Al and Moz’s Mini Tour of the Outer Hebrides I – III

I

Moz arrived at lunchtime as expected, and we wandered down to The Clock in Morningside for lunch. I’m sure Bradley Wiggins and co. have a burger and chips before setting off for a week’s cycling. Anyway, with lunch dealt with, we nipped into the super market for vital supplies (toothbrush!) and then went to pick up me gear. Which resulted in problem number 1:

“So, where’s your bike rack?”

“Eh?”

“You said you were getting a bike rack off somebody?”

“Err, yes, but then you told me that you had sorted out a bike rack, so I didn’t bother”

“I was talking about the rack on the back of my bike. Not a rack to carry bikes on the back of the car”

“Oh. Shit”

Although, it wasn’t such a big problem in the end. The friendly people in the Edinburgh Co-op where happy to sell us a small bike rack. Plus, it gave Moz the opportunity to decide that yes, it probably would be a good idea to pick up some cycling shorts. And it gave me a chance to decide, yes, I probably should buy some spare inner tubes.

So, with the first problem sorted, we loaded up the car, said good-bye to Louisa, and headed North. Which was when we encountered problem number 2: the Edinburgh Trams.

Although I’ve been living in Edinburgh for years, I haven’t driven in town for a long long time, and had absolutely no idea the best way to get to the Forth Road Bridge. Following the signposts didn’t help, and we ended up driving round Charlotte Square in circles for a while, before eventually finding out way onto Queensferry Road. Stupid road works.

All this meant that, while the drive up to Skye was pretty smooth, with glorious weather, (listening to a mix of Bonnie Prince Billy, Donald Fagan, the Ancestors, and Springsteen’s Nebraska), by the time we eventually reached Portree the campsite was full. Apparently we had arrived the day of the Skye Highland Games, the busiest day of the year. While this upset to our plans caused some initial stress, it quickly faded as we cottoned onto the laid back way of life up in the islands. No space in the campsite? Fine, we’ll drive up to Staffin and try there. Problem solved.

Moz is proud of his new tent!

While the weather on Skye was a lot cloudier than the mainland, it was at least still dry, and after setting up camp, we drove off to find the nearest place to eat (making full use of still having access to a car!)

II

I woke up feeling pretty tired. By which I mean, I woke up feeling shattered, with a sore head, not to mention a stiff back and neck from sleeping on the ground. (I am sure I only had the single pint the night before). Later in the morning, when I couldn’t even finish a bacon roll for breakfast, I started to feel a little worried about the impending ferry crossing. Luckily, drinking a few pints of water, some strong coffee and a walk down by the coast did the trick.

We drove over to Uig, left the car in the long star car park, and loaded our gear onto the bikes.

all ready to board!

The ferry set off pretty much on time, I started to finally wake up properly, and the weather, while still pretty overcast, was as nice as one could hope for. As the mountains of Skye receded into the distance we were both pretty glad that we wouldn’t have to be tackling them on bicycle!

Wind turbines!

The weather on North Uist was pretty much the same as on Skye: a little disappointing given how nice the weather was during the drive through the highlands, but at least it was dry. We swiftly left Lochmaddy (after stopping to buy a map, as we figured it might come in handy, and headed south.

Heading out into the wilds of North Uist.

After an hour or so, we passed by Barpa Langass, an ancient chambered cairn. This seemed like a good opportunity to have a rest and try to work out how far it was to the nearest campsite, and more importantly, how far near it was to the nearest place to get some food and a beer.

Plotting a course south

As luck would have it, Langass Lodge was just a mile down the road. We actually managed to arrive before they started food. So we have a wander and found their modern water sports facilities:

I guess the kayak is waterproof anyway, so it doesn’t matter too much if it gets rained on.

We then wandered back to the bar and I had a nice pint (some ale from Orkney I think), and then a meal of marinated herrings followed by fishcakes (having decided to make an effort to make the most of all the nice seafood in the islands). We hit the road again and headed down to Moorcroft Campsite.

Geese! Honk, honk. Sure, they’re not eagles, but look at them flying in a line!

III

Friday morning was greeted with more complaints of lack of sleep. Never the less, we managed to get on the road pretty early (well, by our standards) and made it to Benbecula by 10am.

We’re on a ride to nowhere. Come on inside. Takin’ that ride to nowhere. We’ll take that ride

We decided to take the long way round Benbecula, as there was the promise of a cafe and some coastal scenery! There was also some local wildlife:

If i knew a lot about spiders, or had more time to look it up on the net, I could tell you what type of spider this was. But I don’t, so instead I’ll just say that it was an orange spider.

Further down the road we came across (one of the many) ruined churches which are dotted around the islands. This one was near a wind turbine, and I’ve decided that I quite like wind turbines. So I took a picture. See:

A ruined church. And wind turbine.

An hour or so later and we were both starting to feel a bit knackered. Moz had only bought his bike a few weeks ago, and I hadn’t done any cycling in the past year. We picked up lunch from a shop (pork pies and bananas!) and pressed on to South Uist with the prospect of a picnic to keep motivation riding high. A little after 1pm we decided it was time to stop, and turned off at the village of Drimsdale. Leaving the bikes at the end of the road, we headed west hoping to find a nice picnic spot.

The clouds continued to menacingly hang in the sky

After a short walk we were rewarded with a nice long sandy beach: a nice spot for lunch and short rest.

Tired legs, saddle sore, and not enough sleep.

An hour later we decided it was time to look at the map and think about making a move again. And, it turned out that the campsite that we were aiming for was just down at the next village south! Homore turned out to be a really picturesque site and as we set about pitching the tent, the sun came out! Perfect!

The thatched roof cottage has been converted into a bunkhouse, with kitchens and bathrooms.

It’s amazing how the sun can brighten up somebody’s mood!

The only downside of this camping spot was that there was nowhere to buy food nearby. So, at half past three, we set off south on a mission to the co-op. An unwanted 21 mile round trip. Still, the weather was getting nicer and nicer, and despite feeling pretty tired, cycling was a lot easier without having to carry the tent and all our other gear! We decided to reward ourselves and bought an instant-BBQ, some burgers, sausages, and some beer. The south of Uist was pretty scenic, but I was probably too tired to appreciate it properly. I did manage to take a snap of the lilies though:

Awwww. A duckling walking on the lilies. Cute.

On the trek home, the weather continued to smile on us,

Even the shadows and clouds look great

and the roads were quiet and near perfect for cycling along:

the only negative was that the road was pretty long.

We didn’t get back to the campsite until 7, but we really didn’t mind. We had nice weather, a beach, and beer!

Triumphant Moz!

As Louisa points out: “it’s a shame your t-shirt is lying like that”

Our reward for cycling nearly 50miles.

And then the midges came out. For some reason, they figured Moz was a tastier bite than I was, so I got off pretty much free, while Moz was reduced to wrapping up in defense.

Sadly, the midges stopped Moz from enjoying the near perfect weather

As the evening wore on, the midge problem lessened, and we were rewarded with a stunning sunset over the Atlantic, followed by getting to watch the stars slowly come out.

I must resist applying silly filters to my photos.

So here’s a photo with no post-processing (beyond cropping)

And another. Lovely shade of red on the underside of the clouds.

Sadly, I didn’t have any kit for taking starscape photos, but needless to say, on such a clear night, and with minimal light pollution, the night sky looked incredible.

11 Responses to Al and Moz’s Mini Tour of the Outer Hebrides I – III

  1. […] last year’s trip went so well, Moz and I decided we should head back up into the islands again this year. Our […]

  2. […] head up to some Scottish islands with our tent and bikes. In 2012 we visited Uist and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, and last year we island hop-scotched around the Inner Hebrides (Arran, Gigha, Isley, Jura and […]

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