We have been meaning to go to the Outer Hebrides for years, the sheer distance and logistics of ferries kept putting it off but this year we planned early and headed north.
We took the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy after an over-night pit stop in Perth on the Friday, all told a journey of some 550 miles.
Our accommodation was a fantastic traditional cottage on South Uist near Daliburgh, Lochboisdale run by an enthusiastic Angus and his wife and we could not have asked for anything more from it. There was a bottle of red wine, some local cheese, oatcakes and pate and lots of staples all waiting for us. They were attentive all week and I am sure if we had asked for some strange kitchen implement such as a Norwegian Egg Slicer they would have somehow produced one with a flourish. He even offered to wash my car on the last night!
We spent a great week on the islands of South Uist, North Usit, Benbecula, Eriskay and Barra. The weather was frankly well beyond expectations and sunny all week. Below a few highlights:
Leaving the car on the roadside we headed up lightweight, in trail shoes, intending to run the loop of Ben Mhor and Hecler. The going was easy over short grass with the odd bog and open rock, from time to time we were able to follow a minor path or sheep track. As we ascended the wind speed increased and although we were on top in just over an hour the sheer force of the wind had us unfortunately backtracking and cutting short our loop.
The views off the top were splendid, out to Barra and Eriskay to the South, over the water to Skye in the East and all the way to Harris and Lewis in the north.
After a brief munch in the lee of the ridge we ran off enjoying the springy grassy slopes back to the car.
Note: This walk should not be undertaken without sound navigational knowledge as there are no tracks….
Swimming in Loch Eynort
Loch Eynort in the east is a sea loch that winds its way in to the island, almost bisecting it. In a couple of different places near the road head on the south side of the loch we donned wetsuits and mooched about swimming in the shallows, the mountains surrounding us and seals playing in the distance or hauled out on little islets.
After some time the seals became interested and came over to see us. Although always keeping their ‘safe’ distance of approx 10 – 25 meters or so they kept bobbing up giving us eyeball for over an hour, a brilliant encounter.
Cycling the West coast beaches and dunes
Many cyclists pootle up through the Uists on laden touring bikes on the main road but we headed out to the extensive dunes and long stretches of white sand on the West side of the island. Using mountain bikes we cruised the grassy slopes of the dunes, catching some cracking views along the way before dropping the bikes down onto the beach itself. You have to be careful with the piles of seaweed which slowly rot away on the tide line in places which, when disturbed, emit a fairly unpleasant odour and are very slippery, but once over these we zoomed along on the firm sand with Holly and Cath riding through the shallows whilst I tackled the small rocky outcrops on my full sus bike (also not wanting to get seawater in my bearings!)
Cycling round Barra.
We took the ferry over to Barra on bikes, and after watching some planes land and take off at Barra Airport (the Beach at low tide) met up with some friends and pootled around the road circuit of Barra, stopping off at a couple of the again bright white sandy beaches with the kids. Before heading back to the ferry we stopped in Castlebay at ‘the deck’ for tea and cake.
Some other great days out included:
- Sea Kayaking from Barra’s Castlebay
- Evening walk up Ben Scrien on Eriskay
- Benbecula Half Marathon (Cath not me)
- Walk up Ben Langais (North Uist) followed by dinner at the Langais Hotel
- Meeting Danny McAskill on the way home