Sunday, 3 February 2019

Port of Ness (Port Nis), hebridean 'Thule' with a unique temple to St. Moluag.

Port of Ness (Port Nis) is a village on the Isle of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, at the end of the road leading northwards from Stornoway. It's very dispersed, a string of villages along the road like a linear settlement that extends for three miles from Cross to the harbour, with an extension to Eoropie.

The wee port was constructed in the early 19th century.

Port of Ness

Coordinates: 58° 29′ N, 6° 13′ W
Population: ~1300 (community), less than 1000 (village)

From up on the cliff, a sloping road leads down to the harbour.

An intriguing little harbour, between a cliff and an extremely attractive beach.

That boathouse at the harbour features in Peter May novels, The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man.

Sea storm conditions are frequent, huge waves battering the walls.

As I said, Port of Ness is a village-along-the-road. The main road from Stornoway is also its main street. Below I pasted a map of road A857 that shows the location of some features I'll describe next. All the area north of Cros is the community of Ness.

Port of Ness is quite well cared for, its houses all alike - gabled ends with chimney, some facing the road, others parallel.

A pretty harmony prevails.

With a decreasing population, many of the houses in the village are now to sell, to rent or for accommodation of visitors. Still, there is an art gallery, a luxury tweed weaving factory, one or two knitwear workshops, and a café/restaurant perched on the cliff.

Iain Macleod's Breanish Tweed  manufactures lightweight luxury tweeds and other products including lambswool and cashmere shawls or scarves.

Designer Sallie Avis's workshop Sewing Room With a View makes to measure handcrafted accessories, in Harris or Breamish tweed:

A quaint boutique in a pretty sea-blue shop studio overlooking Port of Ness.

Harbour View Gallery

Also in Port of Ness is the Harbour View Gallery, where the locally-based artist Anthony J. Barber's displays his works, in a modern cabin with a view.

Paintings, prints and cards of Lewis island scenes. 

Cafe Sonas

From local fish and shellfish plates to freshly made scones. And a large variety of gin, too.

But the best is the view !

To the south, the café overlooks the harbour and the beach:

Ness beach seen from South

A bench with a view

Cros, or Cross, is one of the settlements on the main road. A most cheerful looking post office has been brightly rebuilt :

This unusual Post Office stands 3 miles southwest from Port of Ness.

Eoropie (Europaidh), beach and dunes

Close to the west of Port of Ness, this village stands by a famous, magnificent beach, with dunes fine enough for a "dune park".

I would even say - probably, one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the world.

Looks sunny, but temperature here is often below zero!

And to the extreme North of the isle, the Butt of Lewis headland, which lies in the North Atlantic, is frequently battered by heavy swells and storms and is marked by the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse.

Teampull Mholuaidh
(Church of St. Moluag)

St. Moluag's church is a 12th or 13th century church in Eoropie, Ness. Saint Moluag, or Moluog, born Irish, was an early Christian missionary and apostle of the Picts and, most likely, the first patron saint of Scotland since the 6th century.

This is one of the very few remaining temples to St. Moluag - there is only one other in Lewis.

Recently restored, the church has a basic T shaped structure, with two small chapels on either side of the main body of the church.

The very narrow windows - one on the back wall, two over the side chapel and just one on the main side wall - help with a magical inner atmosphere.

Close to the side entrance door, a Iona celtic cross has been recently placed.


It's stunningly beautiful interior, under the dim light of few simple windows,  invites to silence and meditation. The wooden roof is part of the restorations works.


The dark interior can only be lighted is by oil lamp and candle.

St. Moluag's golden glowing under the low sun:

Closing with a Port of Ness watercolour:

Anthony J Barber, Harbour View Gallery

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Lake Jack London, in far eastern Siberia's Kolyma Mointains: probably the most beautiful in the whole world

The grandest beauty sometimes arises where you least expect. In this part of Siberia, a century ago, lame and squalid prisoners of the gulags were punished with forced labour by a regime that did not tolerate dissidents; they built here the "road of bones" on hundreds of skeletons - a repulsing ruin of the Soviet regime that still winds through a deserted and frozen landscape of rivers and mountains, taiga and tundra.

    Camp Dalstroy, a gulag on the upper basin of the Kolyma in the neighbourhood of the abandonned mining village of Sinegorye,  rose up to 200 000 prisoners packed in abject conditions. They worked in the Uranium and Gold mines and building the tragic road R5O4 to connect Yakutsk and Magadan.

    - but also here in the Kolyma ridge exists a blessed lake, a place of most harmonious nature and beauty like few in the world, a heaven: the lake Jack London, close to the source of the river, north of the harbour city of Magadan.
    This mountainous area, reaching its highest at Pik Aborigen (2 300 m), is now a large protected nature reserve. 

    Lake Jack London
    Озеро Джека Лондона
    Coordinates62° 04′ N, 149° 31′ E
    [same as the Faroe Isands or Ålesund]

    The waters of Lake Jack London are located at an altitude around 800 m. It's much smaller than the most celebrated Lake Baikal, but quite long - some 10 km from tip to tip, and about 50 m deep.

    Low banks, with forested soft slopes - mainly larch, dwarf pine (Pinus pumila) and spruce - that end in wetlands or less often in sandy beaches.

    Why 'Jack London' ?
    The Russian geologists were highly educated, and Jack London was famous worldwide at the time, in the beginning of the 20th century. Those who led the first expeditions to the Upper Kolyma - where they would discover the gold and uranium mines - finally chosed their favorite author to name the Lake, in 1932, under Peter Skornyakov's proposal.

    Reminds of a fjord in Norway.

    Colours are intense in the warmer season, a feast to the eyes:


    Birches, Poplars and Fir trees join the dominating Larches to a warmly coloured forest that contrasts with the pristine blue water.

    But these are very cold lands. In July, temperature can reach at most 12ºC, in Winter it frequently drops to -30ºC.

    Perfect reflections

    Blizzard over the waters still increases the sheer, exquisite beauty of the scenery:

    And at twilight, a sublime irreality breathes out over the place.

    A rarity can be found near the lake - the Yagel Forest - a tundra-like layer of moss and lichens up to 30 cm  tall.

    This part of Siberia has almost no native population, and there is almost no reindeer grazing. As a result, the “yagel forest” resists. 

    It's like virgin terrain, a primeval Earth ground.

    A bit more visisted, a few sand beaches attract fishing or adventure excursions.

    Seen from above, the lake displays a boomerang-like shape, with several capes and a few islets.