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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Outer Hebrides - 6/7/2006-9/7/2006

For the second weekend that Jody and Jacob visited, we ventured across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides, so far the farthest point north that we have been in Scotland. We booked one of the Caledonian MacBrayne Hopscotch tours that brought us from Skye to Harris and North Uist before returning to Skye. It was well too much. The drive to Skye is breathtaking. The Outer Hebrides themselves are amazing. Stark, desolate. June could pass for winter by appearances. No trees. Just green-ish brown rocky hills and sheep. Lots of sheep. We could have spent a week or more doing our tour, instead of just three days.

Our first day, we blazed north to catch the ferry from Uig. We arrived in Harris and stayed just south of Tarbert in the village of Drinisiadar. Instructions in the bunkhouse had us staying in the "main" house and paying for our night at the "Post Office". At first, the main house felt like someone's actual house, until we looked around a bit and found no food in the cupboards or clothes in the closets. Eerie. I kept thinking of Insomnia, that movie from a few years ago where Robin Williams tried to kill people. The Post Office was basically some lady's house with a mailbox out front. We cooked, walked, communed with sheep and called it a night.

On Day 2, we climbed An Cliseam (The Clisham), the tallest hill on the Outer Hebrides) and were treated to great views north to Lewis, west to the Atlantic, east toward Skye and South to more hills. A storm brewed as we summitted. On a clear day, we could have seen Skye and possibly St Kilda in the Atlantic. Not this time. Wind brought rain which brought sleet. Being pelted with sleet in high winds felt a bit like we were being shot by BBs. It hurt! At one point, I swore I saw snow flurries. In July! Retreat was welcome. Squishing through muck, trying not to step in too deep of mucky puddles while being pelted with cold sleet was challenging, but we made it back to the car safely where Jacob waited post-nap. We drove a bit more, wandered out to a beach (the storm had cleared relatively quickly) and then headed south for the ferry to North Uist. So much more to see in Harris (and Lewis), but that will have to wait until next time.

On North Uist, we stayed at a place called Taigh Mo Sheanair, which means My Grandfather's House in Gaelic. It was nestled on a little bay about 20 miles from the ferry. The view across the bay was spectacular, especially at sunset. The wind reminded us of where we were. I slept well that night.

The next morning, after breakfast, we set out to the bird sanctuary for a long walk along the beaches, stopping first for smoked salmon. The sun spent some quality time with us, making it feel a bit more like early spring than the bleak winter on Harris. We enjoyed a co-op picnic and then caught the ferry back to Skye. Again so much more to see in North Uist.

In Skye, we stayed in the Portree Independent Hostel, a proper hostel in a proper town. Yes, Portree actually qualified as a town. The people outnumbered the sheep. :) In the morning, we did not spend as much time wandering around Skye as we had the Outer Hebrides. Instead, we began our journey southeast, enjoying the drive past Loch Ness and through the Cairngorms.

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