach on the Isle of Lewis in January
Shawbost shoreline near Dollag's Cottage
January on the shore in Shawbost
The village loch near to Dollag's Cottage
Shawbost from the loch
January sunrise in Shawbost
Making tea while walking in January near Shawbost
Glacial erratic above Shawbost
Finely balanced glacial erratic above Shawbost
Glacial erratic close to Shawbost
Glacial Erratic on the Isle of Lewis
Frozen Lewis loch in January
Isle of Lewis loch frozen in winter
View of Carloway while hillwalking in January
Hills of Harris while hill walking near Shawbost
View while winter hill walking near Shawbost on the Isle of Lewis
Juniper plant on the hill near Shawbost
Shawbost shieling close to Dollag's Cottage
Shawbost shieling
Shieling near Shawbost and overlooking Carloway
Looking out across Lewis from a Shawbost shieling
Shawbost shielings