I’ve been struggling to find the time to write this up. Since changing job, my evenings are less about sitting on the sofa and more about trying to ensure I get enough exercise, as I no longer have access to a gym at work. Having said that, this week has been a bit of a write-off due to some unforeseen hydraulic brake issues. Still, I’ll not bore you with the minutiae of this trip, but wanted to share some photos of Harris and Lewis. We drove up to Mallaig and took the ferry over to Skye for a change. We’d been hoping for some fabulous scenery [we’d been this route before], but the rain was torrential – proper, wiper testing stuff, so we didn’t see much of it. On Skye we’d phoned ahead to arrange a pitch with Croft Organics in Tote, after a grim camping/dining experience in Uig last year. Facilities are basic, but you’ll get a warm welcome, a cracking view over Loch Snizort and the Cuillin and fantastic Organic Gooseberry Jam! Within minutes of parking the car, we’d been eyed up by a buzzard, low overhead.

The following morning we were up sharp and off to the ferry terminal in Uig for the crossing to Tarbert. It was breezy, but clear and made for an enjoyable crossing, out on deck. I presented Margaret with an early birthday present, some Hawke Optics Binoculars which I’d picked up heavily discounted from Sherwoods, in hope we’d see some sea-life on the crossing.

From Tarbert, we made the short trip down to Lickisto, where we had booked a pitch at the Blackhouse campsite. The site is quite unusual, certainly one of the more unique campsites we’ve visited over the years. The pitches are small, damp and uneven, but this is more than made up for by the converted blackhouse which serves as the hub for campers. With underfloor heating and a wood burning stove, it’s a welcome retreat from the midges, which were horrendous. Home baked bread is delivered to the blackhouse every evening, one of the many thoughtful touches which make for a memorable and enjoyable stay. The site is partially wild, so there are [nice] insects buzzing around the undergrowth, ducks and hens roaming around underfoot. And on both nights of our stay, we had fantastic views of the Milky Way overhead. Highly recommended, despite it’s shortcomings!

A front approaching. Typical Scotland.

We travelled out west to Hushinis, with a view to making the walk round to the secluded beach, the terrain was steeper than I’d expected and sure enough, just as the distant beach came into view, a weather front came rolling in off the Atlantic. From baking sunshine to wind and rain in an instant. We turned back, our hopes of lying in the sun dashed. Back on the east of Harris at the campsite, the sun was still out.

Eastern Harris is dotted with these little lochans, covered in lilies. Yet to bloom.

Scalpay lighthouse

We took a drive out to Scalpay the following day for a low level coastal walk, out to the semi-derelict Stevenson-built Eilean Glas lighthouse. The walk was rough and boggy, particularly on the way back, but the sun overhead and cooling breeze made for a most enjoyable day. Cracking views were to be had in all directions.

The following morning, we left Harris behind to drive up to Uig sands on Lewis, we’d been up this way the previous year to Cnip and we eager to return. I was hoping to do some walking in the hills south of Timsgearridh. We wild camped [um, right next to the car, and everyone else with the same idea] above the beach. The beach is massive, and the is a long, shallow section, where kite-surfer’s play when the tide is in, switching to kite buggies when the tide goes out. Kite buggies look like they’d be fun for a while, but I can imagine it becoming it bit boring after the initial novelty wears off. At any rate, they had perfect conditions. The weather turned stormy and for two nights our tent was battered, but unbowed by the storm raging outside. Lesser tents nearby were flattened. Our tunnel tent coped well, due to it’s low profile, but made for rather cramped respite in the evenings. I eyed the Bell tent next door with envy.

Sunday was a write-off, the stormy condition had put paid to my high altitude plans, and the local amenities, dropped from few, to none. Books were read. Strolls were taken. Food was eaten. I was glad of my earplugs come bedtime. Still, at least the midge problem was resolved. We drove out to Great Bernera to see the Iron Age House and wandered around on the beach. Baffled by what turned out to be Tide Bell. The following day, we woke to an overcast sky and blustery, but considerably calmer conditions. We managed to wrangle our way onto a RIB trip with Seatrek. Conditions were too rough to head out beyond Gallan Head, so we stayed in and around the islands of Loch Róg. Our RIB was skippered by Murray, who clearly know how to manoeuvre a RIB with great skill, despite the very rough conditions. I’d hoped to see dolphins and basking sharks, no such luck this time, but was delighted to see three sea eagles around the Loch and a few seals too. Margaret’s new binos were stunning, to the point that Murray was eyeing them up. Unfortunately, even a 200mm lens was too short for a decent shot of the eagles, especially from a moving platform. I think wildlife photographers have the hardest job of all, but possibly the most rewarding…

The highlight of my trip, Sea Eagles by Loch Róg.

Sunset over Uig Sands, Lewis

Iron Age house at Bosta

Butt of Lewis lighthouse, like the others round these parts, built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Grandfather, Robert Stevenson.

We headed east, to Stornoway following our RIB trip. Margaret had been suffering with a cold so we booked into a bunkhouse and took a well needed shower. Stornoway isn’t exactly the prettiest of towns, unlike, Kirkwall for example. But we he had a pleasant couple of days in and around the area. We celebrated Margaret’s birthday with a Buffalo steak at the Caledonian Steakhouse [Margaret went for a veggie option], the portions were HUGE, especially as they accidentally cooked me two steaks and for some bizarre reason 1 portion garlic bread = 2 plates full! Needless to say, we did not clear our plates. Service was very friendly too!

An epic drive from Stornoway, via ferry, back home and subsequent catching up on chores over the weekend ensured I was knackered by the time I returned to work on Monday. I wasn’t best pleased to discover my laptop and server access had been revoked whilst I’d been away. So much for easing back into it. It’s pretty much been downhill since then. Roll on Holiday 2012. :/