.............not all those that wander are lost..............

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Just visiting.............

For a long time I've harboured a desire to visit the Islands off the west coast of Scotland so when I saw an advert for the Harris Mountain Festival I made a decision to go along. There was no charge for the walks offered and there was a good deal on accommodation at the Scaladale Centre. Travel wouldn't be a problem - I could use my bus pass to get to Ullapool then use the ferry as a foot passenger to Stornoway.

I dreamed of blue sky, golden beaches and wild mountain places. Mmmm!

The travelling was a doddle although the grave warnings of gale force winds sent me running to Boots to buy some anti-travel sickness pills for the ferry - boats not being my favourite way to go - especially those that go up and down and round.......

While waiting for the delayed ferry in Ullapool I took one of the pills and then watched a couple of harbour seals popping their heads up in the bay - obviously also waiting for the ferry to arrive.

There was a good deal of up and down and round but I kind of dozed my way through it all. I was briefly fascinated by my co-travellers. Two ladies knitting, a group playing cards and others laying flat out on the seats covered by coats, sleeping. I suspected they may have been the frequent travellers.

{Finally arriving in Stornoway - the bus station}

{Heb Hostel, Stornoway}

Stornoway was wild, wet and windy but I found a warm welcome at the Heb Hostel. The next bus towards Tarbert wasn't till the next day - giving me time in the morning to take a different bus to the standing stones at Callanish. It was an awe-inspiring place so I spent quite a long time wandering around the stones, although by the time I came to take a couple of pictures there were quite a few people doing the same thing making it difficult to get just the stones in the frame.  Eventually I hid from the wind in the cafe hugging a cappuccino until my bus back to Stornoway was due.

{Main circle of stones at Callanish}

{More standing stones at Callanish}

When I finally arrived at Scaladale there were two other walkers already staying for the Festival. A stroke of luck for me as I discovered that moving around on the island without a car was going to be really difficult. Both of the ladies came from Yorkshire and I thoroughly enjoyed their company during the few days we shared. One of them was interested in the TGO Challenge and has since emailed me to say she's ready to send off her application for 2014! I feel like a missionary.....

I had a short walk up behind the Centre, with great views between the showers over Loch Seaforth. The sudden squalls were accompanied by strong, cold gusts of wind.

{The Scaladale Centre}

{Information board behind the Centre}

{The view from the top}

The walk the next morning was advertised as an 'Eagle Walk'. The assembly point was the car park at Bhiogadail, not far from the Centre, and I had been prepared to walk back along the road to it but gratefully accepted a lift from my two new friends. Quite a big group set off and we scanned the sky for Golden Eagles. The ranger led us to the bealach and then up hill to a small top over looking Loch Langabhat. The storm was still lingering and despite the wind we did get a couple of good sightings of large birds of prey.

{Bird watching....}

{View of Loch Langabhat}

The evening was spent in Tarbert listening to the first time Chris Townsend had delivered his Scottish Watershed Walk talk. Brilliant photos, but the route itself looked very hard.

Until I met the ladies with their car I had been going to miss the thursday walk as there was no way to get there on a bus. Fortunately I was delivered to the start point which was beside the beach at Scarasta. Without a path and sploshing through some very wet pools, the group climbed to the top of Meabhal. There were great views from the top and a trig point for the young ones to play on!

{Trig point on Meabhal}

By the time we had had lunch and descended back to the beach car park the sun was out. At last the blue sky and the golden beaches!

{The beach at Scarasta}

On the way back to the Centre we took a detour to the beach at Losgaintir, wandering through the dunes, looking across the sound to Taransay.

{View from Losgaintir beach}

The beautiful weather didn't last long and by the next morning the heavy mist, wind and rain were back. I ditched plans for the hill above Tarbert and took the bus all the way to Leverburgh. I had planned to walk along to the old Chapel and get the later bus back. Getting off the bus was difficult, the wind was so strong it nearly took my legs from under me. I wandered about for about 8 minutes, then, as the original bus was still there, I hopped back on, to the amusement of the driver and went back to the Centre!

{Windswept Leverburgh}

Next morning I made my way back, eventually, to Aberdeenshire - where it appeared to have been a lovely sunny and warm week. My island adventure was done.

Till the next time.................................


John J said...

What a wonderful trip, I'm quite envious.

I'm planning to take in some of the Isles immediately prior to doing TGOC2014 - a sort of Challenge warm-up. It's a walk I'm really looking forward to. Your report has whetted my appetite all the more!


PS: Is 'whetted' a real word?

Laura said...

Perhaps 'wetted' would have been appropriate too!

Louise said...

The wild wild west. Looks amazing!

Oss said...

'Whetted' is definitely a real word.

So is 'envious'. A few days on those islands is the kind of tonic we all need; then a few more, and another few...