After a very quiet and beautiful stopover at Marilyn and Graham’s it was time for the real #OperationHebrides2020 to begin. Just under 30 mins to Mallaig, despite the longest roadworks contraflow in existence, and we were queuing for our boat and unable to test Marilyn’s hypothesis that you can have seconds of fun there.
Apparently the coast road via Arisaig is worth the scenery, but we would have needed more time.
VW wave tally low today- 3 given out, 1 returned.
The little mester had us stationed in line 2 before you could say I’m not dressed for chasing cats, he clearly had our number and didn’t need even a cursory glance of the paperwork.
Facial coverings were donned, and removed intermittently whilst we waited. The boy did 4 wees, no word of a lie, and we watched the boats going out and coming in again.
Our vessel of choice was the MV Lord of the Isles and it had room for a surprising amount of vehicular traffic. Lots of little mesters directing traffic, scanning paperwork and generally trotting about and although we were one of the last vehicles on we sailed on time. The ramp was up and we were moving before we even got upstairs.
The passenger accommodation was classic ferry chic, leatherette benches, tables with raised edges, muster stations, dark green gloss paint etc.
We kept our facial coverings in place, although not all passengers did, despite the announcement of it being mandatory.
KB hunter-gathered some victuals and then we took an al fresco perambulation, just as a chorus of car alarms struck up.
We ended up moving up a deck, the boy was disturbed by the loud noise, good job we brought ear defenders, and we settled down for the 3.5 hours of nautical traversing.
Madame and I took several trips out of doors, but as there was no wildlife to speak of she commanded that we return.
By about the mid point of the journey, the strain of the face mask was beginning to tell on me, having the lungs of a small child is not ideal when you can’t get a good lungful of sea air, so I kept nipping out to sit on deck sans masque.
Eventually the boy was persuaded to look out for sea creatures and did some jellyfish spotting with his dad, shouting “jelly belly” and pulling his shirt up every time he saw one, which was about every 2.4 seconds. He is quite keen on spotting marker buoys, which he, amusingly, calls Haaker boys 😆
Unexpectedly, as we were nearing Lochboisdale there was a bunch of dolphins who came out to play, and the numerous sleeping passengers were no doubt pleased to have been awoken by foghorn Beetle yelling about it to all and sundry.
The water had been calm, very little movement, beautiful sunny and warm weather and at just over £90 the crossing it has been my favourite ferry ride so far this year ⛴👌
It took us all of about 15 minutes to reach the campsite from driving off the boat. We passed a bank, co-op and a church and the complex directions consisted of a couple of left turns.
Having been in email contact with DJ, the owner of the site, I think I was expecting a slightly different set up from what we found – a note on the gate to phone on arrival to then be told to pick a pog. Still no sign of telling me how much it would cost – over a week ago I asked the question.
The site is smallish, room for about a dozen mainly hardstanding but including a few grassy areas for tents and pretty flat, depite the undulating countryside round about.
The cafe by the roadside is what you see first when you arrive, and there’s a building with toilets,showers, kitchen area and laundry facilities. Also a hostel at the back of the plot.
Facilities are open with the requirement to wear a mask inside, use the hand sanitiser before going in and lots of disinfectant sprays to use before touching anything. Everyone I saw go in followed the rules, except the noisy family who showed up the day before we left.
Mother would be satisfied that everything is spotless, although she would still give it a wide berth. We still have the Popaloo up, but so far I have used the copious amounts of hot water to clean the barbecue pan and chanced a peanut.
DJ came around just as we were sitting down to burgers with little cubey potatoes, fried onions and sweetcorn, and was reminded of his poor email etiquette. He finally let slip that it will cost £22 per night with EHU, and to pay him whenever.
We took a pre-bedtime beach walk, and saw this
Apparently this kind of warm sunny weather with clear skies is unusual, so we lapped up every minute. Until the midges came out when the wind dropped and the al fresco dram watching the sun set had to be moved indoors.
Midge report: backpacking neighbours sat at their picnic tables wearing head nets and drinking wine, but having been at sea and in sunny breeze all day, no repellent was applied for the 4 of us, still no bites to speak of. Addendum: as of Tuesday in the pm Madame reports a handful of bites around the ankle area.
1. Bridges to nowhere amongst great scenery.
2. Front end loading of ferry.
3. 24 hours kindle free for the nippers with no complaint. Good job as there’s no WiFi or mobile signal on the camp either
4. Sheep neighbour with a throaty cough
5. Oyster catcher on the beach
6. Cycling neighbour with woolly hat, 5 days on Barra, says struggled to find accommodation, glad we’ve got bookings in place, drone fanatic, spoiled the peace.
7. Goldilocks and the 3 bears featuring Lyra, Beorn the bear man, Lady Galadriel and Dobby.
8. Washing lines in between the pitches.
9. I can get notifications, but nothing else!
Tuesday’s adventure after a long and drawn out lazy morning (boy last up at 8.55 😲, egg and bacon buttie in the mizzle) was a trip across the causeway to Eriskay.
The esteemed Lonely Planet reports that there’s not much to see there and I concur, except for this
The causeway, fact fiends, was built in 2001, and is splendid. The beach is where Bonnie Prince Charlie made landfall in 1745, and the island is the home of the story behind Whisky Galore, hence the local hostelry being named The Politician, after the boat whose cargo the islanders plundered.
We parked down by the ferry landing where you can apparently get to Barra for about 3 quid and marched down to the beach. H promptly began a collection of razor shells,and got about a dozen before moving on to a hinged clam. Madame made sand shoes, and they both enjoyed the pristine turquoise waters. I dipped me toes in, as you do, but it was so bitingly cold that my feet actually went numb.
The delights of Eriskay therefore exhausted, we thought we’d retrace yesterday’s steps to Dalburgh and Lochboisdale to check out the Go-op and el banco and see if we could get any interweb (not so), spied the Fish and Chip/petrol station for future reference.
In the Go-op we sourced all manner of delights – Monster Munches, Rosé, beer etc and got some crisp Scottish banknotes to vouchsafe to DJ.
By this time the sun was out and the midges were gone, so we returned to camp for libations and homemade meatballs with spag and roast veg.
1. Whalebones by the roadside
2. Sheep on the football pitch
3. Otter/Stegosaurus scenario
4. It's not bin day
5. Gandalf style staff with Seaglass insert
6. Drones on the beach (not a cocktail)
7. Rosé. Vieille Ferme. Nice.
8. A bit too far north to make wine, but KB has a plan, doesn't he always?
9. Dutch or German neighbours. Haven't yet told them de meisjes lezen de krant, so can't be sure.
10. No VW waving.
11. Neighbours opposite airing their Porta Potti.
12. No signal means no beer pics being sent.
Wednesday was South Uist and Benbecula exploration day. It began with quite a stiff breeze, which intensified through the day (and night).
We headed north past the Go-op and the fish and chip/petrol station and kept going. We bypassed the Kildonan Museum, intending to visit on the return leg, and headed up the mainly single track road towards the north of the island, we passed Flora McDonald’s birthplace and the statue of Our Lady of the Isles and stopped for a van picnic lunch just short of Lochdar.
It was just a big square layby by the water, but surprisingly it had internet, the first and best we’d had since leaving home, so had the opportunity to send a few messages and upload some photos.
After a good scran we continued across the causeway to Benbecula.
Having seen little or no signs of life or business, when we spied Puffin Studio crafts we decided to stop and have a peek.
It was a random selection of gifty items, nothing really suitable for children, but Madame chose a necklace and H picked a tin of Unicorn Poo Jellybeans, promptly depleting their supply of holiday spending money.
We drove straight up to the top of the island, didn’t take long, and hooked a left towards the airport, where there were signs of life – more houses than the odd few we’d seen dotted about in the distance, a school, a bakers, an estate agents (grrr!!) and suchlike, and we decided to stop off when we saw a nice beach with room to park ( the only one with more than just a passing place on a single track road)
Lots of treasure hunting was done – crab claws, shells and etc were treasured for minutes at a time before being discarded, and we spent a while monoculising the wildlife, mainly oystercatchers.
It was time to wend our way back, as small people were hungry, and we were due to move on Thursday. It was a bit late to call back at the museum so we left it for a potential visit Thirsday morning.
Tea would have been fish and chips except the Fish & Chip/Petrol station only does food Thursday to Sunday, so we returned for what was an impromptu indoor cooked sausage/potato/veg combination due to the still windy conditions and the need to pack the Cadac away ready for a swift departure.
As it turns out, the departure was much swifter than intended. The wind picked up overnight. The pop top rattled and flapped about, the van swayed in the odd gust and by about 4am the boy was v.upset by it. He had to be brought downstairs to be pacified, where he promptly snuggled up to Dad, leaving Mum wondering where to go, not much more sleep to be had, everyone up before 7, John tent down before it took flight, packed up and on the road just after 9.
Suffice it to say that we were not destined to see the delights of the museum or its cafe, as when we pulled in to the car park (only vehicle insight for miles) it was closed. Possibly permanently, no way of telling.
South Uist was rugged, desolate, beautiful and restful – a great start to #OperationHebrides2020, but something niggled me about it, perhaps it was a bit too desolate.
We moved on, through Benbecula to North Uist and our next stop.