Monthly Archives: June 2016

Tour of Scotland pt 2: Inverness to Lewis

From Inverness, our tour of Scotland had us heading to the Isle of Lewis: an island with wondrous scenery in addition to peace and quiet. Lewis is the largest island of the Western Isles (or Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. Because our 10-day tour was literally called the “Best in the West”, it is clear why Lewis was on our itinerary.

isle of lewis 1

Our stay on Lewis was for two days and we spent the nights in a lovely hostel in the Gearrannan Blackhouse village, which is a group of old crofting buildings that radiate a certain old-world charm and history. The village is situated near the Callanish Standing Stones, which are even older than Stonehenge, and the Carloway Broch, an ancient castle-like construction from the time before castles.

The Carloway Broch is incredibly impressive and you can even climb a little ways inside the stone structure. However, while the broch was majestic, my absolute favorite from the whole island were the Callanish Standing Stones. It’s hard to comprehend how old the stones truly are – I felt like I had stepped into Outlander and was about to be whisked away into the olden days with bagpipes sounding in the wind. Okay, in reality, I was around a bunch of tourists and posing for my very 21st century selfies but that didn’t diminish the magic one bit.

isle of lewis 2

The various white, sandy beaches were another incredible sight for sore eyes: the turquoise waters and the long stretches of bright sand looked like they could’ve belonged to some exotic, warm country rather than the cold, windy Scotland. We visited on the Isle of Great Bernera that hosts the Bostadh Beach and an Iron Age mill. It was the perfect spot for a lunch break as we noticed.

In addition to Bostadh, another wonderful beach-y spot we explored was the Uig beach, which is actually one of the biggest beach areas on the island. It was huge – let me tell ya! It took forever just to walk from the parking lot to the waterline…like, if you were to go swimming (not that you would unless you were impervious to the cold) it would be a workout in itself just to get to the water. But there was a wonderful set of hills around it where we hiked on little twisty trails to see the beach from higher ground. It was gorgeous!

lewis 1

Must see things on Lewis:

Sights that I saw and loved:

  • Callanish standing stones (though there are numerous standing stones around the island, these are arguably the most famous!)
  • Carloway Broch
  • Any of the gorgeous white beaches
  • Isle of Great Bernera
  • Uig Chessmen

Sights I wish I’d seen:

  • Lews Castle
  • Crannogs
  • St. Columba’s Church Ui

Finally, check out the first part of my Scotland tour: Edinburgh and Inverness!

Tour of Scotland pt 1: Edinburgh to Inverness

When this school year started in September, I promised myself a reward for finishing my Master’s Thesis in the form of a trip to Scotland. I coaxed my friend to join me and after I returned my thesis in April, we packed our bags and embarked on our tour of Scottish moors in mid-May.

inverness scotland 1

We started out in Edinburgh where we had a lovely sunny evening walking around the main street and around the Edinburgh Castle. The next morning we boarded a minibus with eight other backpackers and headed out to the wilderness. Well, to Inverness, actually. Our first proper stop, after briefly getting out to snap pictures of the Forth Bridge, was the Highland Museum where some scenes from Outlander were shot. The 1700s village was quaint though the inside of the buildings was gloomy without any light source.

From the Highland Museum, we made our way further up north to the famous Loch Ness, which was magical. The lake was gorgeous and serene and somehow the entire scenery seemed imbued with the bluest of blue. Though we did not spot Nessie, the Loch Ness monster hunter (now there’s a profession I’d like to try) who has made his home on the shore of Loch Ness did sell little figurines to make up for it.

inverness scotland 2

From Loch Ness we rode on to Inverness where we arrived around 6 p.m. after traveling for nine hours. After such a long day we first wanted to shower and go have a bite to eat. Afterwards we would’ve wanted to go sit somewhere where we could hear music, but apparently it’s hard to find a place with live music AND free seats on a Monday night in Inverness. However, we decided to take a stroll by the river to the Ness Islands that were decorated with adorable fairy lights. It ended up being a lovely alternative to sitting in a pub.

It would have been nice to have more time in Inverness as we only got to spend one evening there (after everything had already closed) but hopefully I get to visit again another time. From Inverness our trip continued across the country to the West coast and to Ullapool, which I will tell more about in the second part of my travel diary.

Have you been to Scotland? How did you like the country?

Our Shared Shelf: First 4 Books

Our Shared Shelf, the feminist book club Emma Watson founded on Goodreads, is now well established and has a huge following as well as some very fascinating discussions on various aspects of womanhood. I was very eager to try and read all the books chosen for the club because I wanted to expand my horizons and discover books outside of my YA/fantasy-filled comfort zone.

our shared shelf 1

January: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Our Shared Shelf started with Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which right away generated a mixed bag of opinions: some readers appreciated Steinem’s strong point of view while others thought her writing as abrasive and inconsiderate. My Life on the Road is Steinem’s memoir that collects stories and anecdotes from her travels, while discussing important figures such as Martin Luther King and Hillary Clinton. She is also very focused on activism and talks about many of her fellow activists. While her writing can be somewhat disorganized, the overall tone of the book will quickly engage the reader.

February: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I haven’t been so affected by a book in a long while like I was by The Color Purple. Walker’s novel has often been censured due to its themes of sexuality and violence. This of course tends to be the case with books that are in the position to make a real change in the prejudices of our society. The novel is structured as a diary (and later, letters) that is being written by a young African-American woman, Celie, in the 1930s. Celie shows true growth and strength of character as she learns to deal with racism, sexual assault, and an unhappy family life.

our shared shelf 2

March: All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

Another book that divided opinions was All About Love: New Visions. bell hooks is widely regarded as a great thinker and feminist, which is why it was surprising that this particular work of hers was in fact slightly off-putting with its frequent, long-winded thoughts about religion. Furthermore, the book struck me as perhaps even too theoretical when talking about love and how one should find it and how it relates to e.g. abuse. However, it was still an interesting read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in theoretical discussions, existentialism, religion, or philosophy. And, of course, feminism!

April: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

How to Be a Woman is a hilarious, strange, and quirky piece of writing that might rub you the wrong way – or it might crack you up like no other! While I had trouble understanding some references (international reader here, hello), more often than not I found myself snorting with laughter while I read. Moran has strong opinions about all the different things women are “supposed to” be like and she is utterly unapologetic about it. She is a great example of a woman who has found her path in life and at least appears to be totally comfortable in her skin.
Our Shared Shelf is reading along quickly and the May book has been plowed through as well. I will post a review of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and the newly announced June book (graphic novel) is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (and a few more additions hopefully) at the end of the summer.