Sunday, 7 May 2017

Outer Hebrides Trip 2017.




Our latest Motorhome adventure was to spend 4 weeks exploring the Western Isles following some mouth watering Ground Tour TV programmes from Paul Murton. After some research we discovered that Caledonian Macbrayne do a Hopscotch ticket valid for thirty days which allows the traveller to purchase tickets, at a discount, to visit all the Western Isles that are not connected by a causeway arriving and departing from either Oban or Stornaway which ever way round you wish to navigate. The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles consist of a chain of islands extending 130 miles from the Butt of Lewis in the north to Barra Head in the south. The principal islands are Lewis and Harris, North and South Uist, Benbecula and Barra.
  
Our first stopover. 
The Scottish Premier Clubs ground.
View across to the Black Isle.
The first part of what turned out to be a very exciting trip was a 274-mile journey northward to Inverness and across the Kessock Bridge to the Camping and Caravan Club Site at Dingwall, which lies at the head of the Cromarty Firth. Dingwall is a wee market town that boasts a very nice High Street, with a selection of shops, which of course includes its fare share of charity establishments, along side some very attractive private property and buildings. As this was a Sunday the local museum was closed. The club site is opposite the Stadium of the Scottish Premiership side Ross County and along side both the River Conon which flows into the Cromarty Firth and what was the Dingwall Canal which like many other commercial waterways fell into disrepair after the arrival of the railway. You can still see some timber structures from the original harbour at the mouth of the canal and some tie up points for the boats. It now makes a pleasant walk to Jubilee Park where you will find seating allowing visitors a grand view across to the Black Isle and out to the Firth. The campsite was again credit to Camping and Caravan Club and especially to the site managers Ray and Tina. Its well set out and organised with a warm and very clean facilities block, which as usual some campers are incapable of appreciating.
 
Waiting to load ferry.

Some nice comfy seats for the 2.5 hour crossing to Stornaway.

Heading out. 

Arriving at Stornaway Ferry Terminal. 
Another early start the following morning allowed us to get to Ullapool well in time to catch the Caledonian Macbrayne Ferry for out next stop over in Stornaway.  A couple of miles north of the roll-on and roll-off car ferry is the Luxdale Holiday Park, that has been operating since 1973 and provides facilities for touring caravans, motor homes, and self catering holiday’s in the form of a bunkhouse, a luxury lodge and glamping wigwams.

Stornaway is the main town on the Isle of Lewis with a population of around 7500 it has a variety of shops including a Co-op and a Tesco with along with the other shops are closed on Sunday. Visitor attractions include Lews Castle with its new Museum and its 'Grounds' as they are known locally. Lews Castle is in the process of having a complete renovation after it fell into disuse in the early 1990's, work is due to be completed by the end of 2017. The work has revived the original splendour of the exterior and the internal renovation looks to be ideal for the future plans to turn it into a first class visitors attraction, conference centre and function venue. The new Museum, opened by our First Minister in March, is well worth a visit with  'audio-visual, interactive and object rich displays' with a cinematic display that provides an introduction to the islands environment in different seasons. Other exhibits show modern and historic life on the island. Also displayed are some of the world famous Lewis Chessmen alongside there known history. For information the walk from the campsite site is a round trip of three miles although there is a bus services that will take you into town.


Lews Castle.

On our fourth day and on leaving Luxdale we travelled further north to see various landmarks. The first of which was the Port of Ness or Nis as its known in Gaelic. All place names; street and road signs on the Hebrides are in both Gaelic and English. Gaelic is the official language of the islands, is taught in schools with a great many born and bred locals speaking the language. Port Ness was at one time a very busy harbour but now is only used once a year when a party of men depart for Sula Sgeir a small rocky island to harvest young Gannets. The picturesque harbour and the lovely sandy beach are worth a visit as is the wee cafe overlooking this wonderful vista.
 
Once a year a crew sets sail from the Port of Ness for Sula Sgeir and the harvest.


Looking back along the beach to the harbour and the township.

The next 'port' of call was the sandy dunes and vast beach at the crofting township of Eoropie and then onto the Butt of Lewis the most northerly point on the Western Isles which the Guinness Book of Records says is the windiest place on the coast of the UK recording winds of up to 115 mph.  Its 37m high red brick lighthouse was built by David and Thomas Stevenson, which was first lit in 1862 and became automated in 1998. This is a wild and rugged landscape and one could spend hours just watching the sea crash onto the rocky headland, a wonderful spectacle.
 
The Stevenson lighthouse.



The Butt of Lewis.

North Shawbost on the northwest coast of Lewis was our next stopover. Eileen Fraoich is a very highly recommended campsite with 25 hard standing pitches, all with electric. Ours also had a grey waste drain right next door to the pitch and a Freeview connection for our TV. The clean and airy facilities block was named ‘Downing Street’ while the gents had a number '10' on the entrance door and the ladies had number '11'. It's great to see that some folk still retain a sense of humour. The only problem with this particular part of the world is that the wind can be blowing a hoolie so it was decided not to use the bikes but to go for a walk instead.
 
10 and 11 Downing Street 


The main purpose was to see the Shawbost Mill a Norse type mill and kiln but first a walk down past Loch a'Bhaile and on to Shiaboist Cove and its lovely yellow beach and then up through South Shawbost and right down the main A858 to the car park and then across country down to the Mill site for a picnic lunch and a good look around both these beautifully restored buildings. A grand walk, and the rain kept off although the wind made the walk a wee bit more tiring than it should have been.
 
Mill and Kiln at Shawbost.







The property on this part of Lewis are very much spread about, even what you might call wee villages are spread over quite an area, all of which I believe to be due to the crofting system where land is allocated so that people can work it. But nothing appears to be grown all you see is sheep grazing, other than perhaps storage of old cars, farm machinery and other items. It seems on the surface a strange lonely existence but the people that live here are very friendly and helpful. It’s not an area that seems to attract the rich, with none of the normal big newly built out of place houses you see in parts of Scotland. The newly built property, where it exists fits in with the existing and always has a very large plot, again to do with the way that land is divided up into crofts.
The wide open spaces of North Shawbost on Lewis.

A small diversion was required to the next part of our journey to allow a visit to the crofting township of Arnol and its Blackhouse Museum. The tradition of man and beast living and sleeping under the same roof goes back centuries. The Blackhouses at Arnol go back just over a century and the last person who lived in No 42 did not move out until 1966 when the family moved to the White House at no 32 Arnol. A visit to this Historic Scotland site is essential as no 42 remains the sole representative of a way of life that was once so very common in Lewis. This unique relic has been kept as it was in 1966 even to the extent of having a peat fire in the centre of the living room burning all day. Its aroma and the smoke really added something to our visit. 


The Blackhouse at Arnol.


The peat fire burns constantly in a Blackhouse.

A peat stack. 

This Blackhouse was lived in until 1966....

....along with their farm animals. 

Opposite is The White House at No 39 Arnol that is more like the houses we are used to today. This was built in the1920's and is furnished as a 1950's house and was inhabited until 1976 when the elderly lady living there was moved to a new house. A wee visitors centre is where you purchase your tickets along with plenty of books and information. The two lady's manning the centre are full of interesting information and will happily show you a ten minute documentary which take's you back into a different, but extremely hard, way of life. My suggestion would be to allow plenty of time for a visit, as it is a fascinating and rewarding experience.

No 39 Arnol The Whitehouse.




Furnished as it was in 1950.

The next part of our Hebrides trip took us to the Island of Harris but did not involve a ferry as it is joined to Lewis by a narrow neck of land. Our next campsite was Minch View in South Harris and the journey there takes you through the village of Tarbert that has car ferry links to both Uig in Skye and Lochmaddy in North Uist. Tarbert has a couple of general stores, a hardware shop and a post office as well as Hotel Hebrides where you can get a good meal or just a cup of coffee which ever takes your fancy.
The Minch View Camp Site.

Looking across The Minch.

South Harris has two contrasting coast lines, the west coast has a number of fine sandy beaches while the east side has a very rocky shoreline with various bays each of which has a small township at its head known as 'The Bays'.  A bike ride around this undulating coast line gives you a chance to appreciate the barren bleakness of this moonscape of naked gneiss and its many and varied Lochs, sea inlets and rocky landscape. The narrow twisting east coast route is known as the ‘Golden Road’, because of the vast amount of money it cost to build in the 1930's.

The Golden Road.

The rugged East Harris landscape.

Small fishing settlements off the Golden Road.
The west side of Harris is a little softer than the east but no less beautiful and unless you see them for yourselves you never really appreciate how stunning the beaches are on this side of the island. Even in April the sea is a bright turquoise colour with fine sand that is a wonderful clean yellow colour. Your find almost no people, seaweed and certainly no rubbish that would normally be washed up from passing ships. Follow the A859 from Tarbert and park at the area above Traigh Lar and walk along the beech, at the far end climb up to the Clach Mhic Leoid standing stone for a fine view across to the island of Taransay where the BBC made Castaway 2000 TV series and then head down to Traigh Nisabost and back up the road or you could drive back to the large car park which acts as a camp site at certain times during the year. A slow drive back along the A859 will take you passed Seilebost and its beautiful bay with its unbelievable vista. One can't help thinking that if the summer weather was a lot warmer then this would make a lovely family holiday resort, far better than any you will find in Spain. Our last day on Harris was spent hibernating in our Motorhome because of the weather. We had 28 hours non-stop heavy rain and strong winds!





The west coast of Harris.

The following morning the weather had improved and we set off for the ferry from Leverbough to Berneray. The crossing takes 60 minutes and then across the causeway to the Isle of North Uist. First impressions are that this island seems a lot flatter and more fertile than Harris, which is proved by the amount of healthy looking beasts on the land - reared for beef and not milk. Balranald Hebridean Holiday Campsite is a first class site with top class facilities and is located in the heart of the Balranald Nature Reserve with only a short walk to the beach. The nature reserve is a magnet for birdwatchers and has a small-unmanned visitors centre that's open all year. For information the nearest shop for groceries is at Bayhead 3 miles south of the campsite, although there is a large Co-Op in Solas that is 8 miles north of the campsite and is on the main road from Leverbough so supplies can be picked up on your way south.


Leverbough to Berneray Ferry.

A healthy fertile landscape.

The Black Sheep.
The visitors centre.

 If you would like to see a splendid view of this part of North West Uist then I would suggest the St Kilda viewpoint from just below the early warning ‘golf ball’ at Cleitreabhal a Deas. This involves a steady climb of 1.5 miles from the main A865 up a well-made narrow track road. The views are well worth the climb. Continue further up the road passed the MOD property to the mast for magnificent views northward along with grand phone/internet reception. 


The MOD Golf Ball.

View from the top.

The following day the wind was again too strong for the bikes so it was decided to do the circular waymarked walk from the visitors centre across the Machair headland. The coastal views are superb and the birds and sea life are in abundance. The last part of the 4-mile walk can be taken along the beech and then back via the visitor centre.
The Machair Headland.




The greatest characteristic of the Isle of North Uist is its watery landscape. There would appear to be more water than land mass but that's what makes this trip so interesting, the different terrain you come across where each island is different from the last.

The watery landscape. 

Our new campsite is situated at Carinish that was once the ferry terminal to Benbecula that was replaced by the North Ford Causeway in 1960.  A short drive south from our camp site takes you to the Isle of Benbecula and the town of Balivanish where you will find Maclennans Supermarket, parking is at a wee bit of a premium but the shop itself is very well stocked, has some helpful staff and is very modern. Moorcroft Holiday Campsite and Bunkhouse is another first class site. Facilities are clean and tidy and again the site is well laid out.  The Bunkhouse has been converted from an original dwelling house and has two stories and includes all the facilities needed to spend your holiday in comfort. Also newly installed on the site are two Hobbit Houses (glamping). 


One of the two Hobbit House's at Moorcroft.
Moorcroft Camp Site.
View from the site

Just across the main A865 almost opposite the entrance to Moorcroft is a circular walk across some heather covered moorland and around two Lochs nan Cuileag and a Bharpa. Other interesting things to observe on the walk were the mysterious elongated piles of stone known as Bharpa Langrass (Heap of Stones) and the peat diggings.
Bharpa Langrass.

Peat workings. 

The heather covered moorland.

Its quite surprising how the weather changes from one day to the next, or perhaps I should say from one hour to the next. Even the weather forecast can change from when you look at it first thing in the morning and by say ten o'clock it's changed again. But when the sun does come out it underlines the beauty of these islands.

No more funding for projects like this any more!
On our first full day at Moorcroft we set out on our bikes northerly to explore. First port of call was Teampall na Trionaid, which translated into English means Temple of the Trinity. It was a medieval monastery and college of European significance; founded by Beathag daughter of Somhairle (Somerled) therefore it was an important seat of learning.  It was enlarged between 1350 and 1390 by Amie Nic Ruari first wife of John   'Lord of the Isles’. Reconstructed in the 16th century and later restored after it was destroyed during the reformation. The path that takes you up to the Temple has signs to remind you that you are walking beside the Field of Blood. In 1601 this is where the Battle of Carinish took place between MacLeod’s of Skye and the MacDonald’s. This fierce battle killed all but two of the MacLeod’s. After wiping the blood from our boots we preceded to Balesare, crossing the causeway, built in 1962 to join the island to North Uist, and on to a clean sandy beach that seems to go on forever. A grand place to enjoy our picnic lunch before a stroll along the shore.




Temple of Trinity.

Baleshare Beach.

The following day we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, out of the wind it actually felt quite warm so it was decided to cycle south to the Isle of Benbecula. If North Uist is Protestant, with only one drinking establishment to its name and South Uist is Catholic, Benbecula, which lies between the two, was described to us as 'metropolitan' where even the shops open on a Sunday - decadence at its worst! The Island is steeped in the history of Bonnie Prince Charlie because its from here that he sailed "over the sea to Skye" with Flora Macdonald disguised in clothes provided by Lady Clanranald. Our bike ride took us across a very long causeway built to facilitate the import of supplies during the upgrading of the WW2 airfield at Balivanish with its links to the Cold War and continues to be used by the military as well as by civilian traffic with daily flights to Glasgow, Stornoway and Barra.


Airport Runway.

A typical renovated Benbecula Cottage.

We continued into Balivanish, passed the airport and then across to Culla Bay car park were picnic benches were thoughtfully provided to sit and enjoy our lunch. Again the beach has to be seen to be believed. Further south from our lunch stop we found the Medieval graveyard and the ruined 14th century Chapel, Teampall Mhoire, at Nunton and the renovated Nunton Steadings which is now a Tea Room and Craft Shop which sells lovely home made cakes. A further mile south down the B892 we took a left for Griminis and across to the War Memorial and then back north taking the A865 back to Moorcroft. A grand run that allowed a good look around the Benbecula countryside.

Culla Bay

Nunton Steadings Tea Room.

Teampall Mhoire Chapel and graveyard.

The next stop over, and the last before we take the car ferry to Barra, was Kilbride Camp Site a small settlement on the southeast coast of South Uist the second largest island in the Outer Hebrides. Only the road outside the campsite separates it from the shore and its sheltered beach that offers views across to Eriskay and Barra.


The wee beach in front of camp site with Barra seen in the distance.

Kilbride Campsite Cafe.

When you cross over the causeway, which was open in 2001 and cost 9.4 million, from South Uist to Eriskay you again encounter a different landscape, where as the west side of South Uist is very flat Eriskay is more like a miniature Highlands and you can easily imagine some of the TV series Outlander being filmed there. This very picturesque island has various claims to fame. Firstly you can catch a car ferry to Barra from Ciolleag a' Prionnsa. It was here on the adjoining beach that Bonnie Prince Charlie first stepped on Scottish soil. Roaming wild on the island are the Eriskay ponies similar in stature to their Icelandic cousins and are descended from the native Scottish ponies and were used to carry peat and seaweed. Also meandering around are some wonderful black sheep.



The Causeway to Eriskay.
View from South Uist across to Eriskay.

Probably what is remembered most about the Isle of Eriskay is Compton Mackenzie’s book Whiskey Galore that was made into a film released by Ealing in 1949 although most of the location work was shot on the neighbouring island of Barra. The story is based on a true incident that happened in 1941 when a ship the SS Politician accidentally hit a submerged rock off the east side of Eriskay. On board was 21000 cases of malt whisky on there way to America. Fortunately for the locals the ship was beached in shallow water and the Customs men were slow in turning up! A stop at the 'am politician’ for coffee and a picnic at Haun before we headed back to Kilbride and a walk up into the hills for some more spectacular views.


Eriskay Ferry Terminal.
The beach where Bonnie Prince Charlie first landed in Scotland. 

The Eriskay countryside.

The main settlement.

The Am Politician a very rare public house. 
On another lovely sunny warm day we decided to use the Motorhome, which allowed us to travel further afield. From the ferry port of Lochboisdale, the chief settlement of South Uist, you can catch a car ferry to both Castlebay and Oban but I get the distinct feeling that unless the ferry is unloading its cargo the wee town must otherwise be as quite as we found it, almost a ghost town, even the pink roofed coffee shop was closed - a notice on the window informed us that was due to staff sickness! A very smart new marina that was opened in 2015 sits opposite the ferry jetty and must have cost an awful lot of money. It seems to have been built for the mooring of private boats and has all the facilities associated with this leisure activity. It is planned to extend the harbour at Lochboisdale in the near future to accommodate a new ferry terminal and to  build a new village along side a scheme to renovate dozens of derelict homes for low cost housing and tourist rentals. So things should look up for the area in the near future if Storas Uibhist ambitious plans materialise.

The famous pink roofed cafe at Lochboisdale.
The new Marina.

Lochboisdale from the marina.

Back on the A865 and travelling north our destination was the Kildonan Centre a renovated former school that consists of a modern museum that explores the harsh lives of local crofters and cotters through its collection of artefacts and some very interesting black and white photographs. Also part of the centre is a very nice cafe where you can get a decent cup of coffee and a very acceptable plate of fish and chips, our first since coming onto the islands so it was very much appreciated. Outside the centre you will find a replica of a typical wooden boat used in times gone by.

Kildonan Centre.

Reminder of times gone by.

Just one of the many exhibits in the museum.

Heading back down the road to Milton we paid a visit to what is said to be the birthplace of the great Scottish heroine Flora MacDonald's. A large cairn has been erected with a plaque and is surrounded by ruined blackhouses that would have formed a wee settlement. We can now boast that we have visited both her place of birth and where she died on Skye. When we came out of the Kildonan Centre we got talking to a local gentlemen who told us, quite proudly, that he was a descendant of the heroine - small world. Tomorrow morning we again cross the sea by ferry and on to the last part of our incredible journey, the Isle of Barra.



Flora MacDonald's birthplace and the commemorative cairn. 

We certainly picked the right day for our ferry journey, as there was very little wind and some lovely warm sunshine that made our 40-minute sailing a real pleasurable experience. Disembarking at Ardmore and travelling to the northern most part of Barra you pass the 'beach airport', (more of that later) some more splendid stretches of sandy beach and some lovely green countryside. Our base was a campsite at the Scurrival Points called quite simply Croft Nr 2; again you get views to die for including the tidal island of Orasay. A short walk from the site will allow you to sample the sea lashed headland as well as the community wind turbine. This was completed in 2014 and started to generate electricity, which is sold to the grid with the income going back into community projects, once the company have met their financial obligations. Barra is a very community orientated island with many of the services on the island run by the community.
On our way to Barra.

Barra Ferry Terminal.
The wonderfully friendly and homely Croft No 2.


Community Wind Turbine. 


The rocky shoreline at Scurrival Point.

Barra Airport is unique in that it uses a large expanse of beach called Traigh Mhor as its runways. Obviously fights are dependant on the tide, can't have the fee-paying passengers getting their feet wet! There are two flights daily by the Canadian built Twin Otter, and one on Sunday, that will link you in just over an hour to Glasgow. It’s well worth a visit to the airport to see the wee plane land and take off, a truly remarkable sight. Also at the airport is a cafe that has a hot food menu, tea and coffee. 


Barra Airport.


Barra Airport has more runways than Heathrow!

The Check In.

Passengers disembark. 

Baggage Reclaim.

Following on from what turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip we cycled down the west side of Barra to Borve taking in the wonderful variety of differing scenery including inland country, rocky seascapes and sandy dunes backed by machair.

Stones washed up on to the beach from the previous nights rough seas. 

The weather can and does change with very little warning, one moment bathed in sunshine and the next wind and rain you can't stand up in. But with gale force winds that rock your Motorhome all night it does not lend it self to a restful nights sleep. With winds still blowing the following morning cycling was out of the question so a walk was in order. From the camp site turn right, walk a short way down the road you will see a sign for the beach. Head across the field and down on to the Eoligarry beach. This can be followed all the way along to the pier that was once the terminal of the ferry from Eriskay before re-joining the road and on to the airport for refreshments.

Eoligarry Beach


The Old Ferry Terminal.

The return journey along the roadway allowed us to explore Cille Bharpa (St Barr) Chapel and graveyard. The main part of the 12th century church only has two walls left standing. To its northeast stands the 16th century burial-aisle known as the "North Chapel" or "St Mary's Chapel" which has recently been re-roofed by the Scottish Development Department. The work has been carried out to house the late medieval carved tombstones, which had previously lain in the churchyard. Also inside the chapel is the copy of the runic stone that was also once stood in the churchyard. The original is now on display at the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. As well as generations of Barra residents the author Compton Mackenzie, who lived on Barra between 1935 and 1945, has also been laid to rest there. The walk back from the church was enlivened by a horizontal sleet storm that threatened to strip the skin from your face - thankfully it did not last long.




Cille Bharpa and St Mary's Chapel.

Driving the Motorhome down to Castlebay offered to prospect of a jolly good day out, but things don't always turn out as you expect. As we had already been down the western side on our bikes it was decided to travel down the eastern side of Barra. Not such a smooth drive with the route being far more windy and hilly but it does take you through a series of townships including Earsary, Skallery and Brevig with there fine display of ruined crofting and blackhouses. Even in April Castlebay does not have a great deal of larger parking spaces for Motorhome, so I would think that during the summer season it would be best to cycle or catch a bus in. First off coffee, with the local Post Office providing some tasty tray bake to go with your caffeine. Next was hopefully a boat trip out to Kisimul Castle the site of which is said to date back to Norse times although the existing structure is certainly no earlier than the 15th century. First disappointment of the day, the boat that takes you to the island was not running due to the weather, although unusually the sun was shining, health and safety reasons the friendly lady in the local tourist centre informed us. A walk through the town showed us some of the local facility's including the Community School, the sports centre, a well-stocked library, the Heritage Centre and the Hebridean Toffee shop, which sells some great homemade tablet. If you return via the footpath back along the shore you will get a history of the local Herring Boom of the late 19th and early 20th century which involved some 400 boats and over 2000 people employed for the on-shore work. It was the success of this industry that is said to have made the town what it was today.

Castlebay is the largest township on Barra.

The summer season could bring problems parking.

Kisimul Castle.

Before we carried on to the island of Vatersay the most southerly-inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides we stopped at the local Co-Op for supplies. Whist shopping in the store we were informed that the Co-Ops hurst, fully loaded with a coffin ready to collect a customer, crashed into our Motorhome causing some damage to the rear of the drivers side including the lighting panel. Although admitting liability it's still something you could well do without especially as we had already lost our driving mirror in a hit and run in Harris. So needless to say after sorting out the details and a long conversation with our insurance company we went off the idea of visiting Vatersay and drove back to our Campsite vowing not to use the Motorhome again until we had to drive back to Castlebay to catch the early morning car ferry to Oban.


After our previously stressful day it was decided to go back to two wheels. The airport is becoming a wee magnet because it’s the only place at the north end of the island where we can purchase a cup of coffee and this morning was no different. Blue sky and sunshine accompanied us down via Northbay to Aird Mhidhinis (Ardveenish) to check out the deep-water pier that acts as the main base of the fishing industry on Barra. Also there is the Barratlantic fish factory from which Whitefish, prawns and scallops are trucked daily to the Scottish mainland and the small Barra Power Station is also located there. From there we continued our journey retracing our steps back to the Ard Mhor junction and riding down to the where the roro car ferry commute's with Eriskay. Outside the terminal there is a fine sculpture of two otters chasing a Salmon.

Northbay area.

The deep water pier.

Trucking fish to the mainland.

The Otter Sculpture.

Also worthy of your attention is the Barra Golf Club.  Situated on the side of the hilly Croc an Fhithich with splendid sea views to both the north and south. Because it is on common land there are electric fences around the nine greens to keep animals from depositing their waste therein. None of the normal golfing facilities exist, only two containers one of which is full of what looks like old grass cutters and rubbish, the other one has an 'honestly' book in the side where golfers post the ten pound for a days play. To reach this rather out of the way facility head west from the Northbay junction until you see a sign for the golf course and follow the narrow winding road until the cattle grid and when you see the blue container - you've arrived. We were informed that even with a lack of facilities the golf club is very popular with both tourists and locals.

Barra Golf Club.

The islands of the Outer Hebrides offers visitors room to breathe and think about life in general. It also reminded me of days gone by; the community spirit that still exists on the islands, with its hard but simpler way of life. The friendliness of the people on the islands where complete strangers wave and say hello, where nothing seems too much trouble. The conversations with fellow travellers who because of what you have in common lead to an exchange of travel experiences. The Western Isles natural beauty takes your breath away at every corner you turn, every island you visit, and every road you go down there’s something new and exciting to discover.  There is almost no commercialism or fast food outlets, in fact there ain't that many shops but the supermarkets that are on the islands are well provisioned and you will find every thing you’re need. Unusually there are very few drinking establishments, which really makes the islands so wonderfully different from the Scottish mainland. Religion is still treated with reverence something that tends to be thought of as rather old fashioned in our secular society, in some places you can not buy a Sunday paper until Monday! The draw backs are the inaccuracies of post codes, don’t rely on your sat-nav, and the wind, which in all honestly never really stops but something you grow to except after a comparatively short time. But when the sun shines you would have to go a very long way to find such beautiful and truly breath-taking scenery.