Monday, 8 October 2012

A week in the Outer Hebrides



Monday 1st October, in the evening

Well, that was a busy day! Didn't set off from Bill and Mandy's till 11 am, the sun was shining, we had a leisurely breakfast and showers and decided to go to Falkirk for lunch. Arrived at the Falkirk wheel coach park as the car park had a height barrier that was too low for us, only to find it almost full of cars! Annoying as the car park was only 50 metres further away and there was no parking meter so these were just lazy people giving no thought to anyone else!
Falkirk wheel in motion and a very narrow lock!
Had a stroll down the canal so the dogs could have a run and then went to have lunch in the cafe overlooking the wheel which we saw in motion. I had been on it last March when I stayed with Mandy and Bill. Fascinating to watch but a simple engineering principle so I am told!
After Falkirk we set off towards Oban and soon the heavens opened....real Scottish weather. We called briefly at the green Welly Stop in Oban (eat your heart out Helen Sharples!) but it was almost closing time so we only had a few minutes. It was actually very disappointing, has changed enormously from last time we were here, much more commercialized and corporate now instead of independent and quirky. What a shame.
Arrived in Oban just coming up to 7pm to find many “no parking overnight” signs in the beach car park we had intended staying in. So we have had our tea here, the dogs have had a walk on the beach and are now spark out and soon we will move onto the road outside the beach and sleep there! After such a long journey we didn't want to drive around any more looking for a camp site but equally we don't want a fine or to be clamped so we shall obey the letter of the law (it says no overnighting from 11pm till 7 am!)
So here we sit listening to the surf on the beach and the rain pattering on the roof....happy days!

Tuesday 2nd

We moved the MH off the prohibited beach at 11 pm and pulled up on the road just outside. Got a good night's sleep but must have annoyed a local who parped his horn loudly at us as he went to work at 6.15. At least it wasn't a cold barking whippet waking us up........her pyjamas are a great success and keep her warm and comfortable and she now stays in her bed till we get up. At 7am, Nigel reversed the Motorhome into the car park again with me still in bed and we all went back to sleep for a while. I suppose no-one would believe us if we said we hadn't parked there overnight, except for the irate local who woke us up!
We pottered about after breakfast, moving into the many plastic storage boxes we have brought and reorganising where “stuff” lives. An hours worth of generator power recharged laptop and leisure batteries somewhat and soon it was time to set off for the ferry terminal.
Bit smaller than the cross channel ferries
we're used to!
We arrived in plenty of time and walked into Oban for a few fresh items. The ferry was comfortable and well set up. We left the dogs in the motorhome, Belle shut in the shower cubicle in her bed and Dash in the saloon. They could have come upstairs with us but are limited to certain areas and we thought it would be awkward when we wanted a meal.
Fast response crew being launched
The crossing was 'lively' but we were both ok. Interestingly, it was the day for testing the safety procedures so we had some drills to watch.  It did seem a long journey, we got on the boat at 1 pm and didn't get off till 8.30 pm. As it was dark and raining when we disembarked, we just pulled into the ferry car park and Nigel walked the dogs while I made their tea and us a snack. After another dog walk we all went to bed and had another really good night's sleep.

Wednesday 3rd

Tried out the shower thismorning for the first time....great success! Had a walk to the tourist info and got some leaflets and bought a map. After stocking up with bread and milk in the local shop we set off on single track roads and across a causeway to Vatersay the most southerly of the inhabited islands........we could see the inviting white sandy beach from our overnight spot. Disappointingly but not altogether unexpected, no motorhomes or tourists cars are allowed on the beach but we took the dogs for a stroll and lo and behold, the only other people on the beach were a young couple and their baby from Hebden Bridge! They had two dogs, a red setter and a border terrier. I wonder if there have ever been two border terriers on Vatersay beach before? Dash was in his element swimming for stones and Belle chasing her ball. A lovely walk and the sun came out while we were on the beach.
Back at the MH we had lunch then drove to the “car park” overlooking the Dunes where we now sit, reading and chilling before the next walk. Nigel even got out an outdoor chair and sat out in the sunshine with his kindle (and Dash).
Later on in the afternoon we had another walk on a different beach which we had all to ourselves. We've decided to stay here tonight, Nigel is hoping there will be a photogenic sunset.
First camping spot on Vatersay,
even nicer when the two red cars left us all alone!
The solar panels are doing a good job so far and this fact finding and settling in trip is turning out to be very pleasant indeed.

Thursday 4th


Woke up to a very pleasant morning on Vatersay. After breakfast we set off back to Castlebay, passing a memorial to airmen who had died in a plane crash in 1944, some had survived and 12 crew died...the remains of the plane are still there....quite a moving place. Then we stopped briefly at another war memorial just outside Castelbay, very unusual design and in a stunning location.
A quick visit to the co-op for essential supplies and then we set off up the west coast, calling at a deserted beach to walk the dogs. We had our lunch and a brief kindle stop and then we carrried on round past Barra airport....the planes take off and land on the beach!

We settled at a “car park” right on the beach at Eolaigearraidh (no idea how to pronounce it!) where we were able to fill up with water and empty the waste and loo. We both set off for a walk and had a look in the ancient chapel and burial ground but I just did a short version and came back and Nigel carried on for a further hour and a half with the dogs. It did rain briefly but sharply while he was out........I was lucky, I got back to the MH before it started. A pleasant evening followed watching two episodes of “vexed” on the computer whilst eating our tea.
Had the generator running for a couple of hours to get the comps charged and the leisure batteries though we have had quite a bit of help from the solar panels today. Disappointingly though we found that the alde heating system is running away with the LPG, we have half emptied one cylinder already, so we had little heat on this evening and snuggled up in extra layers instead. Don't know yet if we can get LPG anywhere on the islands so we are going to have to be very careful.
As I prepare for bed it is raining again and quite windy, think we're in for a lively night!

Friday 5th 

Belle and Dash eyeing up the beach at Eolaigearraidh
Another day of sunshine and showers, more of the former than the latter.
Obligatory dog walk on the beach followed by breakfast, then rang the ferry company to book for the 3.45 to Eriskay. Needed the generator on again and annoyingly found that instead of turning the Alde heating off it was on a timer function and completely emptied one LPG cylinder.......got the manual out and found out how to turn it off but used the hot water it had generated to have a much needed shower each. Lesson 397 was learned on the drive to the ferry.... do not leave the dirty washing bag hanging in the shower room near the tap, it may turn on and fill the dog bed with water......
Arrived at ferry terminal early, pleasant crossing to Eriskay with wonderful views. Nowhere to stop on Eriskay so we came over the causeway to South Uist and found a splendid picnic spot on the west coast with a large grassy area to park on and lovely views of a long white sandy beach. During the early evening, the batteries gave up the ghost so the generator went on for a couple of hours but unfortunately the same thing happened again during the night. We really need a campsite so that we can hook up and get a good charge.


Saturday 6th

Not a bad view to wake up to!
Another lovely day, the rain kept off and I got all the wet stuff dry. Nigel had a long walk with the dogs along the beach but failed to find the “wheelhouse” remains he was looking for. When he got back, I was talking to a couple from Glasgow who had arrived to walk their dog...a 2 year old whippet boy called Ollie.
They told us there was a filling station a few minutes away up the road which was also a chip shop and as by this time we had used up all the fuel for the generator, we set off to refill the generator and the fuel can. As it was too early for tea but having ascertained that the chippy was open till 8pm, we drove off up the road to have a look at Lochboisdale and then to a local landmark in the machair where there were some roundhouse remains. Dash “went off on one”....rabbit warrens all over the place, we were wondering if he was going to come back before the chippy closed, thankfully he did and we had a lovely meal and a cuppa by the side of the road. We then went back to last night's picnic spot, had a read and a little nap then with the generator running we were able to watch Inspector Montelbano. Power cut out during the night again.

Sunday 7th

Hoorah for the generator!
Set off for pastures new today, had lunch in a lonely spot between the two causeways leading to Benbecula. Stocked up food at the co-op as we got onto Benbecula, then found a lovely beach to walk the dogs on, much ball chasing ensued, good time had by all. Unfortunately, the battery has died already despite getting charged by the alternator and the solar panels so no showers yet!
As I was cooking tea, Nigel investigated the leisure batteries and found that one was red hot so he disconnected it leaving the other one connected. We had the generator on for a short while and watched some laptop TV until the genny switched off and we decided it was bedtime!

Monday 8th

Thismorning we still had some power....yeah!!! Seems that the “cooked” battery was the problem. Didn't need the genny on, had breakfast, dog walk and an early lunch and then set off in the direction of Lochmaddy having phoned the tourist info to make sure it was open. Found a leaflet there which confirmed that there is LPG at Stornaway, so went back to the van to decide what to do. After umming and ahhing (Nigel really fancied leaving out Harris and Lewis and staying on Uist and then going to Skye for a few days on the “way home” , we have decided to get the ferry over to Harris later this week so that we can get LPG and then go home via Stornaway to Ullapool. It's actually shorter that Skye to home.
Bought Hattie a cute puffin soft toy and then set off to have a look at Barpa Langass (a chambered cairn) and Nigel and dogs carried on over the wet moorland to Pobull Phinn...the only stone circle in North Uist. I went back to the MH and put the kettle on and had a look at where we could go on Harris and Lewis. Looked up and spotted a hen harrier hovering just metres away from me, got really good views of it for 30 to 40 seconds, what a treat! After our cuppa we headed back the way we had come and then up to Banranald, an RSPB reserve where we will walk and explore tomorrow. We were here alone and although there is a “No parking overnight” sign in the car park the warden who came to lock up at dusk said it was fine for us to stay here. I had a good 3G signal on my phone so we both had an internet catch up session. May be able to load this blog.......watch this space!