Hebridean Way: Day 11 – Lewis (Shawbost to Stornoway)

Distance cycled 29.2 miles / 47 km
Cumulative distance cycled 319.2 miles / 513.9 km
Islands visited (daily total) Lewis
Total islands visited 10+1 of 10
Average speed 11.6 mph / 18.7 kmph
Weather conditions Showers, very still, lots of midges

We knew that the ride to Stornoway wasn’t too long and as the weather didn’t look too bad we decided to pop into some of the nearby attractions that we’d skipped due to lack of time on the previous 2 days. First up was the Norse mill & kiln just outside Shawbost. It’s a short walk over a hill from the roadside car park, but by this point in the trip we were fairly blasé about leaving our bikes and all our stuff and didn’t even lock the back wheels. Crime on the islands is low and several locals told us that they never lock their front doors and that keys are left in the ignition of parked cars! The mill and kiln are a reconstructed site and we spent a while figuring out how the mill worked before we found the information leaflet explaining it inside.

Norse mill and kiln

Norse mill and kiln

Just a few miles down the road is the Arnol blackhouse, another reconstructed site but this time a proper museum. Sadly not open on the day we visited so we read the information board outside and wandered through the unreconstructed blackhouse ruins opposite. Blackhouses were the traditional form of dwelling for hundreds of years in the Hebrides and humans and animals shared the space. They didn’t have chimneys, this made the home easier to keep warm, the smoke killed bugs and the smoky thatch was a good fertiliser for the fields.

Arnol blackhouse

Arnol blackhouse (clockwise from top-left): the museum blackhouse; cut peats for the fire; unreconstructed blackhouse room; and entrance

Having enjoyed both of those sites more than we’d expected we decided to carry on past the turning for Stornoway to investigate a sign that we’d seen to another stone circle during our return from the Butt of Lewis. The weather was starting to come in and by the time we reached the Steinacleit circle parking area visibility was poor, it was raining lightly, midges were about and we were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.

Steinacleit stone circle

The “circle” itself was disappointing after what we’d seen around Callanish, no excavations have been done and the best theory for the stones is that they are the remains of a prehistoric farm

The weather improved as we rode over the moor to Stornoway, and it was totally still so that the small lochs we passed looked like mirrors in the heather. It was beautiful but there’s not much photographic evidence of this part of the ride as the midges descended within seconds of pulling over, this also meant that we didn’t want to stop for lunch so we were starving hungry by the time we arrived at the campsite at the edge of town. Again the weather forecast for the following day looked poor and so we upgraded from the camping field to a couple of beds in the bunkhouse. Because of covid, rooms were reserved for household bubbles so we had a 4-bed room to ourselves as well as access to a shared kitchen and lounge – relative luxury for our last couple of nights in the Hebrides!

Dinner at Harbour Kitchen

We finished the day with a delicious dinner at Harbour Kitchen

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