Category Archives: Scottish Island Tour

More whiskey? Not quite

It’s a pretty dreich looking day today. To be fair there are a few of those in these parts. But we’ve never let it stop us before. It just changes plans a little.

So the girls (yes the girls, not me) decided we would go to Talisker Distillery. Having been before (as far as reception as we were too early) and knowing the island was chockful of fair weather tourists, I tried to book in advance. No dice! Because they were expecting it to be busy they weren’t taking any more bookings. So off we set to hopefully get in. I knew there was an overflow carpark past the distillery – I’d made bacon rolls there a year or so before – which seemed to be more than the poor chap who was trying to get his motorhome in the main car park a few minutes later. Not fun.

 

So what happened? Of course we can get you on a tour. In 3 hours. Are you kidding me?? Er no. So that’s attempt number 2 and still not been past reception. Although I did pick up a little something for my troubles ;).

 

The road into Carbost (where it is) is not exactly motorhome friendly by the way. It’s pretty narrow, but vision is good and it’s pretty straight at least.

 

A fairly short drive in the dreich weather brought us back to Dunvegan. A year earlier we parked up in a layby just outside the castle for the night. I went to let the dogs out and got nothing short of molested by midgies! This year we had a site booked. Kinloch campsiteΒ is situated at the top of Loch Dunvegan, just outside the village itself. When the mist lifts I’m sure it will be a wonderful view.

 

But for now time to catch up with some laundry in the facilities here. The chap that runs it has a wicked sense of humour. If you don’t believe me check the poem he has on the wall in reception πŸ˜‰

Round and round and round it goes….

Onwards and round. Supposed to be stopping tonight at Staffin but we are thinking to pushing on a bit. The scenery is fantastic at the north end – well from previous visits it is everywhere here.

Who would live in a house like this?

“Who would live in a house like this?” Me Lloyd. Can you imagine the views?!

Don't look too hard

Don’t get too distracted. Part of this is still moving and the road below it needs repaired every year.

It’s stunning for sure. And the road is, erm… interesting. It’s very changeable for sure. Passing the Old Man of Storr we had hoped to stop but the road and parking was awash with abandoned cars.

A visit last year told us to get into Sligachan (pronounced Sleekan for those foreigners among us πŸ˜‰ ) camp site. No booking so get here as soon as you can. Its just across the main road from the Sligachan Inn. Too many whiskies to mention here πŸ™‚ As in around 300. Food’s not bad either. Couple of words of warning though. There are hard standing areas and grassed areas – and its all fair game. We left the van for a little walk and came back to find 4 Belgian vans parked in a space you wouldn’t usually put 1 in! And secondly, and this is well documented, the midgies here are voracious. Worse than anywhere else on the planet I’m sure. Sometimes you might be glad of the wind that comes down here – although it can start blowing things away. Just little things. You know, like tents. And caravans! I kid you not! It happened only a couple of weeks ago apparently.

Actually two more things. The main road is that. And its wide and open and the cars on it move very very fast. And the last thing. Don’t just look at your feet as you are racing from the midgies – look up. You might just realise you are in one of the best sites in the country for scenery.

Sligachan camp site

Cuillins

Back to plan

So after a bit of a change of plan the last 2 days its back on track. This morning we drove ou of the site and in a series of zigs and zags up a road above it and out toward Skye’s answer to the Giants Causeway. A bit more difficult to get to but probably a whole lot quieter.

Skye

It’s not what you would call the easiest “in” to see something!

Well it was quieter except for the local residents that is.

Skye residents

“What are those daft fools doing down there?”

Of course there’s always someone trying to sleep – not me for a change.

Keep the noise down

“Keep the noise down. What does a bird have to do to get some shut eye round here?”

But the rock itself is quite impressive. I’m sure its small compared to the Causeway but size isn’t everything …..apparently.
The causeway

Stepping foot back on Skye

We managed to make a call on the ferry and get ourselves booked into the site at Uig. Not hard to find from the pier for sure. Although you may be tempted to give up before you reach it as you think “This isn’t the right way.” It probably is. Quite a strange wee site but does the job nicely for a night. Watch out for the dog in one of the nearby houses though. It comes from nowhere and is LOUD!

Uig is a small place (birthplace of Donnie Munro no less – here’s the link if you’ve no idea who he is) but has a brewery of its own. So a trip to its shop was in order. Some local beer and a bar towel later it was time for dinner. And I’m cooking. Although I’ve not worked out what yet!

What a difference a night makes

The view last night was all wind and rain. but we woke up to this today.

The morning view

What a view to wake to

But disaster struck this morning. We were due to go on a boat trip this morning. Spent lots of time getting parked up nearby, getting ready and the like. And turned up to be told we weren’t on the list despite the fact we had an email to say otherwise. “Can you come back tomorrow?” Errr …NO!

So another change in plan. We had a ferry from Tarbert to Uig (on Skye this time) booked for tomorrow. But we decided to spare the day and use it elsewhere. A call to CalMac and basically it was a case of turn up, there might be space, no charge to change your booking. So there was quite a bit f hanging around in Tarbert. A strange place, where a flock of sheep roam free around the town.

It was a nervous long wait to see if they would get us on. But words last week of “move up – we are getting everyone on” rung true again. On with 3 feet to spare. I have to say these guys are amazing at what they do.

Pup A the intellectual

This is what happens if you leave Pup A alone on a crossing. She wouldn't say if she enjoyed the book

Time to start singing….Speed bonnie boat… Who threw that??

Stornoway…on a Sunday

I’ll just give you one word to finish the title description. SHUT! I knew that would be the case but I didn’t really think how completely shut it would be. Everything. Even the first Tesco I’d seen since Oban!

So time to park up and go for a walk. This time around the Lews Castle gardens. Which is a college now. Some campus!! Perched right on the harbour with a load of woodlands surrounding it. Enough to get lost in as it turns out! And for a certain pup to try and disappear into the mud in. And by disappear I mean right up to her neck. And by mud I mean, thick, gloopy, black, sucks you in if you move type of mud. But LMA to the rescue who just jumped in and grabbed the dog.

Pup E

This was after she had shaken off the worst of it. Silly Pup E

Varied scenery again though – along the edge of the harbour, up some streams, deep into the woodland. Sculptures everywhere as well.

With Stornoway closed for business we set off to the Butt of Lewis instead. A bit of a hike but we decided the most northerly point of the island was a good place to visit.

There’s a lighthouse up there, unsurprisingly, with a fairly large set of outbuildings. Sadly you can’t get in though. There is a real feeling of being at the end of the earth here. Its probably a pretty good place to park for the night as well – if you can stand the wind!

Butt of Lewis

Plenty of level parking, just be careful getting on to it

The the Calanais Standing Stones as we worked our way round during the day. As it was getting a bit late in the day the visitor centre was shut but the Stones are always open ;). 5,000 year old. And surviving that length of time up here is a feat in itself!!

Laid out in a kind of church shape with an altar. IN fact someone had left something a bit like an ornate bird’s nest under the centre stone.

Last part of the day was, erm, interesting. We had booked on a site at Stornoway itself but had been told about a great spot nearer where we needed to be in the morning, Miaviag Harbour at Uig on Lewis. There was a circular road just round the corner from it and we were told on the coast at a place called reef there is a nice beach to park on. Well we chose one direction and headed off round it. It started off quite narrow. Then turned into ridiculously narrow. And finally this is bloody ridiculously narrow. Which was bad enough but then it turned in to up and down, round a tight bend with large cliffs on either side! Not relaxing drive to finish the day. The spot we were told about was full but we found another spot that did the job just nicely. Different beach, same idea. Very windy though.

Another day…

And guess what? Another ferry. That’s right. Ferry number 7 on this race around the islands. Today is Berneray to Leverburgh. So that’s North Uist to Harris in terms of islands.

A fairly short hop. Well an hour which after the ferry from Oban to Barra seems a short hop! My guess is the straight line distance is about half what we actually travelled. Looked like we were on a slalom course!

Slalom

The slalom course behind us

A beautiful day for the crossing though.

On landin we started the usual head off the ferry and see where the road takes us. It took us first of all to a small viallage I forget the name of now. With the strangest Co-op I ever saw. I’m not sure it was CO-op as in the usual one but almost co-op as in the proper term. Fascinating shop though. Sold everything you could want.

A short blast up the road and I pulled over to take a pic of a beach I’d just seen – yes more beach pics. So I open the back door to see this staring at me.

Get off my land

This here is my grass. Find your own

The more main road of the 2 on the island heads up the west close to the shore so there’s ample chance to have a nosey. But our site for the night was down the other road a little. The Golden Road.

The Golden Road

A small part of the Golden Road

We only needed to go down a small portion of this before the site. Not a site I’d like to pull a caravan into anyway. Steep in after a nasty turn off the road, a little tight and quite steep inside the site.

View in to the site

The way in. Its a whole lot steeper than it looks

But the facilities were nice enough for the night. Only 5 or so vans. Some nice walking out across the road too. Which seems wrong when the coast is so close the other way!

A good walk and a little climbing, with the dogs totally in their element, before dinner was a good way to end the day.

Benbecula

The scenery on the way up here was been varied. And there’s certainly plenty to see by the roadside as well. Β But anyway tonight’s stop is Shell Bay on Benbecula. There was another causeway on the way up here of course. The site is just a hole in the ground really, just on the edge of a place called Linaclate. From here you can see the leisure centre nearby so if the weather is rough go jump in the pool. The site looks like it maybe once housed static vans as there’s some concrete down with holes for drainage and the like.

 

ANyway the best part of this site is that in 5 minutes you can be on Shell Bay Beach. OK the beach is nothing that spectacular, well not be the standards we’ve seen so far but it has one thing by the bucketload.

 

Seals

Looks like the seal version of the Abbey Road album cover to me

And that was just a small number of them. The bay is enormous. There are rocks everywhere in the water and pretty much everywhere you looked there were seals basking. Never seen so many in all my life. Not that there were doing a lot of course. But then, I wasn’t doing a whole lot either – except taking pics of the lazy buggers!

Onwards and northwards

Eriskay is not at all big and we are pretty quickly across it. The village at the top of the road looks like a lovely place and seems to be bustling with something going on. But our next stop has been picked out as South Uist. At least getting from one island to the next only involves a causeway and not a ferry. The first of a few over the next couple of days. Enjoyable driving in the lovely weather. Probably less so in the wind and rain.

We decided rather than head turn north we would head south a find a beach for a walk. As it turned out we found some parking outside the Polochar Inn. And a lovely beach to walk on. Cue the gratuitous beach photos!

Polochar

Polochar

So after a bit of a walk we decided to eat at the Inn itself. Can’t say enough good things about it. Food good, beer good, service good. Well worth the trip off the beaten track and more so the stumble off it in our case. I’ve also a feeling there’s a good wild camping spot a few hundred metres along the road. Why do I think this? Someone was parked in it πŸ˜‰

Avoiding the fate of the SS Politician

Well safe across the water and landed in Eriskay, famous for the story of Whisky Galore. The weather was a whole lot better though and the crossing made safely inside the 30 minutes.

You get a good look up toward the more northerly part of Barra as you start the crossing. I’ll be back for sure. It looks like up near the airport you can walk from a beach facing east to one facing west in all of 2 minutes. I’m going to have to try that out one day. But it won’t be now. Our whistlestop tour to have a quick scout for future hasn’t left any time for hanging about too much.

Actually driving on I was a bit worried. We seem to spend a lot of time at the front on ferries and today was no exception. But it is a worry when I’m already on the downhill slope before the ferry pulls away!

Handbrake

I do hope the handbrake holds. Or we'll need those lifejackets!

There was something a little different on the ferry though. You know your bins get emptied one day a week / fortnight or whatever. Ever wondered what the binmans diary looks like? Round here I think its a list of streets they have to visit.

Longest bin run

Longest bin run in the UK?

Feel sorry for this guy – his list is a list of Islands! Actually we saw a street sweeper going from Islay to Colonsay earlier but I think this boy has the harder deal. Well actually don’t feel too sorry for him because the scenery is enough to make up for it.

Barra