Island Hopping (Outer Hebrides) – August 2014
We’d seen photos of another BraziBay Owner’s trip to the Western Isles on the Forum and were determined that we’d go sometime. Geoff and Dave went in springtime just as the Machair was flowering but we could only book for late August, hopefully before the autumn winds arrived.
We didn’t have anyone to look after Boris in the summer this year, so a continental holiday was out
Thursday, 21st Aug – Leyland to Inverary
We booked a double room at the George Hotel in Inverary including breakfast for £50 – a bargain, even if it meant using a bathroom across the way from our room, which was actually in the adjoining First House hotel. The drive up was long, but uneventful, apart from a dreadful breakfast at the services near Carlisle – so bad that I asked for a refund and got it without any quibbling.
|View from our room in the George Hotel|
We drove through quite a bit of rain on the way but had bright sunshine when we arrived in Inverary. There was time for a walk around the town which looked great in the sun. There’s a version of the Vital Spark moored in the harbour – the last time I saw this one it was berthed at the end of the Crinan Canal.
|The Vital Spark|
Friday, 22nd Aug – Invereray to Oban and on via the Ferry to Barra
Friday was a beautiful day and the views across Loch Fyne when I took Boz for his morning walk were fantastic.
It was only an hour’s drive to Oban so we had time for breakfast before we set off. We stopped at a supermarket in Oban for fuel and to check the tyre pressures before heading down to the Ferry for the 5 hour trip to our first island, Barra. We also bought some midge repellant for Boz from Pets at Home – a wise purchase as it seemed to work a lot better for him then Avon Skin So Soft did for us…
The ferry left at 13.40 so we had time to potter around Oban and buy some sandwiches to eat on the boat.
|Waiting above Oban for the ferry|
|Selfie in the pet area of the boat|
We arrived on Barra at 18.30 and drove the short distance to Croft183 where we’d booked a pitch. We followed a motorhome for most of the way then got chatting to the driver when we’d parked up. It was his father in law’s vehicle and he’d only bought it a few months earlier. Unfortunately, he’d then been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and told he couldn’t drive. Carpe Diem, everyone – there’s One Life, Live It.
|Kisimul Indian Restaurant and Takeaway|
Saturday, 23rd Aug – Sun 24th Aug – Barra & Vatersay
Barra is only 13 miles round but the journey takes a while, as most of the roads are single track with passing places. On Saturday we drove south over the causeway to Vatersay, the most southerly inhabited island of the Outer Hebrides and it was a great start to our island hopping adventure.
It was cold and windy but we had bright blue skies and the beaches, oh, the beaches…
There are a couple of notable monuments on the island. The one which stands over Vatersay west beach commemorates the tragic shipwreck of the emigrant sailing ship the ‘Annie Jane’ which went on the rocks on the beach on 28th September 1853, with more than 400 people on board. The remains of the 350 men, women and children who lost their lives are interred there.
The other one, on the bayside between the road and the shore sits near wreckage from a World War II Catalina flying boat lying in the heather. It crashed in May 1944, during a training flight from Oban, killing 3 of the nine men crew.
The site on Barra wasn’t ideal and we should have maybe stopped at the Borve site on the other side of the island. The views weren’t as good from Croft183 and it had an exposed position which meant the wind whistled through all the time. At least it kept the midges at bay.
|You can see the “playpark” behind our pitch…|
The site did have a great campers’ lounge with a TV, cooking facilities, etc and they allow campfires.
Barra is famous for having an airport where planes land on the beach so we drove over to the airport to have a look.
Sunday, 24th Aug – Wednesday, 27th – Barra, Eriksay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist & Berneray
We were booked on the Ferry from Ardmhor on Barra to Eriksay at 11.10 so we were up early to pack up and to give us time to have a brew when we got to the terminal. Unfortunately, the wind had gone and the midges were waiting. We packed in double quick time and drove the short distance to the ferry.
There’s a lovely sculpture at the terminal of two otters chasing a fish – the closest we got to seeing the elusive beasts during our holiday!
We arrived on Eriskay and drove north to the campsite at the RSPB Balranaid Reserve. As we arrived there was a Hen Harrier hunting nearby – a first sighting for me and I immediately knew I was going to love this site.
We set up camp and cooked some food before walking over the road to the sand dunes. What we saw from the top of the dunes was awesome. The bay and beach was perfect and Boris and I paddled our way through the water whilst Alison walked across the sand.
The next couple of days were spent exploring the island and also driving up to Berneray which I loved. We found a place where you could drive Absinthe across the grass to the top of the dunes on Berneray and we put the kettle on for a cuppa and then a walk along the beach – heaven…
The sunset across the dunes at the campsite was a sight to behold – almost spiritual, and put me in a very happy place – no blues with this to look at…
There were lots of places to stop and views around every corner.
|Views to snooze to…|
Wednesday, 27th Aug – Friday 29th Aug – Berneray to South Harris, North Harris, Lewis & Scalpay
We took the ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh on the south tip of Harris.
As we headed clockwise round Harris we suddenly came upon beach after beach with blue seas and bright yellow-white sand – stunning. We stopped beside one beach which had a handy car park. It turns out that you can camp overnight for a fiver – what a bargain.
|One of several similar spots. Bargain!|
Harris was definitely our favourite island. The scenery was different wherever you went – from beaches that looked as though they should be in St Lucia, to Moonscapes with inland lochs, to small harbours nestled behind rocky bays. Next time (oh, yes, we’ll be back) we’ll maybe go straight to Harris from Skye and have longer there.
We’d planned to camp at Lickisto but when we got there we didn’t like the look of the place for campers – it was all hardstanding and not good for Bozzer, so we drove into Tarbert and picked up details of other sites from the Tourist Information Centre.
We fancied the look of Flodabay so had a drive to take a look. The drive was stunning but unfortunately the site was full when we arrived.
Wednesday evening was windless which means one thing – midges in abundance. They got so vicious, that we eventually had to retreat to the van, leaving the chairs and tables outside.
What we hadn’t counted on was the wind getting up during the evening, accompanied by waves of rain. We were both up during the night – the small storage tent didn’t fair well, as the wind opened up the useless zip on the door. Everything was wet in the morning so we decided to de-camp and move on.
A number of tents had been damaged during the night and we felt so sorry for people who’d spent the night soaking wet.
|We’d met Stuart, his wife Miranda and their daughter, Bronte (sp?) on the site on North Uist – at least their tent had survived the night.|
We ended up back at Minch View for our last night on Harris.
We drove up to Lewis to see the town of Stornaway but we needn’t have bothered. There wasn’t much there and whilst it’s only 50 miles it seemed to take forever to get there.
|Chippy wars in Stornaway|
|My true religion at last…|
We were due to catch the ferry to Skye from Tarbert on Friday morning but we had time to collect one more island by heading over the bridge to Scalpay and we were really pleased that we did.
The drive was very pleasant and we were rewarded by finding the community shop and restaurant.
We both had Seafood Chowder and it was delicious. We also had a talk with the chef who popped out for a chat about Absinthe – a lovely chap who also recommended the Temple Restaurant on Harris. It was too late for us to go this time but we’ll be back…
We’d also chatted to two couples at the Minch View site. It’s a small world because it turned out that the husband of the VW owners had gone to the same school as me, Guisborough Grammar, although he was leaving 6th Form as I started in 1967.
The other couple were from West Yorkshire and were called Andrew and Lorraine. Andrew went to Teesside University (Polytechnic?) and they kindly gave us a few tips on places to visit on Skye.
Friday, 29th August to Friday 5th September – Skye.
The ferry was late leaving Tarbert due to the volume of traffic that day, so it was 7pm by the time we got to Skye and we had a 40 minute drive to our site in Dunvegan.
|Waiting in Tarbert, Harris for the Ferry to Uig, Skye|
We hadn’t used the Glawning on the islands because we were moving on too often, but we soon had it up at Kinloch.
We were rewarded with a stunning sunset on our first night – the last time we’d see the sun until the day we left for the mainland…
Over the next week we explored the island, including trips to Dunvegan castle, Talisker Distillery, the Fairy Pools in the Cuillins, Portree, the Coral Beach and the lighthouse at Neist Point.
|Boris was only allowed in if he was carried. #heavyschnauzer|
|Bluebell – another BraziBay Forum Kombi|
|The very windy coral beach|
|Be rude not to…|
|Seafood platter and six oysters for lunch – yummy!|
|Waiting for his Mum|
This was the first trip on which we’d used the Frontier Stove in the Glawning and, boy, was it great. The tent was toasty in the evenings once it was on and I cooked on it a couple of times too.
Friday, 5th September – Ferry from Armadale to Mallaig then onwards to home
All in all, we’ve had a brilliant time. The weather was a bit grey on Skye, but we were probably spoiled by all the sunshine on the Islands.
I’m sure we’ll be back but maybe with more time on Harris which we both loved. Skye seemed enormous after the Hebrides and we really liked being able to explore the whole of the islands. If anyone is thinking of going and want some tips then please get in touch.
If you’re reading the Blog because I’ve given you a card whilst we’ve been away or you’ve seen Absinthe on her travels then please leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you.
There are more photos here: Flickr
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