A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


It was early evening when I reached the campsite at Cnip (pronounced 'neep'), a small crofting community on Lewis's western coast. You have to be fairly dedicated to get there. You turn off the A858 just beyond the standing stones at Calanais, and follow the recently improved B8011 across a wild landscape of lochs, lochans and grey-green hills. Rocks of Lewisian gneiss stick up through thin, acidic soil. It's true wilderness here, empty, elemental; shaped over eons of time by the raw, brute forces of nature.

The weather had become rainy and blustery, but it was still pleasantly warm (Lewis has a moist, mild climate, with no great extremes between its summer and winter temperatures). Eventually you branch off along a narrow, minor road which unrolls by one of Loch Rog's slender inlets. It then follows a short, stark, river valley, and winds through the tiny, windswept, coastal settlements of Cliobh and Bhaltos, until finally finishing up at Cnip.

There was an end-of-the-world feel to the place. If you discount the more southerly isles of the Outer Hebrides, you can't get much further west in Britain than this: there's nothing but ocean between here and the Labrador coast of Canadian Newfoundland.

I pitched my tent behind the dunes on the machair - a flat, grassy strip carpeted with wild flowers. Occasionally the sun broke through chinks in the cloud and illuminated dazzling white sand, aqua blue water and the little islands in Traigh na Beirigh bay. Later I found Agnes Maclennan from the Cnip Village Grazing Trust assiduously cleaning the campsite's small shower and toilet block. She spoke English with a soft, Gaelic-inflected accent. "You should have been here these past few weeks," she said. "The most wonderful weather. But I fear the rain has now set in."


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I love the look of that open landscape, with sea and sky and rugged little hills. All that rock and sand, and distance. A fine place to walk and think, and to camp, too, I expect—though wind must a factor in how you "batten down."

Lovely post.

Alan Sloman said...

Lewisian Gneiss: A primordial landscape that really can be described as 'timeless' as it was formed almost before time began.

Lovely pictures too; it must have been quite a tek for you to get there.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Scotland does have a habit of being lovely midge less weather when you are not there - doesn't it?

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, Grizzled, it's such a fine and meditative place. Two pegs in as soon as you lay out the tent - then the rest is plain sailing (sort of!) I remember one of my 1st camping experiences in the South of France when a mid-teenager: a cheap, ridge tent buffeted by the relentless, Mistral wind. My friend and I had to rescue it from a plane tree's boughs in the morning... Oh, happy days!

Alan - not really that much of a trek by car! Am I getting soft in my middle age?

Actually, Weaver, I didn't encounter many midges during my recent trip... Lavender oil is a good repellent. Or so I'm told. Though I usually use the Avon Lady's 'Skin So Soft' (risking merciless teasing here...)

am said...

"There was an end-of-the-world feel to the place."

How can a place I've never been be so familiar and beloved?

Grace said...

Beautiful beaches. Looking at your blog always creates a longing feeling in me! I swear someday I'll visit that part of the world.