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Outlander lives on the Isle of Lewis

We arrived on the Isle of Lewis around 6 a.m., precisely on schedule, and tied up at the dock so that passengers could walk off the ship. That we did with voyagers organized into six groups. We piled into three buses in the morning, the same three in the afternoon, and everyone got a chance to ride the island in a circle with no stress, no bother. Clockwork.
This was our Adventure Canada voyage around Scotland last June.
On our bus we had a wonderful guide named Doro, short for Dorothea, who had an answer for every question, no matter how arcane. The Dun Carlaway Broch dates from around the final century B.C., making it one of the last to be built. It remained in use, probably as both castle and vertical farmhouse, until the Vikings arrived in the early 800s. My favorite story about the broch derives from the 16th century, when the Morrisons of Ness took refuge here after getting caught raiding cattle from the local MacAulays. The Morrisons blocked the broch entrance, which was designed for that purpose, but Donald Cam MacAulay scrambled up the outer wall, threw down burning heather, and forced the would-be thieves to stumble out to meet their fate.
The Callanish Stones are the largest assemblage of such mystery objects in all Europe. Dating back 5200 years, they are not only older than those at Stonehenge but are arranged in the shape of a Celtic Cross and are also readily accessible. No cars roar past on nearby highways. And if you have no fear of being shunted off backwards in time, Outlander-style, you can reach out surreptitiously and touch them.
Even so, on Lewis, I got the biggest kick out of visiting the nine houses at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, which hark back to the 17th century. Here we see how the vast majority of Highlanders lived for centuries. The village highlight is the working blackhouse, which has been reconstructed to the year 1955, when inhabitants adapted and incorporated many of the features of the more modern “white houses” that arose after the end of the Second World War. A local guide named Mary, who was born and raised in this village, provided an evocative depiction of life during this period of transformation.
Before leaving Lewis, passengers got to visit Stornoway. Home to more than 7,000 people, it is by far the largest settlement in the Hebrides, and offers a range of shops, services and amenities. Many passengers visited Lews Castle and enjoyed its wooded walks and museum experience, which included multi-media atmospherics and a collection of several of the original Lewis Chessman. A bookstore on Cromwell Street enjoyed a run on Lewis-related books by mystery writer Peter May . . .  and on facsimile chessmen. 

Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.