Staying there was truly a once in a lifetime experience, and although I wish it had been a tad longer, it was really neat to be staying on a grand manor estate.
After a super quick drive to the airport, it was time to board my flight in the smallest plane I have ever flown in (I previously thought the Delta shuttle flights from NYC to Boston were small):
Looking down at Lewis from the plane:
Upon arrival in Stornoway, which is the main city on Lewis, I had a bit of time to wait until the first bus into the town arrived, and I had a nice chat with a gentleman from Sweden who was going to be sailing from Stornoway back to Sweden - that would be an adventure, going through the North Sea which can be really rough. As much as I like being on the water, I think I'd skip that trip.
Once in Stornoway, there was some more time to wait for the bus to Northton - this is a bit of a running theme, waiting for buses. Public transport is definitely not as extensive out here as in the cities, but at least it is present...unlike back home. I had plenty of time to wander around, and of course noticed a library was present:
I love how on all the tourist sign posts throughout the UK, they always include signage towards the library. In the US there are the "L" library signs which I think are used in most towns, but this seems more directional and shows that in any town the library is one of the main community sites. I decided this would be my non-London library visit, at Leabharlainn nan Eilean Siar, known in English as Stornoway Library (http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/library/libraries/stornoway.asp).
The Outer Hebrides are one place in Scotland where the Gaelic language is more widespread, and the library had all signage in Gaelic first and English second. Walking in shortly after they had opened, I was surprised at how busy it was! I had to wait a bit to speak with a librarian, as I wanted to ask permission to take pictures and talk to her a little bit about the library. It is the main library on the island, with two other branches in other parts. They offer a very well used delivery service for patrons who are unable to get into Stornoway - from most parts of the island, if you don't have a car, it would be an all-day affair of going into town and back. There was a very busy coffee shop, located right inside the library:
This is an awesome way to get more people in the door, including tourists, who come in for coffee and may stay to check out a display or use the free wifi or a computer terminal. It very much illustrates how libraries are community centres, not just a place for books. There was a whole bulletin board with upcoming events, not just library-related but also for the town and island in general. I was given permission to take photos, but I didn't want to take any with patrons in them (or customers, as they've been called in the libraries we have visited over here. I think customers is more apt a word, because it emphasizes that what libraries provide is more akin to retail with good customer service skills a necessary part of the job).
They also had a really great local and family history section, with a microfilm reader and binders of data. I would have loved to see their special collections, which were going to be showcased this coming Thursday. And of course there was a rather large (or large to me) section of books in Gaelic (this is part of a shelf in a whole big bookcase):
The library classifed their books using the Dewey Decimal system, and had posters near the nonfiction of popular terms and gave their DDC number location to help you find what you were looking for without using an OPAC. And I also liked how within the shelves there were call-out signs saying for example "World History" or "Scottish History" in the history section to help with shelf-browsing.
So now the bus ride - we boarded a proper size coach, and halfway through the trip switched to a 16 passenger van. There were gorgeous window views all along the route:
When I boarded, I told the driver I wasn't sure what stop to get off at, and he dropped me off directly in front of the B&B, Tetherstones:
Northton is a small village, with maybe 20 homes? I could've counted by didn't. Thank goodness there was a little cafe just a short walk away which was serving dinner only on Thurs, Fri, and Sat so I had perfect timing! My first plan upon arrival had been to take a nap, but it was so pretty out and Arabella directed me on a nice walk to a the ruins of a chapel about 40 minutes away (which upon returning home I discover is a medieval chapel!). The walk passed by three beautiful white sand beaches:
Looking back towards the village:
I met a few fellow walkers along the path, but it was just mainly me and some sheep:
The weather completely changed from bright sunshine to a mist rolling in on my walk back. It was a bit surreal:
I had a nice pizza dinner at the friendly cafe, so I booked again for the next night. I really was already liking Harris and the best was yet to come the next day. Sorry for the amount of pictures and length of the entry - there is just so much to tell!