The name Hebrides comes from the Norse word Havbrødøy- island on the edge of the sea. The Hebridean archipeligo flanks Scotland's north western edge and the island of Lewis and Harris is the largest and most northly of the group. The Decca is in the village of Lionel in the area of Lewis known as Ness and is indeed on the edge of the sea- sitting at the extreme north-western tip of Europe. It is 27 miles west and north of Stornway up an excellent road that passes through small villages and wild moorland with constant glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean and fabulous beaches on the way. (Keep your eyes peeled for Golden Eagles as they are regularly sighted along this road.)
Ness is a community of small villages with about 1100 inhabitants and has a strong cultural and historical identity with strong roots in the struggle to make a living from the land and the unpredictable sea. Crofting is still a way of life for the comunity though most families depend on other sources of income- working locally, in Stornoway or taking advantage of the internet to run businesses from home. The annual Guga Hunt is a continuing practice reflecting the community's past need to be very courageous and inventive in the need for food to survive the winter. It is unique to Ness. Most people still cut peat for fuel and the smoke of the peatfires is an evocative presence. Gaelic is still at the base of everything though everyone speaks English. The local school has a Gaelic medium department where all classes are taught in the language. The church still exerts a powerful influence here and it is a quiet and peaceful place on a Sunday- a fact that makes for an uncommercial serenity in a bustling world.
Our home was built as a Decca navigation station, part of a network of stations around the coast that worked together to send out a net of radio signals that allowed shipping to navigate safely round the land. This system was in operation until the end of the twentieth century when satellite navigation made it obsolete. The building relfects its industrial past with two original workers' cottages flanking the business part of the old Decca Station. This has since been converted into a spacious house.
The Decca is beside the beautiful exciting sandy beaches and glorious sand dunes of Eoropie. Behind the dunes is the machair which is a delicate ecosytem awash with colourful flowers which fill the air in summer with a glorious sweet perfume. Behind the house is Stiapabhat Loch that is a bird reserve and a magnet for ornithologists with regular flurries of excitement as unexpected birds are blown off course and stay to get their bearings and rest. This is an area of huge exciting skies, fantastic light and dramatic landscapes that has attracted artists for many years. (Listen out for the corncrakes nearby in the summer and look out for the greylag geease and huge flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwings that surround Decca and the winter arrivals of whooper swans.)
We have a large flat grassy walled garden that has a gate opening directly onto the machair where the dunes and sandy beach are only a ten minute stroll. The garden is sheltered with beautiful views west to the sea and is a great place to enjoy a coffee or glass of wine as the sun sets. It also has the wonderful advantage of being midge free!
There is excellent surfing nearby and a local provider of tuition and equipment. There is great fishing and excellent walks along the coast from the house and on both the eastern and western coasts. The Butt of Lewis lighthouse Europe’s most north westerly point) is a few minutes’ drive (or a half hour walk) and there are many sites of historical and archaeological interest nearby. It is occasionally possible to see dolphins and various types of whale from the nearby coast.
The Decca sits on its own but has great facilities on either side. On one side is the social club with a bar and regular ceilidhs and music sessions. On the other is the Lionel swimming pool and Spornis, a community-owned sports centre, with gym, sauna, sports hall… and two lane ten pin bowling alley! Just up the road beside the play park and the beach car park is the Eoropie Tearoom serving snacks and refreshments. A few miles south in Cross is the Ness Historical Sociey with fascinating displays and historical records. In addition there is the Cafe Sonas at Port of Ness (with lovely views of the little harbour and Port beach), the Cross Inn (serving food and with a great little peatfire pub) and the Borve Inn (serving lovely meals). Ness has several post offices and two general village stores. The local bus to and from Stornoway stops at the door of The Decca.