Archive for the ‘Beach’ Category


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On our last full day at the first campsite, we decided to visit Caws Cenarth Cheese, a dairy farm which has been producing award winning cheeses since 1987. This was when the introduction of quotas by the EU meant they had a surplus of milk to dispose of so they decided to upscale their cheese production to make use of it. The farmer’s wife had previously made it for the family’s use on her kitchen table. We had been passing their signs for days and so we set off up and down the tiny welsh lanes to find them.

The blurb in their leaflets promised an opportunity to watch the cheese being manufactured but unfortunately we arrived too late to see anything. They had a small museum exploring the history of cheese making in the area and displays about the process of making the different cheeses. My particular favourite was a video of cheeses being dipped in wax – it was strangely satisfying.

Across the yard from the ‘viewing area’ was a small shop. There was a tiny room with wooden  seats and a TV where we were invited to watch a video of a TV programme about the farm, which included a visit from Prince Charles. It was an actual VHS so not the best quality, and was really just repeating what we’d learned previously. I suspect it is a means to reduce the queues at the counter where we were invited to try a selection of their cheeses. They were all excellent and we came away with a selection, although I had to persuade Mr Stoatie to leave behind a huge piece of Stilton which had been marked down because the veining hadn’t spread evenly. It was a bargain but would have completely filled the van’s fridge!


As a postscript to this story, we were discussing our selection of cheeses later and I expressed regret that I hadn’t brought a particular variety. Never mind I said, I’ll buy a truckle at a shop, they’re bound to sell it locally, and it doesn’t matter if it’s more expensive as it’s just the one. Imagine my reaction when I find it’s considerably cheaper! You’d think that buying at source would be better for your wallet, I must admit I felt a little cheated.

The lady in the cheese shop had recommended taking the dogs for a walk on Poppit Sands so we headed there next. After having paid quite a bit to park we headed for the beach, I was a little disappointed as it was heaving with folk, and rather flat and dreary, although an area of rocks did save it somewhat. Looking back I’m not sure why I had such a downer on it, maybe it was simply because it wasn’t Uig!

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The next day we packed up the van and set off to a campsite on the outskirts of St David’s. The drive was really pretty, we skirted round the Presili Hills and then drove along the coast. Preseli was on my to do list, but Mr Stoatie’s thigh just wasn’t up to it unfortunately.

The campsite was ideally located a ten minute walk from the town in one direction and the coast in the other. The campsite itself had seen better days and the toilet and washing up facilities were in dire need of refurbishment but the pitches were mown and the place was very tidy. We were kept amused by the antics of the resident robin who was so friendly he ended up perching on Mr Stoatie. We always keep a supply of bird feed in the van btw!


I woke up in the night and had to get up and go out to star gaze because there above us was the Milky Way, hurrah! Nothing like it to lift the spirits.

Once we were up in the morning I proceeded to haul everything out of the fridge as we’d been experiencing a whiff of rotten eggs on and off during the night and I thought maybe something had gone off. When nothing was discovered decaying in there, I proceeded to remove the entire contents of the van in an effort to track it down. It wasn’t until I got to the cupboard at the back that the source of the smell was discovered. The leisure battery had shorted! Mr Stoatie disconnected it and we left everything out and the cupboards open until the stink dispersed.

In the afternoon we had a wander into St David’s for a mooch around and treated ourselves to fish and chips for dinner. Charlie kept us and a couple on a neighbouring bench amused, by sliding down the grassy slope above the Cathedral on his stomach over and over again. I think he was an otter in a previous life!

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The next night was pretty windy, we were planning on heading out to do some exploring in the morning, but when we came to put the lid down we discovered that one of the bolts had sheared off the hinge and it was impossible to close. Fortunately the bolts are pretty standard and we thought that the tiny old fashioned ironmongers in St David’s had saved the day by providing a replacement. However trying to fit it proved to be impossible, Mr Stoatie couldn’t reach the hinge easily as we had no ladders, and I couldn’t bring the roof down low enough for him to work either. It had to be held down at an angle which was about six inches above the reach of my extended arms. I ended up swinging off the handles like a gymnast on the rings and was in so much discomfort it was clearly not going to happen. It was also still blowing a gale which didn’t help. In the end we managed to get the lid closed by adjusting the direction of the van to streamline the roof with the wind. It still stood a little proud and we ended up gaffer taping it down. Oh the shame!

So we had no leisure battery, and a roof which would  have to stay down until repaired, possibly after the holiday, which probably wouldn’t have bothered us under normal circumstances but added to this was the fact that Mr Stoatie’s thigh had been progressively getting worse and worse over the course of the week. He was OK during the day providing there was limited walking with plenty of rest stops, but during the night when he relaxed he was in agony and had to constantly shift position. If you’ve ever shared a bed in a camper you’ll know that if one of you wants to turn over the other one has to too, which means that you never really get an unbroken nights sleep. This was ten times worse, (especially with the added moaning!) and both of us were beginning to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. After a night to think it over we decided to pack up the next day and head for home, at least we’d have a week to recover before work. You’ll get an idea of how bad Mr Stoatie was when I tell you that I had to drive the ScoobyVan all the way back! It was a disappointing end to a long awaited holiday.


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Blackhouses 1

Our last full day on Lewis started off at The Blackhouse Village at Gearrannan. These were the last group of blackhouses to be inhabited in the Western Isles. They’re actually only about 150 years old, but represent a style of house used for centuries. Until 1952, when electricity arrived, most of the lighting was by oil lamp, piped water wasn’t installed until the 1960s. In the early 1970s many villagers moved into a group of council houses built a few hundred yards further up the road, and then in 1974 the last few people remaining moved out. Local people set up a trust in 1989 in order to restore the old houses.

Four of the nine houses are used as self catering cottages. One has been adapted to display pictures and video telling the history of the village and another has been preserved as a home circa 1955. There is also a cafe (scrummy black pudding baps) and a gift shop. The museum housed a loom used to weave the famous Harris tweed and explained a little of it’s history. I would have loved to have bought one of the beautiful bags we saw on our travels – especially the ones made from the modern pink and purple tweeds, but they were eye wateringly expensive. I could have picked up little tweed fridge magnet/bookmark thingamajig but I’d rather have something useful so I didn’t bother – maybe one day!

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When we arrived there was a coach party going round the houses. As at Calanais we were firmly on the tourist trail!

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The houses sit above a perfect little bay with just the right pebble to sand ratio for a rock lover like myself!

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I’m not sure how easy it would be to sail out of the bay, there was an interesting whirlpool of sorts churning away on one side.

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Looking back up to the houses from the beach.

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There were eagle whirling over the village, I heard one of the coach party call them buzzards, I didn’t feel brave enough to put them right! But what a shame they missed them!

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Replacing the thatch.

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One of those places that I would love to have lived, maybe not back in the past though, it would have been a tough life.

Broch 1

Just a little further along the coast is Dun Carloway, which is the remains of a broch thought to have been built between 100BC – 200AD. It was inhabited (in worsening states of disrepair) until the 1860s, losing a lot of it’s stones which were robbed out and reused in local buildings. In 1882 it became one of the first officially protected monuments in Scotland.

Broch 4

Brochs were built more as a status symbol than a defensible stronghold  – although they were used for this occasionally. It could house an extended family, and their animals. We had to crawl into the broch under a stone lintel. I’m not sure whether this was due to the floor having been raised over time or whether it was part of the original design. The walls are double skinned with a passage way and stairs running all round them. I managed to smack my head on the bottom of one of the steps, which was rather painful after doing the same the day before.

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The broch would have had quite a few different floor levels, accessed though these doorways from the passage in the walls. It would have been capped by a conical roof.

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Views over Loch Roag.

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Local legend says that cattle raiders holed up in the broch in the 1500s after having stolen stock from Uig. One of the pursuers climbed up the outside of the broch using two daggers, and set a fire with heather to drive them out.


The following day it was time to leave the Islands, we took the ferry back to Ullapool from Stornoway, with the intention of making a leisurely journey south over the next couple of days. We waved to the folks in a bright orange converted German VW ambulance as we both queued up to board the ship, we kept bumping into each other on our travels.

Stornoway 1

We had slightly misjudged our timings and didn’t quite have enough time left to visit all of Lewis which was a shame, but at least it means we have a good reason to return!

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Last camp 1

We made a stop at a campsite on the Black Water.

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One of the guys on the site was fishing in the evening and caught a huge pike. His wife ran across to take a photo and then it was released back into the river. Unfortunately he didn’t fancy putting his fingers near it’s mouth and it went back in with the hook still attached.


That’s the end of the holiday snaps. The next day we did our usual volte face and decided to go straight home instead of dawdling back and prolonging the agony. It was a fantastic trip and I would go back tomorrow if I could!

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Bernera 4

A single track road heads north west off the B road between Uig and Garynahine and leads to the island of Bernera. The island is separated from Lewis by a stretch of water with very strong currents. In 1953 following protests by the Islanders, the government built a bridge to link the two islands, using a newly developed form of pre stressed concrete. This used less steel reinforcing which was great given the post war difficulties.  Above is the view looking back across to Lewis.

Bostadh 2

We’d headed across to visit Bostadh Iron Age House, which is situated at the end of a valley on a small bay at the other end of the island . In 1993 storms exposed the sand dunes on the south side of the beach and revealed the remains of a rectangular Norse house, which had been built on top of an Iron Age village. Excavations of five of the houses revealed that they were of a type found in the Late Iron Age – the Pictish period – 400-800AD. The houses had double walls and were built into the earth, with entrances in the south. Each had a main circular room with a central stone lined hearth, and other small chambers leading off it.

After the excavation, the site was backfilled with sand to preserve it, but a replica house was built further to the North.

Bostadh 1

Apparently the style is known as ‘jelly baby’ house. Because there was no archaeological  evidence of how the roof was built, there was a certain amount of experimentation. In the end it was dictated by the shape and strength of the outer walls – the dividing wall between the two main chambers was found to be too weak to support any weight. It turned out to be a transition between the round houses of the Early Iron Age and the Blackhouses.

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There was a charge to enter, which I balked at a bit, but it turned out to be money well spent. You had to stand at the threshold for a while until your eyes got used to the dark and you had to remember to duck as you entered (I didn’t and smacked my head!) There was a fabulous lady inside to answer your questions and show you around. It was originally thatched with straw but has now been turfed. There’s been a bit of a discussion about whether there would have been enough straw or heather to have used thatch.

During the excavations several quern stones were discovered – thought to have been used to grind barley, along with fish bones, limpet, oyster, mussel and scallop shells; and the bones of cattle, sheep and red deer. The presence of red deer indicates that the area was wooded at one time

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Dunes over the backfilled houses, looking back up the valley. There was the remains of a blackhouse further up the valley by the stream.

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A couple of views of the beach, absolutely glorious. In fact the whole area was magical. I would have loved to have lived there!

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Just before the beach was another of those fantastic island graveyards enclosed in a stone wall overlooking the sea.


On the way back we stopped off in the layby just before the bridge and headed up the hill to a group of standing stones. These are known locally as Tursachan, or Calanais VIII. They have a commanding position at the top of a cliff which is pretty unusual.

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These were a wonderful group of stones and have a great atmosphere. Before the bridge was built they must have been pretty remote. I loved the location looking up and down the straight and over to Lewis.

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Bernera 2

The hairy lichen growth on the stones shows how clean the air is on the Isles.

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Bernera 3

While we were sat amongst the stones we became aware of bird cries. Looking up we counted nine golden eagles soaring in the air. It really was a most amazing experience.


They seemed to spiral lower and lower and eventually Mr Stoatie managed to get one decent shot with the zoom. If you look closely you can see that the bird is wearing a radio transmitter and that there’s another bird in the distance. It was absolutely fantastic, what a gift.

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A couple of the stones reminded me of people wrapped in cloaks looking out to the horizon. I wonder if that was deliberate?

Bernera 8

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The ferry over the Sound to Harris takes a very tortuous route through outcrops of rocks and very shallow water, and is marked out by red and green buoys.


Someone we’d met at the campsite had seen dolphins on his trip the other way across so our eyes were peeled. Unfortunately all we caught a glimpse of were gannets, gulls and ducks.

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Approaching the ferry terminal at Leverburgh.


A view across the mountains of Harris. It reminded me very much of Snowdonia.

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Our plan had been to drive straight up to Lewis and to head for the campsite at Uig. Unfortunately the ferry was an afternoon service so we were short on time and Uig turned out to be quite a lot further than we anticipated. To add insult to injury we were also low on petrol which wasn’t good considering it was a Sunday! We decided the best thing to so would be to head for a campsite on the outskirts of Stornoway. This was a bit to of a shock to the system as it was positioned on the edge of a housing estate and was rather crowded, we’d been used to empty, wide open spaces.

Thankfully the next day we filled up with diesel, did a shop and headed off to Uig, which is on the south west coast of Lewis.

valley ti Uig

Uig is a pretty remote settlement almost at the end of very long, windy B road. At one point it takes you through a wonderful  dramatic gorge called Glen Valtos which was formed by melt water running off a glacier during the ice age. The glen is about 2.5 km long with a stream running through, rock turrets, rock falls and a tiny forest. It felt like we’d wandered into a Tolkien novel. There was an amazing feel to the place and it really did give you the sense of passing from one reality to another.

Uig campsite

At the other end of the glen you arrive at Uig. Our destination was the campsite at Traigh na Beirghe, which is just a glorified carpark with toilets and a shower room. It’s just a few hundred metres walk across the dunes and machair to the bay.

Uig 1

The campsite is operated by the community and fees are paid via an honesty box at a local croft.

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The geology is wonderful, opposite the site is a huge outcrop of pink gneiss which was littered with basalt erratic’s. The hill was covered with rabbit holes and haunted by ravens. I could have sat up there for ever, such a strong sense of place.

basaltgneiss with quartz vein


Beautiful harebell – these are one of my favourite flowers.

Uig 2

And more wonderful white sand.

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We had the best weather yet, and a wonderfully clear evening sky at last so Mr Stoatie and I lay in the sand dunes star gazing. Beautiful views of the Milky Way, fantastic!

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The sea goes out for miles at low tide.

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Uig is where the Lewis Chessmen were found in 1823. There is a carving of one of the Kings at the entrance to the campsite to commemorate their discovery. Apparently a cow rubbed itself against a sandbank and uncovered them, maybe it was one of this one’s ancestors!


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Gosh! Has it really been over a month since my last post? I’ve got a lot to catch up on over the next few weeks, but first, the next instalment of our campervan trip to the Outer Hebrides.

These pictures were all taken on North Uist which I think was my favourite of all the Islands as it had a little bit of everything, mountains, long white beaches, wildlife, ancient monuments, lochs. Absolutely stunning and so quiet. We moved campsites to Moorcroft which is a working croft on the seashore. This was one of the best campsites we’ve been to, and like most on the islands had wonderful facilities. As well as a bunkhouse and toilets/showers there was the usual kitchen and eating area which must have been a boon for campers.

The first few photos are of the beach to the east of Vallay Strand, walking North and then East towards Veilish Point. Those pink flowers had a wonderful sweet scent, I think they’re sea rocket.

Beach flowers

Miles of white sand and only us and the dogs to enjoy it. There was quite a strong breeze.

Beach 2

Beach 3


There was a lot to see on the strand line. I scavenged a couple of seal bones and a lot of bird bones and feathers. There were clumps of goose barnacles on various bottles, a selection of foreign jars and plastic containers, and a large orange buoy (too heavy to carry unfortunately!)

Florida Harbour Light

The most interesting find was this red buoy. The sticker at the top told us it was the property of the US Coastguard and was marked as being from the harbour at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so it had made a long journey across the Atlantic. Originally it would have held a light fitting at the top (where the metal pins are) and would have probably lit up one of the safe sea channels.


This was the most amusing find, and no I wasn’t allowed to take it back to the van!

Pobull Fhinn 1

We broke up the beach walks with a visit to a couple of ancient monuments on one of the highest parts of the Island, Ben Langass. These stones are part of an oval stone circle called Pobull Fhinn (Finn’s people) which is on one side of the hill. The Finn it refers to is the legendary Irish hero Fionn Mac Cumhuaill. As there was quite a slope the builders had to dig into the hillside on one side and add material on the other to form a flat platform before they could erect the stones. There are a total of 48 stones in the circle, not all of which are standing and they’re spaced irregularly round the circumference – there is a patch which seem to have none at all. Amazingly the circle has never been investigated by archaeologists and no study has been made to check astronomical alignments.

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Pobull Fhinn 3

Pobull Fhinn 4

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plan Pobull Fhinn

On the other side of Ben Lengass is a stone cairn called Barpa Langais. This is a passage grave and reminded us very much of the cairns at Kilmartin. It has been dated between 4000 to 2000BC. Unfortunately you’re unable to go inside now because of a roof fall. The cairn is positioned, like the circle on the side of the hill, in a prominent position where they have extensive views across the island.

Barpa Langais

The image below shows what it may have looked like at it’s height. It’s thought that the warmer climate would have meant the landscape would have been grass or scrub rather than the heather and moss it is today.

Barpa Langais 2

This was an interesting boulder we found on the way back to the van. Basalt on gneiss, you know I love my rocks!


This is the view across to the Island of Benbecula from the campsite.

Campsite North Uist

Looking up to our pitch.

Campsite North Uist 2


One of our neighbours.


And another!


Another day another beach! This is Traigh Ear, on the opposite side of a spit of land from the previous beach. It lines a wide bay, and at the top you can walk over a narrow stretch of sand dunes and arrive on the Atlantic coast.

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There is a causeway onto the island of Berneray from North Uist which is where the ferry takes you to Harris, our next destination.

Leaving North Uist

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Sorry for the blogging hiatus, I’ll try to explain what’s been going on in a subsequent post but I’d really like to crack on with our Hebrides trip!

arriving Eriskay

From Barra we took the ferry to Eriskay, which is a tiny island connected to South Uist by a causeway. It’s famous for it’s grey ponies, the breed almost became extinct in the 1970s – it was saved by a 100% Eriskay stallion called Eric – but I only managed to spot one pony as we made our way over the island.

Once on South Uist we made our way up the only main road which runs north-south. On the west were flat areas of lochs and machair and huge white beaches whilst on the east were hills, mountains and a rocky coast. We stopped off at one of the beaches to give the dogs a run.

South Uist 1

Unfortunately the weather started to take a turn for the worse and the blue skies were replaced by cloud. There was also a biting northerly wind which blew sand into your face.

South Uist 2

At one end of the beach we found rocks and had fun exploring the pools. Mr Stoatie found a baby plaice lying on the sand at the bottom of this one but it buried itself before we could take a close up!


There were only a couple of campsite listed on South Uist, we made an attempt to find the one at Lochboisdale but ended up the wrong side of the loch! Rather than drive back to the main road and then drive back along the the other side we  decided to head back to a site we passed just after the causeway from Eriskay.


It was a good flat site, a bit exposed but there were wonderful facilites. One of the other campers spotted an otter whilst stretching his legs so we headed out to the tiny beach after tea. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything!

Kilbride 2

Attached to the site was a marvellous cafe and in the morning we treated ourselves to black pudding barmcakes for breakfast, absolutely delicious! 

Kilbride Cafe

We then headed back up the main road. On an island where most of the buildings are small crofts it was rather incongruous to find this ugly church sat by the main road.

South Uist 4

Church South Uist

On thing you notice is that the islanders are very accepting of modern buildings, although most of them are a lot more picturesque than this.

Machair harvest


We stopped off at the Cladh Hallan roundhouses, which date from the late Bronze Age. There are three visible, there are thought to be another three or four buried under the neighbouring sand dune. It was a pretty atmospheric place.

Hut Circle

Hut Circles

And about two hundred metres from the round houses was this beach.

Beach 2

We were enjoying a walk when Mr Stoatie pointed out that we were being watched – there were three seals in the sea.


It was a bit like the seal encounter we had on Skye, they just seemed happy to stay at a distance and watch us. Mr Stoatie spent some time trying to get a decent shot but they seemed to know just how far his zoom would work and stayed just out of range.

seal 2

seal snaps 2

The dogs and I retired to the edge of the dunes to get out of the wind and watch the action. It was starting to drizzle.

beach dunes

Charlie started to entertain himself sliding, he would work his way down and then run back up and do it all over again.

charlie sliding


Machair 2

We’d left the ScoobyVan parked by a graveyard. These are almost always on a hill overlooking the sea and not by a church. Stunning locations and oddly comforting.


Peat stacks would become a common sight as we worked our way along the Islands.


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It only took us about ten minutes to reach our campsite which was on the east of the Island. The light was fading pretty quickly and we were anxious to get the tent up by the van and chuck some of the additional stuff in it. Mr Stoatie had brought his bike with us and as he hadn’t yet invested in a bike rack, once again it took up too much space in the van. Turning Charlie stripy with oil stains and generally getting in the way. This is where when we realised our first forgotten item – the bike stand! Cue two weeks of constantly having to prop the flippin’ thing upright on various heaps of bags and boxes and picking it up when it fell over.

When we got out of the van we were treated to our first ever experience of the Scottish Midge, it’s making me itchy just thinking about it! I had bought a bottle of Skin So Soft which seemed to do the trick nicely as I didn’t get any bites at all while Mr Stoatie who couldn’t be bothered to apply it, had lots of little red lumps by the end of the evening. We were both rather glum at the thought of having to endure two weeks of the things.

Castlebay 2

The next day we woke up to grey skies and headed back into Castlebay for a look round. It’s the main town on the Island but is about the size of a small village, with a small local shop and a well stocked Co-op. It was very quiet, we recognised a few people from the ferry – including the labrador people!. bumping into people we shared ferries or campsites with became a bit of a thing on this trip, which isn’t surprising I suppose when most people are working their way up the island chain. In the past Castlebay had been the home of a huge herring fleet. At the height of the season it was said you could walk across the harbour on the fishing boats. Over six hundred would anchor in the bay, and the fish would be carried off to various stations around the harbour where the women would gut them and pack them into barrels with salt.

There was a short trail around a park by the harbour which showed the history of the trade, and which began with the mosaic at the top of the page.



From there we drove on to Vatersay, which is a small island to the south of Barra which is connected by a slim causeway. We found the first of many wonderful white beaches, and not another soul on it!


The dogs were excited by the beach and shot off to the sea as soon as they were let off their leads!


It was absolutely fantastic despite the overcast skies.




Vatersay has two wonderful beaches which are either side of a strip of sand dunes and grassland – the famous machair. We went to visit the other beach which is on the Atlantic side of the Island too. This was much larger, we were still the only souls there!


When the clouds broke everything looked even better.


It rained a little the second night, and that and the strong winds seemed to keep the midges at bay thank goodness. It was a little brighter when we got up and we headed off to the Airport – this is what happens when you’re married to an Aircraft Engineer!

Luckily Barra airport is one of the few airports in the world where the runway is on a beach. So we had a lovely walk and a snack at the airport cafe while we waited for the tide to go out and the plane to arrive.

Barra Airport

The airport is at the end of a long, wide bay, Traig Mhor. It’s a tiny little place, security was a rope across a doorway and the baggage collection area was a lean to against the terminal building, a bit like a bike shed. The cafe was fabulous and very popular.

Airport from a distance

The beach is composed of compacted cockle shells, which makes it firm enough to take the weight of the aircraft. There were one or two people cockling in the centre of the bay while we were there.

sand Barra


The plane arrived on time, there were quite a few spectators.





The Western Isles have their own species of bumblebee, the Hebridean Bumblebee.


Hebridean bee2

On the way back we visited Helaman Bay which is feted as the best beach on Barra. With the blue skies turning the water turquoise, and all the white sand, it was hard to disagree!

Barra Beach

We were the only people on the beach again!

Barra Beach2Barra Beach3

The access to the Bay was across a couple of fields. One of those houses was for sale, what a beautiful location!


Our campsite looked across to the mainland, although it was way off on the horizon. It was entertaining watching all the boats, mostly ferries and one huge cruise liner. Mr Stoatie managed to get one run out on the bike while we were there.


Most of our cooking is done on the trusty barbeque bucket. We decided when we first got the Scooby Van that we wouldn’t cook anything smelly or fatty on the stove! We mainly just use it to boil the kettle or cook vegetables and snacks.


All the exercise was a bit much for some folk.


On the third day we were off to the next Island group. We took the ferry over to Eriskay. This is the smallest ferry we’d been on, Tilly spent the journey under the bench seats but at least there was a window that I could look out of this time.


Ferry 2

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