We were heading out to a spot we had seen earlier where we might be able to park up for the night. It had looked perfect when we had first noticed it, almost as good as the Fairy Rock Motel, but, although it was getting on for nine o’clock, the light showed no intentions of fading and, on a second look, in broad daylight it seemed to lack the privacy we preferred.
Parking safely was not the easiest thing to do on the narrow island roads. Had it been easier, we would have undoubtedly explored the Callanish IV stone circle, Ceann Hulavig, that we could see as we passed, frustrated by our inability to do more than look from a distance. The stones, nine feet tall, form a circle around a central cairn and from it you can… if you can park… see the three circles we had already visited that day.
We would certainly have visited Callanish VIII, the Cleitir stone setting, just above the bridge that links the Isle of Lewis to the tiny island of Great Bernera. We crossed that bridge, looking for a place to park and following an intriguing sign that pointed towards an ancient dwelling.
But, once again, the blinkers were still firmly in place… and, had we but realised, were to remain so for a little while longer. We followed the trail we were given, going where the light and the long, winding road was leading. We didn’t even realise we had crossed from one isle to the next. We were using no maps, had no idea where we were… and didn’t really care. Wherever the journey had taken us so far had been magical… and this road was to be no exception. Especially as, all unknowing, we were travelling the path of the moon through the body of the goddess… Sleeping Beauty, the Cailleach.
The road ended at a small car park, with just one other empty vehicle. We had seen no further sign of the alleged ancient dwelling… to be fair, it could have been anywhere, including a long trek across the hills. There were no houses of any age, in fact, just curious sheep and a very welcome public toilet, spotlessly clean and open even at this late hour. Around us, green hills hid the wider landscape from view and below us a small cemetery was, quite literally, the end of the road. It was only when we got out of the car that we realised we had reached the sea.
The greenest grass, starred with a million white daises, rolled down to a pale, empty beach and a sea of turquoise crystal. Great drifts of flowing, folded stone bordered the path to a silence broken only by the waves. Tiny islands fringed the sheltered cove and the place was as near to paradise as I could imagine.
Just one thing looked out of place. Where the rocks rose above the waves, oyster-catchers perched and we could see a curious, man-made shape breaking the water. It was only later that we found out what it was… the Time and Tide Bell.
The Bell is the work of artist Marcus Vergette and there are a number of these bells around the country. This one was installed at Bosta Beach in 2010, “to create, celebrate, and reinforce connections; between different parts of the country, between the land and the sea, between ourselves and our environment.” The bells are designed to be rung by the rising and falling tides and, given the sea levels when we arrived and left, we must have just missed hearing it sound.
The bells are also designed to draw attention to rising sea levels and will doubtless, one day, fall silent. Against that day, each bell carries a unique inscription. At Bosta, it reads:
Gun mhuthadh gun truas
A’ sluaisreadh gainneim h na tràgh’d
An àtaireachd bhuan
Cluinn fuaim na h-àtairreachd àrd.
Mo leabaidh dean suas
Ri fuaim na h-àtaireachd àrd
Without change, without pity
Breaking on the sand of the beach
The ceaseless surge
Listen to the high surge of the sea
Make my resting place be
By the sound of the surge of the sea
We walked down towards the deserted shore. The light was opalescent, otherworldly… and still showed no inclination to depart although, by now, it was half-past nine. Which was just as well, really… because we finally stumbled across a sign for that ancient dwelling…