The more I drive around the Isle of Lewis, the more there is to see. The dramatic landscape intertwines with sinuous single track roads winding their way through its raw beauty. It’s a sensory overload just driving around. You need to take time out just to be still and soak it all in. It’s an amazing place.
Then as is my way, I get further distracted by random abstract details that catch my eye on my travels. I can be a nightmare, I find way too many things interesting or creatively intriguing. Sometimes it’s these small details that can help paint the bigger picture. This area on the West of the Isle of Lewis and the Island of Great Bernera just off the coast are amazing. I could have happily spent a lot more time here. However, there were a bunch of old stones I quite fancied seeing too!
So from funky contemporary architecture inspired by traditional building types, onto see something so old, it’s pre-internet! (my kids used to think anything before the internet was ancient!) In fact, it’s pretty much pre-everything! The Calanais Standing Stones are an extraordinary cross-shaped setting of stones erected some 5,000 years ago. They predate England’s famous Stonehenge monument and were an important place for some form of ritual activity for at least 2,000 years. It’s not certain why the standing stones at Calanais were erected, but apparently, it’s thought that it was a kind of astronomical observatory of some kind?
Something pretty awesome about standing and walking through the collection of standing stones. It’s not often your head gets to consider things in the context of that length of time. 5,000 years is a crazy amount of time to try and comprehend. Then there are the physical engineering questions surrounding their construction, movement and layout. These stones are massive. The large central stone must be getting on for 4 or 5m high! The physical effort required to locate, gather, transport and then finally position them all vertically is truly remarkable. An inspiring place to visit and experience first-hand.
24 Hours From Tolsta
Well not quite 24 hours, but some may get the pun/reference 😉 After seeing the epic standing stones, it was time to think about finding a place to stop over for the night. To mix things up a little, I decided to switch sides on Lewis, cutting across land and heading over to the east side of the island.
I found a spot that I thought would make a decent stopover for the night. It had on first inspection a pretty decent view which is always a bonus. Time to get the kettle on and have a bite to eat. After my obligatory mug of tea, I thought I’d go for a walk to explore my new surroundings for the night in the late afternoon sunshine…
As I walked alongside the narrow seawater channel that worked its way through the white golden sand towards the sea, I had no idea what was on the other side of the inlet opening? I assumed it would be a pretty little cove similar to others I had seen of the island.
Wow, was I in for a huge surprise! It opened up to a simply stunning, pristine white golden sand beach that stretched off far away into the distance.
I had to pinch myself at the sight of this beach perfection. It seemed like I was pretty much the only person on this deserted piece of paradise. It was unbelievably beautiful. So peaceful with just the sound of the waves as they gently broke and slipped across the sand. What an end to the day. It’s moments like this that will live long in the memory. They make the back to basics road trip so refreshing. To live in a stripped-back, simpler kind of way, even for a little while. It really reinvigorates the soul.
Bridge to nowhere
The next morning, just because I could, I thought I’d go make and have my breakfast in a new location which was just a mile away or so from where I was. The ‘Bridge to nowhere’ was just around the headland, beyond Tolsta Village. It’s aptly named because, surprise surprise, the bridge doesn’t actually lead anywhere at all. Once you cross over it, there is just a rough scenic path that runs a mile or so along the cliff tops. This then peters out into a boggy, peaty, moorland walk for roughly 11 miles.
Originally the bridge to nowhere – sometimes called ‘Garry Bridge’ (no idea why?) was on the route of what was to be Lord Leverhulme’s new route to Ness. So it wasn’t originally built as a folly, just that this road route to Ness was never completed. I assume they run out of money at the time? Building a road over boggy, peaty moorland wouldn’t have been easy or cheap, now or then!
The reinforced concrete bridge has nine arches and spans a deep gorge with a height of 50ft and a width of 100 feet. The bridge overlooks Garry beach which has a series of amazing Sea Stacks on the beach.
Whilst in the area, I’m not one for missing out on going to the beach. These awesome looking sea stacks are formed by the erosive power over time, of wind and water. It just goes to show the kind of power that the elements can exert on the exposed coastline of the island.
The sea stacks are really impressive abstract sculptural structures in themselves, especially when you can get up so close that they tower over you. The sheer diversity of landscape on the Isle of Lewis is incredible for a comparatively small landmass.
More to explore
It’s been an amazing few days on Lewis, but there is still so much more to see on my road trip around the Western Isles… if you’re enjoying the adventures so far, feel free to subscribe to get notified of new post content (no spam!) from me, as there’s more to come in the pipeline…