By the time Debbie and I had got up, dressed & had breakfast, the Astoria had already been moored in the bay outside Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis for over three hours.
The day was overcast with occasional glimpses of the sun and so we got wrapped up with warm hats and gloves and made our way via tender to the port with no delays.
We’d visited Stornoway before on an earlier holiday to the Outer Hebrides but apart from parking up our car en-route to the Isle of Harris to pick up some sweets for the journey, we hadn’t really explored the town itself.
On arrival we were given the following map of the town to help us navigate our way from the ferry terminal & our first stop was a rather posh Harris Tweed shop in North Beach Street. Unfortunately my appearance must have put off the assistants as they studiously ignored both us despite my love of the cloth (I have two Harris Tweed jackets and two hats at home) & not inconsiderable financial firepower!
Slightly disappointed, we made our way up Cromwell Street where on the right we saw a rather ramshackle cave-like shop filled to the roof with Harris Tweed off-cuts, as well as everything else finished you could imagine buying from their looms. Posh it was not, but it was staffed by the rather eccentric owner who reminded me of TV John from TV’s Hamish Macbeth with his lovely gentle Scottish accent.
He regaled us with stories about the local rocks being the oldest on earth and found to be the same as those brought back from the moon in the Apollo missions. Whether or not this is actually true or not is unverified but he was a real character who made the shopping experience of the throngs of visitors in his shop entertained, although I’m sad to report we left empty handed!
We continued up the street and made our way across the bridge on our left towards Lews Castle which appeared to be clad in scaffolding, so we instead headed towards the Woodlands Centre Cafe for a comfort break, before heading back into town for lunch.
I fancied something spicy, but there was no-one in the local Indian restaurant so we opted for the Chinese. Just as we were approaching a short snow flurry followed by heavy winds and hail suddenly pushed us into the warmth of the restaurant which was suddenly inundated with fellow passengers from the Astoria. After a warming meal we headed back to the tender looking forward to the entertainment on-board later in the day, namely the comedian Gerry Graham who we were destined to see twice that night…
Astoria left Stowaway on time at 5pm heading for Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, when the Captain suddenly announced on the tannoy that waves of 4 metres were forecast and that all passengers were advised to hold onto all handrails as they moved around the ship and that going out on deck was not to be advised. Rather ominously the crew then started to place sick-bags all around the ship and roped off some of the steeper internal stairs to try and avoid accidents…
Despite this we tucked in as normal to the Lotus Grill buffet for dinner and then slowly made our way to the show room for the 8.30pm comedian where the first thing that struck us was the relative absence of an audience. True professional that he was Gerry started his act despite tottering to and fro as the ship rode the ever increasing waves. Much applause later we then followed this with a quiz on Cryptic Body Parts (don’t ask) in which we seemed to do quite well when more people started to arrive, rather shell shocked it had to be said, to see the comedian’s act designed for those on the second (formal) sitting.
We decided to stay put rather than risk another journey just yet and as Gerry launched into his word perfect repeat of his first act there was the sound of crockery crashing behind the bar and my drink started to slide towards the floor. With a magnificent act of hand eye coordination I caught it one-handed to the applause of all those surrounding our table.
Wiping his brow at the end of his “turn” Gerry hobbled off and the walking wounded audience reluctantly retired to their cabins. This is when my admiration for Debbie knew no bounds and I made best friends with the tablets pictured below which I have to say truthfully work and more importantly they work fast!
A night to remember for sure… Fortunately neither or us were ill and the Astoria’s stabilisers seemed to do a great job 🙂