Waking up to another gorgeously sunny day we couldn’t believe our luck, isn’t Scotland supposed to rain all the time?
Stephen was particularly pleased for the calm skies because calm skies mostly means calm seas, and we were about to brave another crossing! This time from Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris, to Berneray.
Being a short intra-island ferry we were confident that it wouldn’t be half as rough as the outward journey, and thankfully we were right. We still had to exit our vehicle for the duration of the crossing so we made our way up in the lift, and with it being such a warm day we headed straight outside to the deck. Sitting at the back of the boat sheltered from the sea breeze, with the sun beaming down on us as we sailed through the turquoise waters, we could have easily been somewhere more exotic. We waved goodbye to Harris and in no time at all we were back on dry land and ready to explore even more islands!
As expected, we were greeted by our friend Andrew, who was the perfect tour guide for the entire afternoon. Being a regular visitor to the islands he knew all the best places to see, starting with Seal Point. As we pulled up into the parking spaces we didn’t think we were in luck, but on closer inspection we spotted 5 huge seals lounging around and blending themselves into the rocky land at the waters edge, and a few more bobbing around in the sea!
Just down the road from Seal Point sits the cutest little wooden gift shop I’ve ever seen- Coralbox, and we couldn’t resist popping in to have a look on our way past. As we entered we were warmly greeted by the lovely shop owner, Eilidh, and it was no surprise that she’d won “Entrepreneur of the Year” at the Young Women in Tourism Awards. Her shop is stocked full of adorable nautical and island inspired items and locally made products, and we found the perfect souvenir to take home- a triple hanging photo frame to put some of our most treasured memories into. We could have happily stayed and chatted for hours longer but there were even more memories to be made!
With the day quickly escaping us we headed to Berneray Shop and Bistro for a spot of late lunch. Although there was a step at the entrance, I was pleased to see that wheelchair users had still been considered and they had installed a doorbell-style button to press and call for assistance, which prompted a member of staff to bring out some portable ramps. For such remote islands I had already been so pleasantly surprised at how accessible the Western Isles were, and soon enough we were inside and seated, putting the world to rights once again.
As the afternoon turned into evening we slowly made our way across the causeway from Berneray to North Uist, where we found our next campsite- Moorcroft Holidays. Typically, just as we went to pitch up the weather decided to turn, the skies darkened, rain began to pour and the wind billowed around us. Also typically Scottish, just as the kettle was put on it all cleared up and allowed us to appreciate the fantastic view across the tidal bay. Being summer the tide never comes up to the skerries so they were easily accessible by foot, and by hoof apparently with the number of sheep that were wandering amongst them, and Stephen went to explore. On one of the little islands stood the eery remains of a small stone house, inhabited until it was devastated by a storm in recent years. Now all that’s left is its shell and debris, including a wooden dresser, weathered by the lack of roof. And as I looked on from the comfort of the caravan it stood as a stark reminder of the power of mother nature and how she rules the Hebrides.
Thankfully mother nature was being kind to us again and after a busy day of travelling we were looking forward to taking it easy the following day, although “taking it easy” is something we both struggle with, especially when there’s so much to be explored!
For lunch we headed out to the small town of Lochmaddy and found ourselves at Taigh Chearsabhagh- a museum and arts centre with a cafe. Stephen thoroughly enjoyed his bbq chicken wrap while I took advantage of the rare internet signal we had and caught up with some admin.
After lunch we decided on a spontaneous drive around the main road that circles North Uist, and ended up following signs to a parking area at a Grenitote Beach. At first glance we could see that the sand was firm and level so we got out to take a stroll on the second Hebridean beach I could access in my chair!
The winds were strong and cool but with the sun beaming down on us we were kept warm as we wandered along the sand together, enjoying the views and the fresh sea air that filled our lungs.
By total coincidence (or Hebridean magic) we had a few friends staying at the exact same campsite as us, so after our day of exploring we headed back to Moorcroft for a get together.
One of the great facilities at that site was the old bothy that had been turned into a campsite kitchen- a welcome asset to tent campers but also a cosy space for a small gathering of old/new friends. Although not all of us had previously met in person, we have all been following each others adventures online for years. Stephen, Bob, Jenny, another Bob, Aileen, Andrew and I got on like a house on fire and the evening flew by in a mix of shared stories and laughter. What a lovely way to end a lovely day!
After another restful sleep in what was quickly becoming more familiar to us than our actual home, we headed back up to Berneray where we met Andrew at West Beach. Although we had heard that the sand would be too soft for me to drive my chair on, we had also heard about how stunning it was, so we thought we’d check it out for ourselves, even if that meant viewing it from afar.
Having parked up we made our way down the pathway that ran across the machair peppered with a colourful assortment of wild flowers, and got to the back of the tall, grassy sand dunes. We couldn’t see a way for me to get a view over the mounds but we spotted a narrow footpath so Stephen went to investigate. Upon his return he confirmed that the sand was DEFINITELY too soft to get my chair on, but it was too beautiful for me to miss out on, and he told me he wanted to carry me down. A little apprehensively, I agreed to it, taking off my shoes and coat to make me easier to hold, then he scooped me up and carried me through the dunes (if my Occupational Therapist is reading this, he definitely didn’t lift me, I flew!).
When we got to the other side I instantly knew it was worth it! The snow-white sand stretched along for three miles, and the turquoise sea gently lapped up at the shore. We could just make out the silhouette of another person about a mile away, but otherwise it was just us- a total contrast to our local beach at Bournemouth which gets swarmed by people, especially on a Saturday afternoon in June!
Starting to feel a little heavy, Stephen knelt down with me in his arms where we just sat for a while, enjoying the moment together, with me marvelling at the feel of sand under my feet! It was a sensation I hadn’t experienced since I sat on a beach once or twice as a young child, and one that many people take for granted.
We managed to peel ourselves away from the perfection just in time to meet Andrew back at the car as he’d finished getting some shots for his ”How To Hebrides” youtube series, then we hit the road.
Following the expert of the islands again he lead us to his friends place, where we got to meet some of the only donkeys in the Outer Hebrides! Fergie, Banjo and Equus were rescued and brought all the way to North Uist by the lovely Ken and Kelly, and they have settled in wonderfully to their new family of horses and very excitable dogs. Luckily we brought some carrots with us and we quickly made lots of new four-legged friends, something we never expected to happen in the Outer Hebrides, but then again, it is full of surprises!
We were having such an amazing time exploring North Uist but our time there was coming to an end. With just a few more days on the islands we were certainly going to make the most of it. Next we were heading to South Uist, and we couldn’t wait to see what else we were going to experience!
Extra photo credit: Andrew Ditton