Thursday, 3 October 2013

Outer Hebrides - Part 2

Beach on Harris
Moving on from the Isle of Lewis I travelled down through the Isle of Harris to travel across to the ‘Uist’s’.  This Isle of Harris is actually on the same land mass as the Isle of Lewis although the landscape changes and becomes more mountainous. Harris also has some wonderful beaches and the weather made the water look quite inviting! Don’t be fooled, its freezing!
Fabulous wild and empty beaches
A small ferry was required, taking about an hour to meander around the islands to reach North Uist.  The ferry times were disrupted due to the tides and I was glad I had checked beforehand.
Making the Orasay Inn, at the top end of South Uist, my base for a few days, I enjoyed  the remoteness of the island, often not seeing anyone all day, and indulged in fabulous sea food meals in the evening.
Typical South Lewis scenery on a cold grey day
North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist are all connected by causeways with one long road running down them all. I felt like I was playing ‘chicken’ on these roads as they are predominately single track with what I can only describe as ‘passing bubbles’, where the road widens enough for two cars to pass.  Travelling head on at 50mph to oncoming traffic, timing to meet at a ‘bubble’ became second nature very quickly, however disconcerting it seemed at first!
Storm clouds gather
As could be expected at this latitude the sunny weather did not hold and grey misty rain piled in, shutting down visibility and making it feel more desolate. Trying to capture the essence of poor weather can be a challenge but a storm rolled over the hills behind this cottage and I was torn weather to run for cover or get the camera out!
The rain approached as the wild ponies meander through the heather
As the weather wasn’t quite so nice once I reached South Uist I spent some time on the beaches watching a variety of waders including Sanderling and Bar Tailed Godwits. These were in a variety of stages of plumage. I am also sure I heard a corncrake although I never saw one.
Bar tailed godwits
There are a large number of ‘Sites of Special Scientific Interest’ on the island (I think over 50), the two biggest being in North Harris and North Uist.  A further large area is Loch Druidibeg on South Uist.  Here there are also a large number or Eriksay wild ponies roaming around, some of which appear quite tame.
Wild ponies roaming
Not that I saw them, there are still some hedgehogs on these islands after being brought across in the 1970’s by someone to reduce slugs in their garden.  These non natives, wreaked havoc and enjoyed not only the intended slugs but also the eggs of ground nesting birds.  Eventually culls were undertaken but now they are trapped and returned to the mainland. The island are known to be windy (good to keep the midges at bay), but in reality there were only light breezes.
Godwits in flight
Leaving from Lochboisdale across to Oban, a 5 hour sailing, we were accompanied by large pods of dolphins playing in the wash, had a huge Calmac breakfast and vowed to visit again.
Greylag geese migration