Our first journey out to the Outer Hebrides took us over the Hebridean Sea from the bustling port of Oban over to the fabulous island of Barra. A five hour crossing onboard the CalMac ‘Clansman‘ ferry took us past Mull and through to Castlebay where we took our fully loaded bicycles on to the quiet roads leading up the west coastline as it hugs the windy and wild Atlantic Ocean.
Once we got the campsite at Borve, I set up the tent and we pitched up for the night. After a few little drams of Aberlour 10 year old, we were ready for bed. Little Amélie was already snuggled up inside the tent and away from the elements. A restless night but far from the worst night of camping we’ve had – Amélie slept like she always does, like a log.
Up and out after our morning muffin, we headed further up the west coast to lead us over Northbay and down the east coast, it was a fantastic cycle and the island has so many beautiful beaches and scenic spots, it had me stopping every mile or so to take a photograph or grab a piece of film to document the trip. Some hills had Joni pedalling in her lightest gear for a bit, but there is always a downhill on the other side so its always worth the climb (I tell myself). We stopped to have some coffee and ice cream at the shop near the bottom of the island – where we were warned of the next hill and also informed that we had in fact missed the trip up to the airport landing strip, so it was decided that we would head back the way we came to see the airport and dodge the hill. And, I’m glad we did, Barra Airport has one of the best beaches I have ever seen. Its stunning and lined with seashells, white sand and sits on a frame of turquoise water that is reminiscent of photographs of beaches from South East Asia – its incredible.
After lunch we pedalled back to get to Castlebay, we had fully intended to get over to Vatersay, but in the end we felt we had been on the bikes enough and it was time to get down to have a pint and some dinner. We had a great feed at the Castlebay Hotel overlooking the port, and I bought some beers for taking back to the campsite for Joni and I to have a wee relaxing beer before bed.
I’m glad we decided to leave the car and take the bikes, a few people we have met on the trip and a few folks since we came back have said they thought we were nuts (especially with little Amélie on the back of Joni’s bike), but to be honest I always feel its the best way to see a place like the islands around Scotland – there is something about feeling the pace, the climbing, the downhill sections, the sounds, the wind and the smells that you simply don’t get inside a car. This was made clear to me on the ferry over where I heard a fellow passenger tell his three children “Don’t worry about the ipads kids, I’ve got a super charger in the car, its even got mains power”, this was enough for me to realise that it was not the trip I wanted and it is not the way I want my daughter to experience an island such as Barra. Surely the scenery in such a place is enough for you to forget about a gadget for a few days?
All in all, Barra is a beautifully silent, rugged, peaceful, unspoiled, lush, rich and otherworldly place.