From the Hebrides

We have reached Lewis, the most northern island of the Outer Hebrides and are staying at a lovely small campsite with a good wifi connection. Time to write a post about the magical time on the Hebrides.

When we arrived on Barra 10 days ago, the weather had indeed turned wet and windy and the forcast was for storm. We found a little shop which offered support in finding accomodation and we were able to book two nights in a B&B place just a few km along the road over one hill. Glad to be indoors, the night was wet and the next day very wet and windy. But we wanted to venture out anyway and did a tour of Barra, once around the island, exhilarating with the wind sometimes in the back then in the face. Good to come to a dry place to take a warm shower and have some warm food.

On Monday we left Barra, it was still raining in the morning. A 40 minute ferry ride to South Uist, passing the first campsite, just stopping for a jacket potato and hot tea. And then the rain stopped and has not come back since then.

When we were already tired and really looking forward to a place to rest and stop for the night we met another cyclist who knew the area well and directed us to a beautiful beach where we could pitch our tents. The night was cold however and the wind had picked up strength in the morning and I felt a bit shaky, noticing that even in company I am not a fan of wild camping. Although I really enjoyed the evening away from everything, having dinner sitting on a wall of rocks with the view of the sea. So the next morning after a quick breakfast, and cycling only a few km up the road, we found a hostel and decided to stay there for the day and the night. Enough time to sooth my system, enjoy some time out of the wind and reading and writing and chatting to other travellers, cyclists, walkers, all different sorts and types. The Howmore hostel is part of a hostel organization maintaining three hostels on the Western Isles, situated in lovely thatched old houses, very well cared for, excellent facilities. Just what a wind scattered traveller needs. And I had set my heart already on stopping at one of the other hostels further north.

So, next morning off with the wind, the weather stabilizing more and more, moments of bliss, sitting on the bike, often not needing to pedal at all, up and down the rolling hills, enjoying the beautiful scenery and hardly able to believe our luck with wind direction and weather. Rolling through the rest of South Uist, then over the causeway to the next island Benbecula. Here we stopped for a coffee/tea in the airport cafe. Had an interesting chat with a mother who saw her son off to the mainland. He lives in Glasgow and has a three weeks on, three weeks off job as a fisherman on the island, however, is hoping to bring his family back to the island for good.

On, to the next island via another causeway. The causeways were mostly built with the support of EU money in the 90s, before there were only ferries connecting the islands. Now on North Uist, we had the option to either cycle along the East or the West coast. We chose the West coast, along the road a cafe just in time to strenghten ourselves with soup and roll.

These islands are a jewel in terms of beauty and energy and everything. I was wondering what to do with all this beauty inside of me and overflowing. My heart became really big and I wanted to embrace everything, the whole world.

And then we found this beautiful campsite near a bird sanctuary on the Western most edge of North Uist. Birds calling long into the evening and early in the morning, quite magical. Lovely breakfast in front of the tents in the sun and heading to the next island, Berneray, first along the northern coast of North Uist and then over another causeway to lovely most beautiful Berneray. Here the next hostel was waiting for us, views amazing, breath taking really and another sunny and not too windy evening. A walk along the long white beach and views of the ferry to Harris, which goes about 4 times a day.

I don’t know if I have ever been so happy and content for such a long time without interuption. Travelling with Don is very pleasent, often funny, full of kindness and common sense, wonderful really, amazingly easy to agree on where to stop or stay. And maybe this is possible because he lets me decide mostly, really I am a bit of a tour guide, I read the map and read the guide book, know about possible places to stay and eat. And he adds lots of relaxation with what he calls opportunist attitude, so I don’t go into too much planning and am happily living the opportunist life too and we have never gone hungry or without a good site for our tents. And anyway the weather has been most supportive.

The next day we and a few more cyclist who stayed at the hostel, took the 10.25 ferry to Harris, the hills looming in the not so far distance. We pedaled just another 15 or so km on Harris until we found a beautifully situated campsite on the West Coast. Day after day the weather and the places we stayed at just became more beautiful. This one was stunning and we decided to stay for two nights. Thus we had time to cycle back to the standing stone of Harris the next day. Restful and meditative time near the stone and a lazy afternoon spent reading near the tent, soaking up all the good energy from and through the ground.

Well timed rest as on the next day we cycled through and over the hills, first into Tarbert, where although it was Sunday and nearly every shop and eating place is closed for Sunday observance, we found good food in the Hebriden Hotel close to the Tarbert ferry terminal. With our water bottles well filled we tackled the Harris hills, sun was getting really hot, up to 26 degrees, cycling in shorts and top. Challenging ascents and exhilarating descents. Then a bit of a long stretch of road with further small hills until we found an acceptable half wild camping site near an inn where we enjoyed another meal. None of our emergency oat soup needed after all. The next day even hotter and nearly no wind, so the midges where coming out. I guess there is no sunny and warm Scotland experience without midges. Still in a bit of disbelieve about the weather and the heat, this summer will be talked about for a long time 🙂

Yesterday we finally reached the Callanish standing stones, the place to visit and one of the most important prehistoric sites in all of the UK. Impressive, however also full of visitors. Wondering if there will be an opportunity to go back at a less busy time to connect to the stones more deeply. I feel already changed by just having been there. A different mood somehow since then. The mood might also have to do with this part of the trip ending fairly soon. Tomorrow we are planning to cycle up to the northern tip of Lewis, the butt of Lewis, and then the next day it is really down to Stornoway to take the ferry back to the mainland to Ullapool.

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