Oof, drank a bit too much of Jan and Mun's good wine last night. I only have a half day's walking to do today but I have arranged to meet people so I have to get off at the right time.
Mun has taken to buying silverware in his retirement so breakfast comes in the most elegant, Georgian looking, silverware, tea-pot, coffee pot, even the egg cup set for their own eggs is lovely.
After breakfast, Jan runs me back up the road to Leurbost. I had intended to head off across the Arnish Moor from Leurbost School but decide to take a bit of road first to get me a head start as my timings are a bit tight for a rough bog trot.
We discuss gates in the fence and Jan assures me that there is another one further up. So off I set, uphill in more bright morning sunshine.
I go on pass freshly cut peat. Something of a rare sight nowadays though it used to be ubiqutious.
View Leurbost to Stornoway in a larger map
Before I have got far, a car slows down. Would I like a lift? I decline gratefully. That makes four spontaneously offered lifts in the Highlands and Islands on this walk. Nice to see that not everyone has succumbed to paranoia.
Jan is right about the gate, in fact there are a few. I take one just before a quarry as I can see vehicals in the distance and though it is Saturday I don't want to get tangled up in quarry activity. So instead I head up to a small plantation which has that rarity for round here, a stile. I make a quick pit stop and set off again.
The plantation is on a little hill and, as I emerge, I can see the tower of the Stornoway War Memorial off in the distance. My first sight of Stornoway, and something I had expected to see long before this.
But that is not in my direction. What is are three tall wind turbines. I go down and skirt a small loch. I am headed for a gap between two lochs but the topography is so rough it is hard to see them. This one tells me I am on the right track. Or at least I hope it does. I should get out my compass really but it is in my waterproof which is stashed in the rucksack so I cannot be bothered. The ground is very spongy with great mounds of sphagnum moss.
I pass a big eggshell? A large gull is my guess. Some lesser black backs are flying around and one circles me complaining.
Beyond the small loch is an arm of a larger one of complex shape which reassures me about my position.
The ground is not wet here but it is amazingly spongy, my feet completely disapear into the springy moss with every step. I am very glad that there have been a couple of dry days before I got here.
There are wet patches here and there though and I nearly tread on a small frog in one of them.
Soon there is nothing but flat ground between me and the turbines which are on the Grimshader/Crossbost road. Unfortunately this flat bit, as flat bits tend to be, is much wetter.
Eventually I squidge through it though and make it to the road. You can see these wind turbines from just outside my mum's house, and clearly from the Castle Grounds and main road, but I have never been close to them. To my astonishment I see that there are three picnic tables at the base of one of them. Today is still and they do not move but I would imagine it would be hard to relax there if it were windy.
The dancing ladies they are called, apparently .
I make use of the picnic table to turn over my map. Now I am not just on the last map, or even on the last side, but the section of the map in my map case will take me all the way to Stornoway.
After a very short break I set off again, past the across the Arnish moor. There is a long flattish bit and then a broken line of low hills that restricts my view.
As I trudge across the flat bit I hear a throbbing. Someone on a quad bike? No, I realise it is the coastguard helicopter headed out towards the empty centre of the island.
At last the ground begins to rise as I reach the edge of the lumpy bit. On top of a rise I get a glimpse of sea which must be Broad Bay, behind Stornoway.
Next I come to a little loch, shimmering in the bright sunlight.
I bypass this but there are fences which mean I have to detour. It is frustrating because I was on time but these detours are stealing my minutes.
I have some last stepping stones to cross too, though these are easy.
At last I get up the next lump. I had hoped I would have seen the monument where I am meeting family and friends but all I can see is a crane which must be at Arnish point. Oh well, at least I know which way I am going.
This bit seems to take forever. I know I have said it before. Many times in fact. Time does that sometimes when you are walking and especially when you have a deadline. These are just little lumps, too small to call hills. Bits of broken gound. But there is no path, the vegetation is up to my thighs in places and boggy in others and the going is really really slow.
A merlin flies right round me in a circle. Not far away but too fast for me to get a photo. It must have a nest or chick nearby for it to circle me like that. Great to think of merlins breeding this close to town.
And I am very hot now. It has turned into a blinding day but my arms, which I have neglected to protect have started to burn.
At last I get up a lump and, off in the distance, I can see the distinct shape of the monument. With binoculars I can see a group of people waiting.
I go down another dip and am out of sight for a while but when I come back I can make them out more clearly, and it is just mid day, the time of my rendevouz. I shout and wave my pole. The first couple of times there is no response but then they start to wave back at me.
These pictures are by my brother in law Alf and some by my sister Nina as I emerged from the moor.
I had to go down once more and get round the wet edge of a small loch but then it was just up the slope I was there.
My mum, my sisters Hilary and Nina, brothers in law Alf and Drew, nephews Jethro and Thomas and friends Don and Pat. I got congratulated and we walked down the rough path to the cars, where my sister Loreen, and other brother in law Pete were waiting for us.
Which might make it sound as if I had made it. But actually I had not made it to Stornoway but just to Arnish. So we started the last but one mini section of the walk, strolling down the road and chatting. After so long on my own it seemed a bit strange, but all the more welcome for that.
From the Arnish Road you can get into the back of The Castle Grounds, which is the sort of park they would have in heaven. Shade from the woods, the rushing Creed for a short spell, and good pathways.
Before too long we cut down to the sea and walked along by the seawall, watching seals in Stornoway Harbour.
And then we came to The Woodland Centre where we stopped for lunch. But first I had a job to do. Though before I could do it something else caught my attention. Someone said did you see that and I looked across the inner harbour, thinking that I would see my nephew's new council flat for the first time, and there was a banner hanging from some windows.
"Failte gu steornabhagh," Spencer, it read. "Welcome to Stornoway, Spencer." My sister Loreen's idea it seems.
And then the ceremony. Because the Woodland Centre is situated on something called The Shoe Burn. So called (the story goes) because country people would stop there to put their shoes on before going into town, so that they were not shamed by going barefoot.
Well, I did not cross the Arnish Moor barefoot but I did walk the last few days in the old boots I had nearly abandoned after the walk to Coalville. I realised anythign I wore in Lewis bogs was likely to get ruined so I resurrected them. And now I took them off, put on some new trainers that my sister Nina had brought up for me, and threw those old boots away.
After lunch at the woodland centre, off we set again. A dwindling band as Don and Pat had left us at the centre. We crossed the bridge by the YMCA and then walked into town, passing right under Jethro's flat and the banner.
Up Church Street and a bit of Goathill Road. Down Smith Avenue to Springfield Road.
Along Springfield Road and down the back steps that lead to my mum's own back door.
And that really was that. I was tired and had got sunburned and thought that I had earned a cup of tea. But they made me drink champagne instead.
And later on that evening we had a party.
Thanks to everyone who helped me with this walk and who welcomed me so warmly on my arrival. Tracey and Flossie, Jan and Mun and Nina and Pete all came to the party so the only people who put me up en-route who were missing were Susan and Nick who accomadated me in Edinburgh and Melrose. I did flake out for a bit because of sunstroke and exhaustion (not helped by a nasty cold) but it was great to see everyone who came and I really did apreciate it.