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.
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.
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.
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.
The plane arrived on time, there were quite a few spectators.
The Western Isles have their own species of bumblebee, the Hebridean Bumblebee.
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!
We were the only people on the beach again!
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.
Read Full Post »