Off to the Islands. Memories of RAF Stornaway. The Cold War, meeting the local shopkeepers all in a good cause.

The forecast is not great but I am off to Harris and Lewis for a few days then hopefully St Kilda. The trip to St Kilda is as always weather dependant but it will be grand to get away. The islands are so special. to me the minute your on the ferry the world changes. We sail from Ullapool to Stornaway a great wee trip. It’s great seeing the mountains from the sea they can look so different. Life is always a lot slower on the Islands as is the pace and it will bring back many memories.

I was lucky to do this trip to RAF Stornaway in my job at Kinloss when I used to go over every 3 months. As a young lad I went as an 18 year old it was a great job. To be alone after my first trip I got to know so many characters. My job was to work out the prices of food for the RAF camp on Stornaway. It was the only RAF camp in Uk to get a special rate for food based on local prices. My job was to go round the local shops that supplied the basics like bread etc and work out a price that was sent to MOD for them to work out the Stornaway Basic Daily Messing Rates (SDMR) Food was always more expensive than on the mainland.

I met many local characters in that job and went so often as no one else fancied it. It was a days travel to Ullapool then a 2 hour ferry to Stornaway. I remember going into town and meeting “Charlie Farley ” a local shop owner. In these days there was not many on the Station at Stornaway about 30 lived in. We ran their accounts from Kinloss and looked after them. We had some great visits there. As the airfield was used for Exercises during the Cold War the local shops would do well with fresh fish, the World famous Black Pudding and Haggis.

I would visit another remote site of RAF Aird Uig which had superb sea cliffs that I managed to climb on. Royal Air Force Aird Uig was a Royal Air Force radar station located on the western edge of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. That is some place so wild in bad weather.

The Clisham

I would also take a few up the Clisham the biggest hill on the Island. This steep but rapid ascent of Clisham (An Cliseam in Gaelic and on OS maps) is rewarded with superb views over mountain and sea. The approach is boggy and the ascent steep; there is no path at first, higher up a clear path winds a route through the boulders.These were great days with good folk. I was to go back a lot in my various tours at Kinloss when back in my trade and trading with the RAF Kinloss MRT. Sadly in 1990 as Team leader I was flown into the tragic Shackelton Crash in 1990 that crashed in Harris killing all 10 of crew.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Islands, Mountaineering, People, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Off to the Islands. Memories of RAF Stornaway. The Cold War, meeting the local shopkeepers all in a good cause.

  1. William Stitt says:

    Heavy, Craig Murray the X Crianlarich Bobby (polis) now stays on Harris just 5 mins approx O/S Stornaway not long moved there 2/3 months.Pretty sure his house is stand alone near the sea with a pier out into the sea, lookout for a White Range Rover and a horse box o/s the house. He was a friend of Ian R. If you have a bit of spare time sure he would appreciate a visit ,he’ a great guy. All the best Billy.


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