The big bucket list items of this, our latest Hebrides trip, were now achieved so we woke beside beautiful Traigh Iar beach on Harris, Saturday 10th June, with a sense of some relief ; we could simply relax and sightsee a bit now, visiting familiar favourite spots and tomorrow, head for Lewis and some slightly more unchartered territory.Of course, there’s no way we did these islands justice on our short time, this time.
A wild, wet night of rain and high winds had now mellowed to quite sunny skies – typical Hebrides.It could rain all night every night if it stayed like this! Had a bit of a lie in, drank gallons of tea then made for Temple Cafe at Northton, a lovely place with great home made cakes and scones.Had great Lattes and Blueberry and Lemon cake and a Treacle Scone.Excellent.Thought of booking in for evening meal but they were already full so called ‘The Anchorage’ in Leverburgh while we had a signal and booked dinner for tonight.
A walk across Traigh Iar
Stopped off at Traigh Iar again, another ‘west beach’ but the sand here is much creamier than on the Uist beach of a similar name.On Uist, the sand is so white, it dazzles.Harris’s creamy sand is what makes the water look such an incredible colour, even on a dull day.
Walked up to Macleod’s Stone, similar in age to Callanish, then around the headland. Gorgeous spot.
Then up through Tarbert to North Harris, a much harsher but very spectacular, mountainous landscape.Our main task here was to deliver a tray of jam made by Effie Macquien, whose B and B we stayed in on North Uist! I was so glad to see that tray disappear inside the shop at Ardhasaig in one piece.Job done!
Rain came on a bit so a good excuse to try out the nearby Hebscape Art Cafe.Excellent place, great homemade soup and home baking.So many good places like this in the Hebrides.
Stopped off at the small supermarket in Tarbert and picked up some wine, crisps, chocolate – the usual healthy snacks we can’t do without.
Then back out towards Seilebost and West Harris , sweeping past the stunning sands that line the coast.It was a B&B night, so time for a scrub up after two nights wild camping.Luxury!
The Anchorage for dinner
We were staying in Sandview House overlooking Scarista beach.It was quite an old fashioned house but comfortable and clean and the elderly lady owner was , we found out, a member of the Wee Free Church.This is a particularly ‘severe’ church which forbids most things except prayer on a Sunday.Sure enough, we were asked to pay on Saturday night, as taking money or doing business on the Sabbath is frowned upon.So saying, she was a very nice , soft spoken Gaelic woman, welcoming and friendly, lovely accent and delighted that she could talk Gaelic with Chris for some of the time.
Got showered – bliss – had a glass of sparkline wine, then headed off to The Anchorage for our dinner at 7pm.
Not an easy place to get booked into and it was going like a fair.It had the best seafood and shellfish menu I’ve ever seen….really unusual and appealing.We just couldn’t choose, so went for a main courses to share as a starter; monkfish wrapped in parma ham, scallops, mussels and langoustine platter with parmesan gnocchi, then lamb for me and venison for Chris with crushed potatoes and veg.Had a sort of fruit crumble to finish plus a platter of desserts (not so successful).
But overall, first class food and service though not cheap.Great buzzy atmosphere. In the pub next door we could follow what was happening in the Scotland vs England football World Cup qualifier…Scotland were up until the last seconds when England scored to equalize.The pub went crazy up until that moment, then utter silence descended.Oh the agony……
Got back to Sandview and relaxed, catching up with family stuff, sending photos now we were back with wi fi, reading.
Good breakfast next day, porridge, bacon, sausages, scrambled egg, beans, mushrooms, black pudding….the works.
West and North Lewis
We had a day exploring West Lewis ahead and I was also keen to get right up to Point of Ness, the very northern most place in the Outer Hebrides.
Of course this was very bad planning as we’d chosen Sunday to explore Lewis and Lewis is SHUT on the Sabbath. Ah well, we have previous convictions for bad planning so no change there.
It’s a great drive up to Callanish amd despite the showery weather, it was all looking stunning.Then we left North Harris’s big hills behind and Lewis’s rolling, empty moorland took over.Not a landscape Chris enjoys so much but I love it.We’d done Callanish justice last year so skipped the Stones this time and made for Carloway Broch.
It’s a superb structure in a fine landscape, stunning.
Then on to Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a wonderful collection of refurbished traditonal stone and turf roofed houses within a village street.We couldn’t see inside of course because they were shut but it was still worth visiting.The village is set in a beautiful landscape of heather and moor overlooking a rocky, turquoise bay.Had a walk beyond the village onto a headland with wild ocean views.
Next stop…..Arnol Blackhouse…a single house this time.very interesting, but closed and the rain was on with a vengeance now.
Then the beautiful Norse Kiln and Mill, a short 5 minute walk in the rain but well worth it.All free entry.Fascinating inside.
Was surprised how populated it was up here, lots of townships, the land getting flatter as we drove north.I wouldn’t say it was the most scenic part of the Western Isles.Had a brief walk out at the Point, on the low cliffs, then had tea and some crisps in a nearby sandy cove.
It was quite an easy drive back from there to Stornoway, nothing very special about the scenery and the rain was on more than off now.
We had an early ferry next morning so wanted to pitch the tent in a proper campground close to the town.The land is so built upon there that it would be difficult to find something wild without really knowing the place better.I almost felt like we’d returned to a small city and its outskirts here.And not an attractive one.
Got a decent pitch at Laxdale Campground, well maintained with nice clean washing facilities etc.Not really our sort of thing, a formal campsite, but it served its purpose.
After our meal, I drove half an hour up to Tolsta beach to check it out.Horrible weather, but it looked nice enough…a huge long stretch of golden sand backed by high dunes.
Not impressed though by the journey up there…settlement after settlement, pebble dashed bungalows everywhere and pretty charmless.Not my favourite part of the wonderful Western Isles.
Set sail from Stornoway next morning on a gloomy, wet day.The Castle area looked nice but I wouldn’t fancy staying in the town or having it as a base.It’s better than I remember certainly, but too suburban/urban and not particularly attractive.
One thrill was seeing two orcas about a third of the way across to Ullapool, just two enormous high dorsal fins which soon disappeared under the waves.Two and a half hours later we were drawing into nice little Ullapool and getting stocked up in the supermarket for our walk into Sandwood Bay.This was the last item on my bucket list for this trip – to walk the 4 miles in to wild camp at this remote, beautiful, famous beach, often listed as the UK’s finest (it isn’t but is certainly in the top 10 and is one of the wildest! )
Later that day – Sandwood Bay