Day 8 - Biking Round Barra
Sunday 27th July
North Uist, the view from the bunkhouse
It's the Sabbath. And that means the whole western isles shut down. Actually, that's not that true anymore and lots of things are open, including the ferry to Barra. I headed off by car from the bunkhouse quite sharp to make the 1015 ferry. Got the bike out of the boot, put on the gear and boarded the ferry at Eriskay. Interesting fact, the ferry "Loch Alainn" was made at Buckie Shipyards in 1997.
It was a quite uneventful crossing. Lots of low lying crowds around Uist and Barra. I did however see quite a few diving birds. They'd circle around for a bit and then swoosh, into the water they'd go. Don't think I captured that on camera though. The sun did appear for the crossing so maybe the waterproofs won't be required. There was another couple on the ferry with bikes. When we reached he crossroads they went left, and so I went right.
South Uist in the dull distance
The west coast road was quite easy, but a huge dollop of rain dampened me for the rest of the day. I turned off for Vatersay which has a reasonable 12.5% climb. I had a slight tumble on the climb as the cattle grid was very slippery and I didn't have enough momentum, so sideways down I went. No injuries, but my right arm might feel it tomorrow a bit.
Me crossing the causeway to Vatersay
Vatersay is connected by a small causeway, but there's not a lot of note there. There was a memorial, and wreckage, of a plane crash there in 1944. Aside from that, just sheep and cows. The couple from the ferry caught me up here and warned of the hill at Castlebay.
There's a lot of passing places!
Another bonny beach on Vatersay, and another day of not going for a swim!
Cows on the road. The couple I met on the boat are in front. I only figured out a couple weeks later that his sister is married to my mum's cousin. Small world!
Carrying on round, Castlebay, strangely enough, is a wee town with a castle, in the bay. There were boat trips available out to it, but I didn't want to hang around as I was damp. There was also signs of the local pipe band mustering for the lifeboat gala, but I wanted to press on and get up the hill.
Ah, that explains it!
As expected, the hill was not pleasant. Foot power required near the top I'm afraid. The other side was much more pleasant however and made it back to ferry junction in good time. I went past and had a nosey at Barra airport. Took a cheeky photo of the "waiting room" ie a bench, but went round as far as the actual terminal. No planes anytime soon though. The rain came on again, but not as heavy, so I was back at the ferry very early. There was a lot more cyclists on this crossing. South to North is definitely the more popular route. I counted 15 in total. I reloaded the car in Eriskay and decided to head back to the same bunkhouse as last night, and booked it for tomorrow night too.
The Barra Airport Waiting Room!
I headed pretty much straight back to the bunkhouse, only stopping at a Co-Op for something for tea. As I knew I'd have a good kitchen, I picked out the thickest looking rump steak, and it was really tasty.
Day 9 - South Uist
Monday 28th July
As I'd just driven straight through south yesterday, today I planned to take a slower and more varied route. I turned off towards the Airport at Benbecula. A bit bigger than Barra, and next to an MOD base. There's actually a bigger town here, but not much of interest. The beach there was very smelly.
Black sheep were quite an uncommon sight
Carrying on into South Uist, the first stop was a huge statue on a hill called "Our Lady of the Isles". I walked up the path to it but the information panel had been blown away! I found out later at the museum that it was the largest religious statue in Britain, a local Catholic priest had it made.
Our Lady of the Isles
I came off the main road for a bit and passed the same cycling group from the ferry yesterday, and then not far behind that I came across the same couple again! You tend to pass the same people over and over again on a small place like this.
Just missed this owl as he sped past me
I found a beach where people had put up lots of little stone cairns. I've seen this in quite a lot of places, but not as numerous as this.
I wonder how often they need rebuilt here
Next stop was the Kildonan museum. It had lots of little curious artefacts of life past in Uist. The most interesting ones to me though were two piping trophies from the Glasgow Barra and Uist piping society. Previous winners included a whole host of famous pipers from last century including Donald McLeod, Duncan Johnstone, John D Burges, Iain MacFadyen and Tom Speirs. I also had some tasty lentil broth from their cafe.
After that I stopped at Flora MacDonald's birthplace. A wee monument here, smaller than the gravesite in Skye.
Back to the beginning of the Flora MacDonald trail
I headed into Lochboisdale to see what it was like. It was a lot smaller than I'd expected, hardly worth visiting. Even the butchers had no meat?!
I went back down to Eriskay to see what I'd missed there. There's yet another lovely sandy beach just before the ferry port. Apparently this is know as Charlie's Beach, as this is where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed in 1745.
Looking from South Uist over to Eriskay
Some more birdies. I really need to start identifying these...
Eriskay, again from South Uist
Something I didn't see at all :(
This is on Charlie's beach
That must be Lingay in the distance, from Eriskay
And this would be Lingay, with Barra in the distance, from South Uist
I came north again, stopping at the bunkhouse for some tea, and then went for an evening drive around North Uist. Spotted a couple of Birds of Prey, but didn't get close enough for decent photos. I followed on road to its end at a loch below a hill (Eaval). I'll go up there if I return on a nice day.
Eaval (brought to you by Ford!)
There are quite a few causeways here
Eaval again, it's quite recognisable
I finished the Peter May books before bed. They were entertaining, though I don't feel like the Hebrides ever has quite that level of murder and mayhem. A good holiday read.