The Uists & Barra

We arrived on Berneray in the sunshine and drove across the bridge into North Uist. We were both a bit sleepy due to the gale force winds keeping us awake the night before but felt we couldn’t pass up a potter in the sunshine. We had picked up a tip from a fellow vandweller about a good overnight spot at Grenitote that was right by the sea so headed there. We parked up and wandered onto the mud flats and were soon greeted by a herd of cows and their calves making the most of the low tide. We walked past them chomping on seaweed and headed to the enormous sand dunes in the distance. We climbed to the top and were treated to amazing views across the white sandy bay on the other side. We were also treated to ridiculous winds and the warning that some mean looking rain clouds were on their way. We retraced our steps and jumped into the van to shelter. The tide was slowly heading back in and we sat and listened to the oystercatchers and flocks of geese chatting to each other into the evening. That night, the weather turned on us spectacularly. The van was being battered by winds straight off the Atlantic and we had never experienced being shaken so much in our tiny home. Our amazing solar panel is only attached to the roof by magnets, and we were genuinely concerned we were going to lose it in the gales. The rain was constantly lashing down on us and around 1am we both made the decision to move. We quickly packed away the bed and drove inland, finding a nearby supermarket building to shelter behind. We parked up, crawled back into bed and slept as best we could whilst the elements howled outside.

The next morning we felt a bit defeated by the weather and our spirits had definitely taken a knock over the past week. To cheer ourselves up, we picked an RSPB walk, and headed to the west coast. When we arrived we soon realised it was just not meant to be. Sideways rain and gale force winds greeted us. We both agreed that any bird would be mad to be out in these conditions and accepted we weren’t going to attempt the trail. This was a particularly low point for both of us and we struggled to keep positive. Anyone who tells you vanlife is all highs, all shiny and glamourous is lying to you! We knew this point would be coming for us, we just didn’t count on how rubbish it would make us feel. That night, we had to check in somewhere, and drove straight through South Uist to stay in a B&B.  We needed a bed, heating and to feel safe. We needed to recharge. We had hot showers, watched Netflix and ate chocolate for dinner. It was necessary.

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After a restful sleep and an amazing hot breakfast cooked by our host, we were ready to face the day. We caught the short ferry over to the Isle of Barra and we were in paradise. Warm sunshine and more amazing white sandy coastline greeted us. Everyone was so friendly and we immediately felt happy. One thing was certain, we couldn’t waste the good weather so we thought we’d tackle the hike up Heaval, the highest point on the island. The ascent was steep and boggy in places but we were both just happy to be outside. After a few princess strops from Chlo (where did my fitness go?!), we made it to the top. The views are spectacular, a complete 360 degrees of the Outer Hebrides. It was still super windy, so we both battled through the gusts to touch the trig point and then we headed back down for a cuppa in Red to warm us up. The other thing we wanted to do was see the airport. Barra is the only place in the world to have planes landing on the sandy beach. We parked up but we must’ve missed the flight that day as there were no signs of aircraft. Still, the ‘runway’ is pretty impressive and we were just amazed at the concept.

PSX_20170413_174041View from near the summit of Heaval

PSX_20170413_174548One of the amazing bays on Barra

After a great day exploring, it was time to catch the ferry back over to Uist. We had a super early ferry booked the following day to take us back to Uig on Skye so we drove late into the night off the ferry from Barra, through South Uist and camped at the ferry terminal at Lochmaddy. After a few hours kip, we boarded the ferry and started our journey back. We were lucky to have a second chance at Skye on a clear, dry day and as Uig port came into view we both had renewed hope of seeing more of Skye’s amazing rugged landscape. We marvelled at its peaks as we drove back through, it looked completely different from our stay the previous week. The road led us through Portree and we just had to stop at the Isle of Skye Baking Company’s HQ. Truth be told it was our third stop here in two weeks. They serve ‘lunchbread’ which is beautifully baked bread with fillings cooked into the dough. We needed a warming lunch after our early start so we ordered a couple of lunchbreads and two of their freshly baked hot cross buns. We were told they only bake and sell them one week of the year and they sell out completely each day by 2pm. They were utterly delicious, hands down the best hot cross buns either of us had ever tasted. So much so we got another two – “for the van” and continued south towards the mainland. Feeling sleepy after our bread consumption, we stopped quickly at Café Sia in Broadford for a couple of flat whites – best coffee on the island. We felt optimistic as we drove onto the bridge to the mainland. We’d had ups and downs but we were ready for what new places we’d explore next.

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