Following the gusty night of windiness we were up and out early and tried again to visit the Kildonan Museum, but alas, we were thwarted once more as there were no signs of life.
We retraced our steps of the previous day up through South Uist and Benbecula, taking the road bridge over to North Uist.
It turns out that our campsite of choice, Moorcroft Holidays, was not too far from the bridge, but it was way too early to show up, so we took the coast road, and on seeing a sign for a picnic area, decided to follow it.
What seemed like several miles later, after a couple more signs which appeared each time just as we were beginning to think they were having a laugh, we crossed another causeway, and eventually ended up by a massive beach.
When I checked the Google, we were now on the Isle of Baleshare, so we made the most of it and got out tables and chairs and had a good nosh in the sunshine.
Whilst I made ready the victuals, KB and the kids explored the seashore and found some whopping jellyfish, which we later identified as Lions Mane. The biggest was like a dustbin lid!
A most pleasant few hours, we figured whilst we were out we may as well do the whole coastal circuit, and passed lots of great countryside and farm beasts, we saw Balranald (Friday’s excursion) and the St Kilda viewpoint, another small Go-op, the road to Berneray, Lochmaddy and back again.
There was a definite difference to South Uist, but I can’t really define how it’s different. Its not quite as craggy, but has more big hills, it’s very heathery and has lots of pockets of inland water, but a lot of it looks more managed rather than totally wild. Seemed to have a few more houses dotted about too.
The camp was very neat and tidy, a circular hard standing area, a couple of hobbit homes, a bunkhouse and down by the edge of the estuary, a long hard standing parking bay, on the edge of the estuary, which was our spot.
There were facilities behind the bunkhouse, but we knew that they were out of action due to the Corona situation.
We paid £20 per night including EHU in advance, and enjoyed access to the free WiFi, there were swings and a slide for the young uns and a gate down to the sand for beach exploration, which we did straight away.
No jellyfish this time, but an old washing machine drum and several clam bams as H said, but too sandy to collect.
The view across the bay was huge and you could see across to Benbecula, in fact the planes from the airport passed overhead, which was a novelty. Also when it got dark you could see lights across the bay, which seemed weird.
We got set up, and had to use the chocks for the first time, and having seen the John tent buffeted about in the previous night’s wind we placed it in the shelter of the van, useful when testing the shower, but more of that later. The wind, thankfully was dying down and we had a much quieter night and probably the best night’s sleep of the holiday so far.
We made an interesting discovery, knowing we were staying for 2 nights, normal procedure would be to set up the Cadac and get barbecuing, but the amount of faff required, and knowing that it would have to be packed up again the following day, made us question the wisdom of having brought it.
Cue discussion of cooking requirements when on a road trip. Options were weighed up, including a return to the Cobb, an aerosol powered hot plate, an electric frying pan, an Omnia and various other items.
We surmised the following:
1. Faff factor can’t be ignored. If you’re on the road all day it needs to be a quick and easy solution.
2. Gas consumption is always to be monitored. The Cadac currently uses the same gas supply as the indoor cooker.
3. Weather is always a potential stumbling block. You can’t use a gas or aerosol appliance in a gale, or indoors for that matter.
4. An electric appliance is only useful when you have hook up. We only stay where there’s power now, mind.
5. Size and weight. Travelling light whilst lugging a behemoth of a cooker is ridiculous.
No conclusion was drawn, further research is necessary, but watch this space.
All this took place whilst chicken thigh paella was bubbling away on the indoor cooker. Very tasty.
As seems to be the pattern, the midges descended after tea town, so we adjourned indoors.
Midge report: homemade screen and sliding door curtain holding up pretty well, still favouring smidge as a repellent, still no real bites to speak of.
Friday was the day for discovering some of the sights of North Uist, but first, a road test of the Colapz shower.
Before leaving home we USB charged the pump so we were ready to rock. Just a wee bit of preparation was necessary.
First to empty the John tent of the John, the BBQ and the chairs stored there overnight. Next to warm the water. Kettle 1 boiled and kept warm in a pan, kettle 2 boiled and both added to the collapsible bucket and topped up with cold.
Small table put in the tent for organising the products and keeping the switch out of the wet.
A hair wash and condition was necessary so I was hoping that a bucketful would be enough, having seen that the pump moves 3 litres a minute.
I started with the standard shower head and it was lovely, but I didn’t want to waste the water before I’d got started, so I switched off whilst I lathered and shampooed up. I also switched to the trigger nozzle, figuring it would be easier to control the on and off, but the pump just went mental when I shut off the trigger so I used the switch too.
The water just lasted, making me think I could do with a bigger bucket, and next time just use the normal shower head, but actually, it was really enjoyable. And top marks for the John tent with towel rail just outside the window.
Obviously its not practical to do every day due to the preparation and time required, but on those days where you don’t need to rush it is fantastic.
KB concurs as to the effectiveness, although he went a little too hot on the water, and admits he should have added more cold and had a slightly longer, more tepid experience.
Further testing will take place on Lewis and Harris.
We headed out up the west coast, and stopped off at the Hebridean Smokehouse, which had some very delicious looking produce as well as gifts and toys!!
The children came away with windmills, slime and chattering teeth, and we got North Uist Gin (sample size) and Peat Smoked Scallops to sample later.
Moving on past roadside sheep we, after 2 attempts found the RSPB reserve at Balranald. The visitor centre was closed due to Covid, the signage was teeny, but we followed the nature trail out to the beach, where we went down to the sand instead of pressing on with what looked like a sizeable circuit.
Interesting Beach Finds:
1. Little jumpy shrimpy things
2. Crab parts
3. Otter prints
4. Sheep bones
The walk through the machair was lovely, with so many different types of wild flowers to spot, and once back to the van we decided to try to spot St Kilda, having seen a sign for a viewpoint when we missed the nature reserve the first time.
We drove up the single track road, through several flocks of sheep and saw a little layby with a telescope, but no sign of a parking area. I took a small walk but couldn’t see the end of the road, so we pulled in to the side, had a butchers and decided to stay for lunch.
Mid sandwich, a few cars came down the hill and we found out you could get up to the top where there is a radar station and space to turn round, so we did.
We continued around the coast road and as we were out decided to sneak over to Berneray to check it out as Saturday morning’s ferry would need an early start and no time to explore.
The landscape changed again as we took the turn north towards the causeway, more grassy and undulating and it was longer than expected due to the twisty and turns nature of the road.
We crossed over and really noticed the difference again. Berneray made an impression immediately, probably much more like what we expected to see, little coastline villages with houses much closer together, really pretty and small.
The ferry port was literally at the end of the causeway so shouldn’t present a problem finding it again. There was a shop/bistro, a little pier/harbour, a seal viewing point and a youth hostel on the Eastern side of the island which is what we saw.
We stopped at the seal viewing point and saw a couple bobbing up out of the water, and did some more beach scavenging before turning back. I remained rooted to the bench seat and prayed to Rodney Egglestone to safeguard dental health.
We timed the road back as we thought it had taken ages and despite a detour into Lochmaddy it only took 33 mins back to camp.
Tea was another indoor cook up- rib eye steak and the peat smoked scallops with a cheeky glass of red wine. Delicious. The kids tried the scallops, and both approved.
Here ended the Uists as Saturday morning found us queuing for the Sound of Harris ferry, and the next leg of #OperationHebrides2020