We woke up and found the remains of our barbecue had been picked dry, leaving just the sun-bleached bones.
Well, obviously not really. They were just some bones that had been collected and left on a wall by the hostel. Breakfast was some cereal bars and toast. And some good conversation with some of the other guys staying at the hostel over multiple mugs of coffee.
After a while, Moz surfaced and we attempted to come up with a plan for what to do. He was pretty set on not doing much as the weather was great, we had a beach, and he was pretty tired. I was pretty knackered too, and was quite keen on not doing anything all morning, but pointed out that it was a long cycle to the shops. And I really couldn’t be bothered doing another round 20 mile shop to pick up food: I figured if we were having to cycle that far, then we might as well take out stuff with us and head back up to Benbecula. Importantly, it was a Saturday, which meant the next day was a Sunday, and a lot of island shops would be shut.
Undecided, I headed down to the sea for a paddle. I considered going in for a swim, but decided that I was still pretty knackered from the previous day’s cycling. That, and the water was still pretty cold.
I also tried my hand at taking a few pictures of the ruined church by our camping site.
Late morning and Moz decided to agree with my plan, and that it made sense to head back up north a little while the weather was good. So we packed off and headed out just after noon. Cycling north, with the wind at our backs, was a lot easier, and we made it up to the beach on the west of Benbecula for lunch.
Two leisurely lunches later and we were ready to continue north. The plan was to either camp at Moorcroft again, or continue round to Balranald bird sanctuary. The thought of spending Saturday night in west North Uist’s only pub was quite tempting!
Just after we crossed over onto North Uist, Ian (one of the guys from Homore hostel) drove past us. He turned around, and came back and asked us if we’d like him to drive out bags and tent up to the hostel on Berneray. This sounded like a good deal, as we’d heard good things about camping on Berneray, so we agreed. As he drove off, we realised that it was still quite a long way to Berneray, and we still had to pick up supplies, which would involve a detour to Sollas. Maybe we didn’t think through that plan properly. But it was too late to change plan so off we went.
By the time we got to the fork in the road, Moz seemed to be pretty tired. So I suggested that he could take the (probably) easier and (definitely) shorter route, heading east via Lochmaddy. Whereas I volunteered to head west and then up through the heart of island on the Committee Road to Sollas, and then round onto Berneray.
The solo trip started well, as just after we split, I came across the Hebridean Smokehouse and bought some salmon and oatcakes. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I continued west and then onto the Committee Road. By the time I reached it, I was starting to feel pretty hot and tired.
If the rest of Uist felt quiet and remote, then the road through the middle of island was really quiet and remote. I guess this was the furthermost I’d been from another person. Which, sure, isn’t hugely impressive given some of the vast wildernesses on the globe, but still.
It was just around then that I realised that, while i had the puncture repair kit and all my tools, Moz had the bike pump. As I carried on, I started to worry about my back tire, which had been looking a little squishy (probably cause of all the extra weight on the back of my bike). Luckily, it was fine, and eventually I reached the top of the hill and had a fantastic view and a well earned downhill descent!
Sadly, the joy from the descent wore off as I realised that it was still a long way to Berneray, and, after passing through Sollas, I had a load of food on the back of my bike. On the plus side, I had a bottle of wine too 🙂
As luck would have it, a few minutes later (I was having a sit down and counting out my few remaining pear drops) Moz turned up. Talk about good timing. So, we set off to Berneray. Which turned out to be further away that we were hoping for. But we finally got there! And just in time to get a meal at a the Lobster Pot cafe!
After a seriously good meal, we stopped by the shop next door and I picked up a couple more beers. Just so I had a choice between wine and beer. And so I’d have something to drink Sunday night! We then had a final half hour cycle to the hostel, where our bags and tent were waiting for us (thanks Ian!) and set up camp as the wind started to pick up.
Eventually, we managed to defeat the tent and pegged it down by the beach before joining the other folk at the hostel for some drinks (I had the beers). There was a pretty friendly bunch of people at camping nearby (with the excepting of some public school boys, but they kept to themselves), including some yodeling Germans.
Sleeping in a tent, on hard ground, is a lot easier when your really tired (and a little drunk). So I woke up feeling pretty good for once! Had another morning chat to Ian over multiple mugs of coffee, and then decided to eat the smoked salmon for breakfast. Indulgent.
After breakfast, Moz headed to the beach and I went up the hill (I’m not sure if it has a name. It’s only a little hill, as Bernarey is only a little island) and found the perfect spot to sit and read my kindle for an hour or so. Paradise.
Sadly, after a while I started to get hungry, thirsty and overheated, and so walked back down to the campsite, passing Moz asleep on the beach
After lunch, and a couple more hours of relaxing, we decided to catch the last ferry to Harris (I convinced Moz there was a good spot to camp not far from Levenburgh.) While packing up, it turned out that, disaster: I couldn’t find my bottle of red wine! So i was left with just a solitary bottle of beer for the evening. Darn. I’m pretty sure I didn’t drink the wine, so I suspect that some of the public schoolboys stole it. I guess I’ve learnt me lesson: never leave alcohol in a communal kitchen. Especially when you’re on an island that still observes the Sabbath and there are no open off-licenses for miles and miles. 😦
The ferry across the Sound of Harris was great. Nice and calm and sunny.
Once we arrived in Harris, it was a relatively flat 4 mile cycle round to Northton on the south-west of the island. We were both still aching a little after the previous days’ effort, but it wasn’t far, and the view down to the village was great!
It turns out that modern life is starting to catch up with Harris: I really didn’t expect to be able to buy a cappuccino on a Sunday in Northton. Who’d of thought? But, it turns out there’s a nice little cafe at the end of the village now. And it opens on Sundays.
The woman running the cafe was really nice, and gave us some empty milk cartons filled up with water, and said it would be fine for us to pitch anywhere past the Northton (there’s a big sign at the end of the road saying “No unauthorized camping” so we thought we should ask. I think we were the only people on the peninsular that night. Sure, it was a bit of a trek along rough ground (well, sandy, but heavily laden bikes and sand don’t go together so well) but I think it was worth it. Once we found a nice spot by the beach, I left Moz to think about pitching the tent, and trekked back to get our drinking water.
After cooking, and eating, some pasta, we went for a walk along the coast. The views back to the tent were pretty pretty. Not many signs of life except for our tent.
As we were walking along the shore, I saw a seal. Didn’t manage to get a photo of it though. And we didn’t manage to spot the pair of eagles who live on the hill either. I did see some more geese though. We watched the sun head down, but sadly it was too cloudy for star-gazing.
I think I really could have done with that bottle of red wine. The sun burn on my ears was making it tricky to find a comfortable sleeping position, and the downside of camping right on the coast (as scenic as it is!) is that it doesn’t half get windy. And, after a few days of fantastic weather, it finally started raining.
So, when I “woke” up I was pretty tired. At least it had stopped raining. So we slowly wandered back down to the cafe for some breakfast while wondering what to do. We ended up coming up with a plan: cycle back to Levenburgh and go to the Anchorage for lunch. The cycle back to Levenburgh was, err, bracing, with the rain starting up again. We were both fairly soaked by the time we got there, but the food made it worth it.
Luckily, the food was worth it. What better than fish and chips for lunch after a bad’s night sleep and getting soaked in the rain? Well, fish and chips when it’s a really big fish.
Over lunch we had a think about what our next plan should be. It was a choice between either cycling all the way to Tarbet in the afternoon, or the gentler pedal round to Horgabost campsite (another beach-side campsite). In the end we decided to head straight to Tarbet: we figured that the weather wasn’t going to be as nice as it was while we were on Uist, and the ferry times meant that leaving the islands on Wednesday would be a pain (a choice between 7:30am , or late in the afternoon). As the only crossing on Tuesday was at 11:30am, we figured it would make sense to head up to Tarbet and treat ourselves to a cheap hotel 🙂
As we had to first head back to Northton to pick up our gear, we decided to take the (slightly longer, but hopefully easier) western road round the island.
Luckily, the rain held off, (ignoring the odd light shower).
The downhill ride was great (and a little scary as it takes quite a lot to stop a bike when it’s flying down a hill with heavy panier bags on the back!) Once we checked into a hotel, we headed off to find a pub for food and drink. It was quite a satisfying ride!
Tuesday morning, we got up, stretched out legs, and then caught the ferry back over to Skye. I was a little sad to be leaving a day earlier than planned, but it was probably for the best. We’d definitely seen the best of the weather, and while camping had been fun, I was looking forward to getting home. Plus, I didn’t like the sound of getting the really early ferry Wednesday morning, or having to wait until the really late one, and then not get home until near midnight.
And 6 hours later I was home. And we went for burritos at Illegal Jacks and then a pint at the Canny Mans. All in all, a fantastic trip. I’m hoping to return next year 🙂