Day 8, The Moor and The Pentland Road

20B shielling9458 60022 June 2013

It is Saturday and I don’t wake until 9.30am. It has been another late night enjoyed over a glass of wine with Erica and Alasdair in their cosy sitting room by the fire, after getting home in the very early morning from the solstice activities at Callanish.

So it is a slow start to Saturday and I do not wander out until afternoon. The rain is falling in soft sheets as I head for the Pentland Road, a moor road that crosses the peats to Carloway. The road is narrow single track, rutted and less used, and fits prettily into the moor. I am going here to see some moorland shielings.

The shielings are brightly painted But ‘n Bens, traditionally used by families when they transferred themselves and their herds to graze the moors for summer, and left the coastal pastures for growing their crops. Everyone talks of summers at the shielings with a wistful look in their eye and a smile that flickers with memories recounted. The shielings are not an entrenched part of life as they used to be, though people will still visit their shieling on the moor. But the stories from the past are full of freedom and playfulness as the women and children and old people stayed with the livestock, while the men were at sea. Much mythology and song springs from this time, stories rising from the mists and the peat fires, songs for the milking and the activities of the day.

I spend the whole afternoon wandering the moor, sinking my feet deep into the heather and moss and the peat, soaking my shoes and my jeans in the rivers as I clamber deeper to film swirling weed under clear amber water. Not a sound, just the sky larks trilling and dipping through the air, water tumbling by and heather heavy with insect life.

(There is some more information on the Pentland Road on the blog Digital Resources page)

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