Waking up on a bright Wednesday morning we couldn’t wait for the next part of our adventure to begin- we were heading to the Outer Hebrides!
In our usual disorganised fashion we got up slightly later than we should’ve, and were thankful that it was only a short drive from the campsite to Ullapool port, where we excitedly squeezed into the line for the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry. Whilst waiting to board we caught sight of a striking orange van being driven by a very familiar face with his very familiar dog- our lovely friend and journalist Andrew Ditton! He’s currently filming a “How To Hebrides” series for Adria UK, but neither of us knew that each other were heading out there at this time, let alone that we’d be on the exact same crossing, so it was a wonderful surprise!
Once we’d said our “hellos” we boarded the ferry, getting told by a member of the crew that “it was a rough sea out there”- This turned out to be the understatement of the century.
Making our way inside we found a comfy spot in the centre of the ship where Andrew and Dougal joined us as we set sail. Andrew was the man who inspired us to venture over to the islands in the first place, so it felt quite fitting that we were all heading over there together!
As the journey began we chatted away as people around us spoke to their loved ones back home, sharing their excitement and the gorgeous view across the shore over a video chat. To start with, the ride was reassuringly smooth- until we got out into open water and the wind set in. The boat started to rock and sway back and forth, quickly getting worse. Poor Stephen went rather pale and had to rush off to the toilet as the bow of the ship lifted high then crashed back down into the sea repeatedly, with the waves splashing up way above the windows. Luckily for us, Andrew and I don’t get seasick, so we spent the entire trip just trying our best to stifle our giggles at the chaotic situation that surrounded us. I’ll spare you the graphic details but it wasn’t pretty, how Andrew managed to demolish his lunch I have no idea!
Over an hour later and Stephen finally emerged from the toilet, muttering the words “please kill me” (he’s not dramatic at all).
It had been a rough ride but we were officially on the Isle of Lewis and couldn’t wait to settle in.
As we left Stornoway in the search for our campsite we were suddenly transported to somewhere really rural. We left the town behind and before us was miles and miles of barren hills that stretched as far as the eye could see. In no time at all we had reached Shawbost and our site for the next two nights, Eilean Fraoich, where we received our first Hebridean welcome.
Being a small, family run campsite, it was very different from what we are used to. We loved the fact that in order to check-in you ring the doorbell and get invited straight in to “reception”- their family living room, where you’re surrounded by comfortable furniture, a fireplace and lots of family photos!
After unhitching the caravan and setting up, the events of the day had caught up with us so we decided on a relaxed evening with nothing more than a few card games and enjoying each other’s company. Then in the morning we woke up ready for a brand new day, and headed out to the capital of Lewis and Harris, Stornoway, for a wander. The wind was strong and the ever changing skies left us wondering whether to wear raincoats or tshirts as we strolled around the harbour and into town. Unlike the capital of England, there were no people rushing around, trying to get from place to place with as little human interaction as possible. Instead everyone was strolling about with friendly smiles on their faces.
In the afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting up with Andrew and a mutual friend we also met online, Cathy. The beauty of the online caravan community is that you can be 800 miles from home and still have friendly faces to catch up with!
On Cathy’s recommendation we headed to a cafe/bike shop called BeSpoke, where we were warmly greeted by the owner and settled in to the cosy lounge-style seating area downstairs. There was a wide selection of cakes and other sweet treats on offer but Stephen went for coffee cake and, you guessed it, coffee!
We were all so comfortable in each other’s company and although it was only our first time meeting Cathy in person it felt like we already knew each other. Time just flew by, and before we knew it the cafe was closing! We parted ways in the knowledge that we would certainly bump into each other again on these small but magical islands.
On the way back to our home-on-wheels that evening we took a detour to the most northerly point in the Hebrides- The Butt of Lewis. As we eagerly got out the car to take a closer look at the lighthouse we understood why it held a Guinness World record for being the windiest place in the UK, and trying to keep all four of my wheels on the ground we made our way to the edge. Although the terrain is rocky and a bit uneven, it was manageable in my chair, and we had fantastic views out to the sea crashing up against the rugged rocks. The red brick lighthouse that stood 121ft tall above us just added to the dramatic atmosphere.
We’d only been on the islands for a couple of days but we were already falling in love with the place. Everyone we had met was so lovely, the scenery was beautiful and we couldn’t wait to experience more of it.
But what was the plan? There was no plan!