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Outer Hebrides - Trip Report


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Due to the delayed arrival of the new 'van, and an intermediate trip to Holland to get a Busbiker rack fitted, previous plans to revisit Sweden and Norway this year were 'binned', and as the long-term weather forecast didn't look too good, it was prime midge season, and Calmac workers were calling strikes, it seemed the appropriate time to visit the Outer Hebrides, something we'd always wanted to do (having comprehensively 'done' almost all of the rest of Scotland).


So, since this was not a trip abroad, per se, a somewhat shorter trip report this time (as less 'foreign' information to impart), but I thought it sufficiently different to go into some detail, if only to persuade readers that it is a trip well worthwhile doing, and it is one we are likely to repeat in coming years.


In preparation, we had decided that somewhere around 10 days on the outer islands would be good enough for a taster, and this, with best part of a week each way out and back, would meet our preferred 3 week trip duration. Given the 10 days, we decided to omit Barra (giving ourselves an attractive reason to return another time) and spend 5 days each on Harris/Lewis, and the Uists/Benbecula/Eriskay. This would give us sufficient time to tour around without getting bored if the weather were bad, but also some scope for outdoor activities if we were more lucky.


Accordingly, the Calmac website was perused for travel options. For touring the islands, the "Island Hopscotch" tickets save a little money, and a comprehensive set of routes can be pre-selected. Pricing for many of the routes has been adjusted down over recent years, with many based on a Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) which uses a calculator based on the cost of the same mileage by road. Hence, the cost of the ferries is not entirely prohibitive, though probably slightly more than a Channel Crossing. Our plans were best met by the "Hopscotch" option from Uig on Skye, to Tarbert on Harris, then from Leverburgh on Harris to Berneray (linked to the Uists by causeway), and returning from Lochmaddy on North Uist back to Uig on Skye. The cost for this was £163, and I believe this would have covered a motorhome up to 10m long. Notably, the shorter inter-island crossing was the most expensive, as it is not at the moment priced using RET.


We decided to book crossings, as there are limited sailings with limited space, and we didn't want our plans disrupted. I didn't anticipate too much of an issue with the inter-island crossing, but was concerned that the out and back sailings might be full. It transpired that we did the correct thing, as the outward crossing fitted one "unbooked" car on it, and the return crossing was full. Most of the inter-island crossings we saw sailed with space.


(Calmac state that, if your plans change, then they will do their best to change the booking - via an 0800 number, so we were prepared to take a chance).


Research indicated a dearth of campsites on the islands (though more than appear on the "headline" sites), but that "wild" camping was tolerated, subject to the appropriate practice (such as being discrete, and not driving across the machair). This is supported by the Tourist Office(s) publishing chemical disposal sites (including many of the ferry terminals, and some, chargeable, campsite points). So, we intended to use a mixture of "wild" camping and sites, as the occasion arose.


So, having booked as above, we set off North, complete (for the first time) with loaded bike-rack with a week in hand to make the ferry at Uig.


...and as a taster - Scotland does do decent weather (between the rest ;-) )


....to be continued...



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We set out Northwards on Friday 26th June, with a couple of nights planned at the Bellingham C&CC site on the way, to get in a bit of cycling and visit family nearby. It's a "franchised" C&CC site, and the wardens (probably owners) were new . We've stayed here before, and it's a very good location for a bit of rural peace, with easy access to Bellingham, decent beer at the nearby Riverdale Hotel, and very good cycling and walking round about. Unusually for a C&CC site, it also has free wifi. A good stopover on the way North.


Our itinerary from here was unplanned, prior to catching the ferry. We thus followed the weather forecast which indicated the weather on the East Coast was going to be better than on the west, and on the way North 'phoned the C&CC site at Rosemarkie, and booked a couple of nights. We'd enjoyed our stay here a good few years ago, and always intended to return, so this was a good opportunity.


For those that aren't aware, Chanonry Point, which is a short walk down the beach from the site, is one of the best places in Europe to see dolphins. Whilst not guaranteed, if you go there just after the turn of the tide, you're almost certain to see a good number, and they aren't averse to putting on a very good display whilst they chase the fish. On our first evening (the one when I didn't take the camera with me) they were leaping high out of the water, and only a matter of feet away. Of course, the next evening - when I did take the camera - they were further out and somewhat less active :-(


Again, there is some good walking from here (which we enjoyed), though the cycling is a bit "hilly".


Time to move on again, and Westwards towards the ferry. We were considering stopping off at Shieldaig (Torridon) at the defined overnight stop there, and making for Uig campsite later to overnight before the ferry, but as we headed West, the weather improved so we resolved to head straight onto Skye, and revisit the Dunvegan (Kinloch) campsite we had used before. Whilst a bit wild, this is a splendidly located and well-equipped site. Colin, who owned the site, was the local postman, and also a bit of a character. Unfortunately, he passed away 18 months ago, but his widow is keeping the site on, at least for the moment, assisted by friends.


Since we last visited, the facilities block has been enlarged, and is now very good. Lots of hardstandings with views over the loch, and it cost us £20 per night with h/u.


So, we had an active 3 nights here (ooh Matron!), with a long bike ride on the first full day, and a walk out to the "coral" beaches to the North on the second. Whilst facilities in the village are limited, there are shops, and the Old School Restaurant a short walk away was pretty good.


So, on the Friday morning we set off for Uig (via Portree and the Co-op supermarket) for the ferry to Harris.


.....to be continued.....




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Peter James - 2015-07-17 3:01 PM


You never showed any people. They all walk at a 45 degree angle from leaning into the wind :-D


....even the standing stones.... :-)


(spot the 'van..) and I'll return to the subject of wind later......


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Can't believe you decided to miss Barra out! However when i was there you could still park up overlooking the airport runway and watch the little planes landing on the beach! I think they no longer allow MH's there. I used to have a meal every evening at the Airport Cafe....their only customer....it was brilliant!


Very friendly locals too and a real character was a guy by the name of Neil. Easy to spot as his constant companions were two gorgeous Border Collies, both working dogs, and Neil only had one eye. His favourite trick he liked to play in the Pub was taking his false eye out and dropping it into some unsuspecting customers drink!


The first time i met him was when i was having a coffee at the little Cafe down by the harbour and Neil wandered over pretty much well drunk......it was just 9am!! Very friendly guy though and i bought him a coffee and something to eat.


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The ferry from Uig to Tarbert was at 14:00, and with a 1hr40 crossing would leave us plenty of time to find somewhere to overnight on the other side. The queue at Uig was pretty full already, but being booked we turned around, found a nice sea-side layby, and stopped for lunch.


On our return, there was a smattering of motorhomes, a lot of cars, and the odd lorry. The ferry (Hebrides) is a decent size, but hardly cross-channel capacity, and as previously mentioned, we were glad we had booked as only one car from the unbooked queue was permitted to board. (With a maximum of two ferries a day, and only one on some days, you wouldn't want to take the chance). For information, dogs are allowed in some of the public spaces on board ship. Incidentally, in common with the other (manned) ferry terminals, there was free wifi here.


It was an absolutely magical day - the Cuillin were visible in all their majesty, and the sea was flat calm. We had an extemely enjoyable crossing on a boat with plenty of outside space, and indoor accommodation enough to swallow several times the passenger load.


The approach to Tarbert was spectacular, and we disembarked into what is really a very small village, with a Tourist Information office, a few shops etc. and the ferry terminal. We called at the former, and picked up some information on campsites and dump points, and then decided to look at our closest researched option for an overnight stop.


SWMBO had been trawling the web, and found that The West Harris Trust encouraged "wild" camping in a number of designated spots, subject to a donation of £5 per night (I'll return to this later).




.....given that it was only about 10 miles away, and still a beautiful day, we decided to go and look.


Well, were we glad that we did. The locations and numbers on the above link aren't completely accurate, but we took the dead-end Luskentyre road, and found the firts few spots occupied, but

we persevered, and hit an absolutely idyllic flat space which would take about 5 vans, with only a single car in it (these are daytime free parking spaces, with a donation requested for overnight "camping").


So, we grabbed the end space, complete with the best view and picnic tables, and sat back in awe.


We later went for a magnificent walk onto the end of the road at Luskentyre, where there is a car park, access to the beach, toilets, and the possibility (I think) of getting water.


We were joined for the evening by a "classic" VW camper, which we didn't realise was hired from down the road until we met the couple using it again the next day as they dropped the vehicle off at Leverburgh.


A magical evening, though the midges were such that the evening meal was eaten in the 'van (our neighbours were made of sterner stuff! - for a while ;-) )


.....and I think I've found where I want to be buried (or at least my ashes spread), just not yet (though, TBH, almost all the burial grounds we saw on the islands were spectacularly situated).


....to be continued....





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Greatly enjoying your trip report - we took a similar route in April 2012 and stayed a few hundred yards along the road from your camping spot en route to Luskentyre.




Thanks for the link to the West Harris Trust. I think there must have been a change in policy since our visit. We pulled into the parking spot where you stayed overnight, but at the time there were signs requesting no overnight parking or camping. It is a lovely location, especially if you are lucky enough to have blue skies - which you clearly were.





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mikebeaches - 2015-07-17 6:32 PM


Greatly enjoying your trip report - we took a similar route in April 2012 and stayed a few hundred yards along the road from your camping spot en route to Luskentyre.




Thanks for the link to the West Harris Trust. I think there must have been a change in policy since our visit. We pulled into the parking spot where you stayed overnight, but at the time there were signs requesting no overnight parking or camping. It is a lovely location, especially if you are lucky enough to have blue skies - which you clearly were.





The location you show in your link is now a designated camper spot, complete with notice and leaflets. We used it later in the week when the spot in my photos was already occupied.


More info later.

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Robinhood - 2015-07-17 6:46 PM


The location you show in your link is now a designated camper spot, complete with notice and leaflets. We used it later in the week when the spot in my photos was already occupied.


More info later.


Sounds like an Aire - albeit sans fresh water and dumping?

Once again, Scotland leads the way. :-D

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Robinhood - 2015-07-17 6:46 PM


mikebeaches - 2015-07-17 6:32 PM


Greatly enjoying your trip report - we took a similar route in April 2012 and stayed a few hundred yards along the road from your camping spot en route to Luskentyre.




Thanks for the link to the West Harris Trust. I think there must have been a change in policy since our visit. We pulled into the parking spot where you stayed overnight, but at the time there were signs requesting no overnight parking or camping. It is a lovely location, especially if you are lucky enough to have blue skies - which you clearly were.





The location you show in your link is now a designated camper spot, complete with notice and leaflets. We used it later in the week when the spot in my photos was already occupied.


More info later.


Ah ha, fascinating - thanks. There were no signs when we stayed there, but we just thought it looked a suitable spot.



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The following morning dawned somewhat more dull, and in keeping with our target of touring to see as much of the islands as we could, we decided to head North West towards the (well regarded) campsite at Kneep, close to the NW tip of the Harris part of the island.


It has to be said that, despite the overcast weather, the scenery was initially still stunning, as the photos show.


We needed some supplies, and decided we would head out in the Leverburgh direction and return to Tarbert round the Eastern coast road. It would give us chance to dump the toilet at the Leverburgh ferry terminal, and we also wanted to pay for the overnight stop (Paypal is possible, but not with no phone reception!), the West Harris Trust offices being in the old school on the other side of the bay, on the Leverburgh road.


So, we stopped off at the Trust, only to find (of course) that being Saturday the offices were closed. I popped a fiver inside a leaflet, and dropped it in the external letter box. Next to the offices (and as detailed in the link given previously) there are a few motorhome spaces with hook-up. Other than the availability of water, there are no other facilities, the views are not as good as the "wild" spots, and at £18 a night, these look like a relatively unattractive option.


We continued to Leverburgh in worsening conditions, called in at the Co-op (a real Co-op, run by the locals!) for provisions, and found the dump point (with rinsing tap) behind the unmanned ferry terminal

building. We then continued on round the coast to Tarbert.


Now this is a wild road; I suspect it would be spectacular if the views to the mainland were available (they weren't), but it is a real switchback single-track through rugged country (and, as it happens, quite

strong rain). We stopped for a good lunch at a cafe in the middle of nowhere at Skoon, and the weather improved somewhat from there.


So round to Tarbert, and then to North Harris on the main road. Now this is seriously hilly country, as the many cyclists, most of whom seemed to be heading for the Butt of Lewis, will atest. Clisham is just over 2600 ft high, and the road skirts it climbing quite high in the process. Wonderful mountain scenery for anyone who appreciates it (and by all accounts a good climb, though not nowadays with my knees :-( )


We had resolved, if the weather were reasonable, to divert slightly to the standing stones at Callanish - which we did. Quite an eerie experience seeing these in such a remote setting. Then off down the road

to Kneep, a route advertised as having some of the best scenery on Harris.


The closer we got to our destination, the more vehicles we passed coming the other way - quite disruptive on a single-track road. Did they know something we didn't? After a final drive through imposing scenery, we arrived at the campsite by the beach at Kneep, only to find it as full as a centipede's sock drawer - and taking no more units. It transpired it was Uig Gala day (different Uig - keep up at the back) with a major shindig taking place on the beach.


Now it was late afternoon, I didn't fancy retracing my steps, and we were lucky enough to spot a small sign to an overflow camping area pointing further along the road. We followed it to a large field, just back

from the beach with a sign indicating it was running from Friday to Sunday at a charge of £10 per night. It was relatively quiet, so we decided to stay. As it happens, despite absolutely no facilities, it was a better option than the pukka site with it's crowded pitches and overrun facilities (helped by the fact that no-one ever turned up to demand the fee ;-) ).


We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking the beach, and looking at the remains of the Gala (which had apparently suffered from the morning precipitation - though judging by the numbers still there, it must have attracted half the population of Harris!). We didn't get invited to the "drink the remains of the beer" session that seemed to be going on, though ;-).


.....to be continued....





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I am in Lewis at the moment in the Mclouis van with the weimaraner.

You should head to ardroil beach for cheap camping £2 and there are showers and toilet dump etc.

Massive beach area, the shop is well stocked and diesel is well priced.


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The following (Sunday) morning dawned bright, and we continued on our circular(ish) tour of the island, retracing our tracks to Callanish, and then onwards on to Lewis, targeting the Butt of Lewis and its lighthouse.


We didn't stop again at Callanish, as the weather had dulled a bit by then (though I've added another photo below for effect) but we diverted to look at Carloway Broch (small, but perfectly formed), and then headed off across Lewis into improving weather.


The roads were full of either cars going to church, or people dressed in their best walking to church, and Lewis is a real outpost of the "Sabbath". There is very little in the way of commerce, but what little there was was firmly "closed". Onwards past all the place names from the Peter May books, and much flatter than Harris.


If you have the courage to take the small side roads to the coast or the machair, there is no trouble finding a place to park up (for a walk, for lunch, or even for an overnight) - no height barriers here.


We continued to the grandly named Port of Ness (a very nice old harbour, but hardly a port) parked in front of the (closed) cafe, and unashamedly filled up with water from the public toilets.


Then, off to the Butt of Lewis and its lighthouse, a surprisingly elegant brick structure - next stop North, The Faroes. It seems to be a focal point for all the cyclists heading North, but god help those that arrive on a Sunday, no chance of refreshment for miles (and miles).


We'd had had a look at the campsite at Shawbost on the way past, but, though it looked perfectly adequate, we'd been a bit spoiled for location, so we decided to head towards Stornoway, and then turn up the Back (not back-) road on the East coast, looking for a wild camping spot.


Now this is the most populated part of Harris and Lewis, so we weren't sure we would find somewhere, and we were certainly resigned to going a long way up the road (which peters out at the aptly-named "Bridge to Nowhere" (you can Google it ;-) ))


There was one motorhome in the car park at the beach at Traigh Mor, but the area is "tight" and it was otherwise full of cars. We thought we might have to see some more of the day out, and then return. We continued around the next bend of the ever-diminishing amount of remaining road and discovered a much better located parking space with three other 'vans already in residence. Sorted!


It turned out to be an ideal overnighting spot, and once the few remaining cars had gone, very quiet as well. We spent the remains of the day on the beach, and also nowhere (......having walked across the bridge).


....to be continued......




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Yet another dry start on the Monday, and in good weather we decided to return for another session in West Harris, with a view, in the two days we had left before the ferry trip South from Leverburgh, to spending a little more time at Luskentyre, and a run up the as yet unvisited road to Hushinish.


On our way we wanted to replenish supplies in Stornoway (and have only a quick look round, as we hadn't come to the islands to see large towns) and to see if we could dump the toilet again. The Co-op is well represented with supermarkets on the outer islands (on the Uists, in some pretty remote locations!), and we visited the fairly large store in Stornoway (variety and prices all pretty commensurate with the mainland, surprisingly) before driving into Stornoway and parking on-road just beyond the ferry terminal (where there was a relatively new, and unexpected Tesco). The terminal had no sign of a dump point, so on a quick tour of town (which revealed little to detain us), we visited the TIC and enquired - to find there was one a couple of miles out of town, at the public toilets on the narrow part of the isthmus beyond the airport. As we were anticipating another couple of nights' wild camping, we repaired thither, and sure enough, behind the block, and complete with rinsing facilities, was the dump point. Once again, however, no easy way to replenish fresh water.


So, we headed back South, passing numerous cyclists plodding their way up the hills, through the lovely Harris scenery, bound for Luskentyre. Our previous spot was already occupied by a van that had spread itself (awning, furniture, bikes et al. across three of the spaces, and there were cars in the others, so we turned back and positioned ourselves on the "hump" linked to by Mike above. Whilst not quite the same view as the other pitch, (though still good by any other measure) it was somewhat more sheltered, and with room for only one van on the flat, a bit quieter. We sorted lunch out, and then set off on bikes to visit the West Harris Trust offices, have a word with them, and pay.


This time there were staff in the offices (who informed me they had retrieved a very wet fiver (mine) from the external letter box that morning - apparently all the post gets soaked if it rains with the wind in a particular direction). We had a pleasant chat, during which I raised the question of payment, and what sort of take-up they get. It was explained that "wild" camping was a contentious issue, with local residents complaining about the spaces being used up, and the impact of such camping being complained about by locals, who could see only downsides, not any advantage. So, instead of trying to ban it (which would be difficult) the trust had decided to ask for a contribution, that would be ploughed back into local initiatives, thus providing some (visible) upside. The feeling was that this had been largely successful, and that the level of contribution, though not 100%, was relatively high. I enquired whether I could fill up with water if I called round the following day and (with only minor hesitation), it was agreed that I could, as long as I called in the offices first, to demonstrate to anyone watching that it was all "official".


The remainder of the day was spent returning by bike to the end of the road at Luskentyre, stopping off regularly to admire the flora or watch the birds, and then, after dinner at the 'van, a long stroll along the beach, where a couple of families were toasting marshmallows over a large fire.


Tuesday dawned with fairly mixed weather, and it looked like another day for touring in the 'van, so we resolved to drive to Hushinish, via the Trust offices for water, and a cafe for lunch. Many of the cafes seem to be combined art and eating establishments, and we stopped at yet another such (seemingly run by the archetypal gay couple), for a good lunchtime snack, and then (in rapidly worsening weather) attacked the Hushinish road. This was another single-track that was interesting, but would no doubt have been stunning in good weather. On its route, it passes through the Amhuinnsuidhe estate, and quite literally (with no intervening space) directly past the front windows of the castle!


Hushinish is another place that would merit an overnight "wild" camp if the weather were better. There is a small toilet block, a few houses, and nothing much else (except, even in bad weather, stunning views). The photos show the effect of the weather and lighting (it was very wet and windy) and, whilst you can get some idea of the flora on the machair, any one photograph simply cannot do justice to the volume and variety of flora.


After getting ourselves well and truly wet, we returned to Luskentyre, finding our previous two spots taken, and thus used yet another one closer to the junction with the main road, and again, after dinner, walked some way along the road taking in the bird life on the beach.


....to be continued....






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Having spent our final night on Harris and Lewis, come the morning we set off in decent, but windy weather, heading for the ferry terminal at Leverburgh for the boat to Berneray and The Uists. We stopped off on the way at the Trust offices to hand over another fiver (and pinch a bit more water - well, having agreed once they couldn't really say no, could they?).


The inter-island ferry across the Sound of Harris is a rather smaller boat than those out from the mainland (though there are three or four sailings a day), and on our previous traverses of Leverburgh, the queues had been fairly long. We were booked, of course, so weren't concerned, and as it happens, the sailing was somewhat less than full. The opportunity was taken, whilst queuing, to dump the cassette again.


This ferry is much affected by the state of the tides. The ship has to steer a very convoluted course across shoals and around rocks and islands that makes the short distance a one-hour journey, which has to be re-timed at intervals to cope with the tidal conditions. The ship itself is of specific construction, with water-jet propulsion rather than a propeller - reducing the draught, and making it slightly less dependent on the phase of the moon. We had a good crossing along a much-buoyed track, and arrived safely at Berneray - connected to North Uist by a short causeway.


Research had indicated that our visit to the Uists might involve more use of campsites, as we had identified two whose locations were perfect for our plans, and they would provide opportunities for laundry and a proper shower (the one in the van is best described as "adequate"). A hook-up would also give us the chance to recharge the bike batteries.


So, we headed off South towards the campsite at Balranald, stopping off at the (rather isolated, but decently-stocked) Co-op supermarket at Sollas. The scenery here was a bit liker a milder Harris, and the road which circles the island sits a little back from the coast (with access to the latter if you chance one of the side roads). The campsite at Balranald, http://www.balranaldhebrideanholidays.com/index.aspx ) however, is accessed via one of those side roads, and is a popular spot as it is adjacent to the beach and the large RSPB nature reserve.


We arrived, and as instructed by a notice, took one of the unreserved hard-standings, and reported to the mobile snack-bar (really) behind the office (it caters during the day for the visitors to the reserve), to be told that someone would be in the office later for booking in. We took the opportunity to use the laundry, and trusted the pegs on the washing line not to allow our week's (+) washing to end up in Greenland. (it might have been windy, but it was a warm Southerly, and it kept the midges at bay!). The very-friendly proprietress arrived, and we paid for a night (£18 with hook-up and Wifi - though showers were £1 each - they were some of the best cubicles I've seen on a campsite, however, and 7.5 minutes of very hot water for that price).


We then set out on our bikes to circle the beach and the side-roads - the machair here was impressive with its flowers, and the variety of bird-life was stunning. Shortly North of the campsite there was a field advertising "motorhomes - £5"; well located on the shore, and water allegedly available. On our journey down, SWMBO had read that you could see St Kilda from here, and pointed out a set of rocks to the West. Driving on single track-roads doesn't give you much opportunity to lift your view, but I'd expressed the opinion that it wasn't far enough away. Our campsite host, however, had confirmed that you could see St Kilda, so she was convinced. Inland, there was a missile tracking station on the highest point, with a road leading up to it signposted as "St Kilda Viewpoint"; I suggested we took the bikes up, which we did. Well, you certainly could see St Kilda (hazily), but 40 miles out it wasn't what SWMBO had seen, so I felt vindicated. (I'd quite like to visit St Kilda, but at 40 miles each-way on a boat, and £200 pp, it would have to be a perfect day to get value from it. I talked to someone who did it in less than perfect weather whilst we were at the ferry terminal, and he had a sense of achievement tinged with regret.)


We returned to the 'van for dinner and to retrieve the remains of our washing ( ;-) ) before heading out onto the bird reserve fro a short evening walk. Using the Wifi we'd checked the weather, and it was forecast to be dry on the morrow, but wet after that, so we resolved to stay another day, and use it to circumnavigate the island using the bikes.


So the next day we set off South to encircle the island. Given that there is so much "nature", using the bikes was a good way to engage with it, and we had a grand day, doing just under 40 miles, and taking lunch in Lochmaddy on the way. Then, dinner at the 'van again (eating out on the islands involves taking opportunities that are few and far between, and probably a good distance from your overnight stop) before setting out on a more determined walk round the bird reserve.


Now, many of the birds here are ground-nesting, and it is requested that you keep to the circular path to avoid-over-disturbing them. This we did, but it being prime nesting-season, the arctic terns weren't impressed, and we were repeatedly dive-bombed all the way round. It is a bit disconcerting being pursued by 5 or 6 screeching birds diving to within inches of your head, and though they aren't exactly skuas, they could do you significant damage with their beaks - we were quite glad to complete the circle.


And so, somewhat over half-way through the visit, a reminder that the flora and fauna provide a great attraction to the islands. The machair contains a variety and density of flowers and plants that a single photo wouldn't do justice to. SWMBO is interested in orchids, and we have never seen so many anywhere else. The variety of bird-life is quite stunning, from eagles through redshank, greenshank and snipe to marsh harrier and corncrake. Just make sure you take a bird book, and a good pair of binoculars (though many varieties can be seen up close). ....of course, the season in which you visit is important.


....to be continued....







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....to be continued....


The next day dawned rather better than expected, so we set off south to look at Benbecula, and travel to our next campsite at Kilbride in South Uist, at the southern tip of the island just before the causeway to Eriskay.


Much of the islands' utilities are located on Benbecula; the airport, a supermarket, the hospital.....

...and the latter came in useful as SWMBO, as well as being bitten by midges, had managed to get a couple of very nasty bites (a cleg was suspect) around her eye and eyelid, causing significant swelling. Looking for something to treat it in the supermarket's "pharmacy" section proved unsuccessful, and the discomfort was sufficient to cause us to visit the hospital next door, to see if they could guide us to a proper pharmacy.


Whilst I parked the 'van in the capacious, almost empty, and completely free car park, she disapeared inside, and when I entered I eventually found her in "A&E", whence she had been immediately despatched, and looked at within minutes. Oral antihistamines were prescribed, and presented, and we were soon on our way again. I was quite impressed with the experience of the Scottish NHS (or at least that part of it!).


We rapidly passed through (over?) Benbecula, and onto the road that runs North/South across South Uist. This stays well away from the coasts, and the views are thus somewhat "limited". Accordingly, we diverted down a side road to the East to explore (and break for lunch), and after following an ever-decreasing track, found a delightful spot.


On the way, (both out and back) we had to get out of the 'van and physically remove a small herd of ponies (probably Eriskays) which were incredibly tame, including their rather cute new offspring. (Unfortunately, the current Mrs H believes these were the source of the tick she subsequently found embedded in her arm :-( )


Then, with the weather continuing to look more threatening, we hit the Kilbride campsite ( http://www.kilbridecampsite.co.uk/ ) another excellent little spot. Facilities are very good, with just about everything you could need, and the owner is pleasant, friendly, (and talkative). This cost us £19 per night, with showers etc. included (and there is a very good campers' kitchen) but no Wifi. (and, just to confirm, what mobile data access there is on the islands is very slow!).


There is a well rated Hotel with restaurant and bar within walking distance of the campsite, and ,having eaten dinner at the 'van, we decided to go and suss it out for the morrow. We didn't get very far before the rain came across horizontally, so we abandoned the thought, and returned to the 'van.


Now.......we've touched on the wind already. This campsite had something I've not seen before. A number of the pitches at right angles to the prevailing wind had small fences separating them, to which had been screwed bl**dy girt marine ply panels (maybe 2m high) behind which it was possible to pitch a tent somewhat in the lee! Good thinking!


The next day (Saturday) dawned reasonably bright (though the forecast was ominous). We decided to take a chance and walk to Eriskay across the causeway, which we did, and spent our time walking to the ferry terminal for Barra, and back along the beach (with a lunch stop in the Am Politician pub - Google "Whisky Galore" for the origin of the name - they still have some sample bottles of the whisky for you to peruse - but not buy!).


As we set off back, the weather turned rather less pleasant, but it had been expected, we had full waterproofs, and the wind was on our backs. As we crossed back on the causeway, our neighbours from the campsite in an Autosleeper stopped and asked us if we wanted a lift - it would have been pretty antisocial, and we had come prepared, so we declined. We were glad we did, because only yards after they'd deprated, we looked off the edge of the causeway to spot an otter lying on it's back only feet away (it "spooked" when it eventually spotted us) and the seals on the bit of adjacent rock remaining in the rising tide had very small pups with them.


So, back to the campsite for a wet evening catching up on the reading.


....to be continued.....




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Sunday was our last full day; our return ferry was booked from Lochmaddy on Monday lunchtime, so all we had to do was mooch our way back up to North Uist, and arrange somewhere within easy drive of the terminal to overnight. The fallback plan was to revisit the campsite at Balranald for the night, but we would see what the day brought.


With time in hand, we diverted West off the main drag, and followed a convoluted route up through the machair roads of South Uist. It was rapidly obvious that there were plenty of opportunities to wild-camp here, many adjacent to beaches. (It would be advisable to stay away from the large area of - active - military firing range, however ;-) ). We had a number of stops on the way for forays on the beach, and finally found ourselves towards the North end of North Uist around teatime.


As we had "blasted" though Berneray on our way down, we decided to have a quick run up to the North of the small island before heading off to Balranald. It was an attractive little spot, and just as we were about to turn round at the Youth Hostel almost at the end of the road, we spotted a motorhome parked just off the road at the top of the machair. We decided to go and have a quick look, and as it happened, it moved off, but having driven a few hundred yards further, it became obvious that the coast dropped away to a perfect "wilding" spot (or, in reality, a series thereof), occupied by a previously hidden 'van, and another was following us in.


We had found our ideal overnight stay, so we dropped off the road, and took a position on the machair with beautiful views over Harris. Dinner at the 'van again, with a good long walk on the beach for afterwards.


The weather on Monday morning wasn't bad; the worst of any wind had abated, so we anticipated a reasonable crossing. Off to Lochmaddy, where we had a brunch in the community centre cafe (which also has free wifi, customer or not), and then took up our place in the queue for the ferry. Again, it was busy, (a good few HGVs this time) and I don't think anyone unbooked got on - there was certainly no visible space. Incidentally, all the Calmac ferries we used were bang on time, and pretty slick in loading and unloading (the turnround times in port are short).


Most of the return journey was spent on deck watching the bird-life (flocks and flocks of puffins, surprisingly), with a few dolphins/porpoises (I can't tell the difference from a distance) and three very swish looking Norwegian registered boats (Ronja xxxxx) which subsequent research revealed are "live fish carriers" plying a Scottish trade! Arrival back in Uig was on time.


So, from there, we overnighted at the CC site at Morvich (you can say want you want about wardens, but most are very good - I'd booked a non-awning pitch that morning, but she asked me if I wanted to change as there was a much better choice of vacant awning pitches). The weather was OK, but threatening rain, so we had a circular evening walk, and decided to await the morning before planning our return ome.


Still much the same in the morning, so we set off South, with a plan to call in at a C&CC THS at Coldstream if nothing else diverted us on the way. As it happens, it was a good choice. It was situated in a country park which belongs to the Douglas-Home (of Baillie Vass fame) family. It's attractively positioned parkland about a mile's walk from Coldstream and wasn't over-busy. We spent two nights there, taking the opportunity to walk into Coldstream for a pub meal the first night, and spending the next day having a 30 mile bike ride out and back to Kelso using the back roads - and whilst rain threatened from time-to-time, we escaped its clutches.


So, on the Friday morning, and after three weeks away, off chez nous.


....to be concluded.....




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candapack - 2015-07-21 3:03 PM


I've been following this with great interest and increasing envy. I love the Hebrides.

Glad you enjoyed them, thanks for taking the time to post your experiences.


Here here! Thanks again for posting, including the great pics.



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