By now our time in the Western Isles was quickly coming to an end, and with only a few days left we really wanted to make the most of it!
Waking up in North Uist to clear blue skies it was another beautiful day, unusually hot in fact, with the outside temperature reading 26 degrees. We packed up the caravan and waved goodbye to Moorcroft campsite, heading in the direction of South Uist. Despite stopping numerous times to take in the views along the way, we made it to our next and final site (sad face) in good time- Kilbride Campsite.
After setting up in the midday sun, we took the short stroll from our caravan to the onsite cafe for lunch and refreshments, enjoying the views out to the sparkling Sound of Barra as we ate. It was incredibly convenient but also a lovely little place to stop. The cafe had a very modern feel to it, with art scattered over the walls, a good selection of baked treats and a wonderful decked veranda to sit on as the world passed us by.
We could have happily sat there all day but we didn’t want the world to pass us by too much, so we headed out on an impromptu drive, starting by heading in the direction of Eriskay. Although we had seen hundreds of amazing views already on our trip, it didn’t make us any less amazed when we saw more, and as we passed over causeways, through islands and skerries, our jaws still dropped at the sights that met us. Even looking back at these photographs as I write this, I get that pang of excitement in my chest and still can’t believe places like this exist outside of movie sets and dreams- especially here in the UK!
Whatever the weather, the Western Isles are beautiful, but when the sun shines, everything sparkles just that little bit more.
Having made it to Eriskay port we were in awe at the white sandy beach and the luminescent turquoise sea that seemed to glow even more in the sunlight, but we managed to drag ourselves away to continue exploring.
Our spontaneous drive took us back into South Uist where signs lead us down a narrow road to a parking and picnic area by Garrynamonie Machair and Beach. There, we stopped and got out to take in the sea breeze, a welcome sensation in the tropical heat we were experiencing.
I sat there in the sun, enjoying the view while Stephen went to explore the accessibility of the beach, then when he came back we wandered off together to give the best route down a go. Although it was the best route available, it was still rather steep and bumpy as the grassy mound turned into sand, but I’ve always liked a challenge!
Being such soft sand to start with, the motorhome grip mats we had brought in preparation for this exact situation came in really handy, and by moving one in front of the other they created perfect “stepping stones” to carry my wheels over to the firm sand nearer the shore.
Once we’d made it all the way down we both let out a small cheer, partly because of the beauty before us, and partly because we were thrilled that our grip-mat-theory had worked and we’d conquered another Hebridean beach. The challenging terrain had definitely been worth it, and we spent a good amount of time there, just enjoying each others company and the feeling of being in paradise, with the weather just adding to the Caribbean feel.
By early evening a cool breeze had started to sweep in so we reluctantly headed back up over that flour-soft sand to make our way back to our home-on-wheels for a cosy night in.
The following day was spent relaxing in preparation for our exciting but (sadly) final full day on the islands, and although we couldn’t bare to even think about catching that ferry back to the mainland, we couldn’t wait for what was still to come- We were taking a day trip across to the Isle of Barra!
Unfortunately when we woke up that morning the Mediterranean skies that greeted us just two days before were gone. In its place was a layer of thick cloud and the Hebridean winds had returned back to their usual blowy self. Still, that wasn’t enough to deter us from the last adventure of our trip, and we excitedly headed straight back to Eriskay ferry port, this time getting in line ready to board.
Looking out to the waves it was clear that it was a little choppy, but the ferry was still sailing so that had to be a good sign, and it soon came in to dock.
The journey there was only a short one and went smoother than expected, despite the huge waves crashing up over the cars and making us feel like we were going through a car wash!
Half an hour later and we had arrived in Ardmhor on the Isle of Barra, a little wet but looking forward to exploring the tiny island for ourselves- and our first stop was the airport.
Okay, I know the airport isn’t usually the main attraction when you’re visiting somewhere, but Barra is very unique in that it’s the only place in the world where passenger planes land and take off from a beach! It has three runways which all become engulfed by water during high tide, but we timed it perfectly and arrived at the car park just before one of the few landings that day.
Everyone stood with bated breath as the countdown to landing began, then the distant rumbling of an aeroplane came into earshot. With everyone’s eyes on the sky the small black dot slowly got bigger and sprouted wings as it came closer into view. After doing a fly past to get a feel for the conditions, it came back around and did a very smooth landing on the beach right in front of us. It was quite a sight!
With all the passengers unloaded and making their way to the compact baggage reclaim area, the next lot could be seated for the imminent flight. Then we watched and waved as the plane taxied back around and took off, the high winds only assisting in lifting the wings off the ground.
After all that excitement we made our way inside to the small airport cafe for lunch, where we had one last catch up with Andrew before saying goodbye and going our separate ways for the final time on this trip.
Barra has only one main road- the A888, which runs around the island in a 13 mile circle, so we hit that and headed off for a bit of a driving tour. As we made our way south we barely saw another car on the mostly single track lane, and before long we had found ourselves at the islands closest thing resembling a town- Castlebay. Driving through the main street we passed the medieval Kisimul Castle sitting proudly on its own little island in the bay, giving Castlebay its very name. We stopped at the waters edge for a moment, taking in the peace and quiet, with the moody skies above us adding to the atmosphere.
Still with views of the castle we made our way up to Bùth Bharraigh- a lovely little information centre and community store. Upon entering we were given a very warm, Hebridean welcome and instantly got chatting with the friendly and knowledgeable staff about life on Barra. The well stocked shelves were full of locally produced goodies and we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of jars of homemade marmalade and some Harris Tweed bookmarks before we left. That’s right, this community store doesn’t only sell food, its also stocked full of beautifully hand crafted items, from greetings cards and paintings to hats and scarves, the only difficulty was choosing from the varied selection of colours!
Having spent a long time chatting with the staff, they helped us make the decision of where to head next-we would take the short hop over the causeway to the most southerly inhabited island in the whole of the Outer Hebrides, Vatersay. After all, you can’t visit the most northerly point in the Outer Hebrides without visiting the most southerly too!
We hit the road again and in no time at all we had made it from one island to the other and were cruising along with grassy mounds on one side and turquoise sea on the other. At one point something moving in the water caught my eye, it was too small to be a seal but with a second glance I could see it was an otter! And the little cutie was doggy-paddling beside us. That’s another big “check” on my Scottish Wildlife list! I only wish I was quick enough to get a picture.
After a very scenic drive along Vatersay’s coastline dotted with white sandy beaches our time was sadly getting on, so we started making our way back up through Barra. We got to the ferry port in good time and had a slightly bumpy but drier crossing back to south Uist, where we picked up the caravan and headed north. Since we were catching an early ferry from North Uist back to the mainland the following day, it made sense to do at least a little bit of the journey that evening, picking up some dinner along the way.
One of the many quirks we love about the islands is that there is only one or two “proper” petrol stations, the rest are just fuel pumps outside of shops. So it was both unusual and convenient when we were able to fill up our car as well as our tummies at this petrol station/fish and chip shop. Stephen found it great fun going in and asking for “Pump 3 and a haddock and chips please!”… Small things, hey!
By the time we had made it back to North Uist the evening was setting in, so we put our solar panel to good use and pulled into a lovely wild camping spot. Being our first time we were a little apprehensive, but having been off-grid at many campsites during this trip we trusted that my ventilator would run all night, and we drifted off peacefully to the sound of the sea on our last night in the islands.
As the sun broke through the skylights the following morning we reluctantly dragged ourselves kicking and screaming (Stephen does the kicking, I’ll just stick to screaming) back to Lochmaddy port where we unwillingly boarded the ferry heading to the mainland. Thankfully the crossing went a lot smoother than the outward journey and the passengers playing classic Scottish folk songs on flutes and guitars made it feel even more poignant.
As we crossed the border and made our way southwards through England we slowly adjusted back into mainland life, the sheer amount of people being the biggest contrast to get used to. But 3000 miles later and wow, what an adventure it was!
This brings us to the present day, and here I am sitting at my little desk in our town centre flat, writing about our Hebridean adventure that already feels a world away. It still doesn’t feel real and I have to keep reminding myself that it really did happen. We really did drive all the way up there, we really did see all those amazing sights, we went on the whitest beaches, we met some of the nicest people we’ve ever met and had some incredible experiences that we’ll never forget. I think its fair to say that we’ll definitely be back!
Thank you to each and every one of you who joined us for the journey, whether we met you in person or you followed us online, you played a part in our very special trip.
Until next time…