Over the sea to the outer Hebrides

Over the sea to the Outer Hebrides
Stornoway, United Kingdom

Stornoway, United Kingdom

I’ve started writing today’s notes in the middle of the Minch whilst our boat, the MV Isle of Lewis bounces and crashes through a rough and broken sea. We’re actually taking it ‘green over the bow’ once in a while and it feels like a proper ship on a proper sea. The purser has told me that yesterday the sea was flat calm, but of course he takes the gloss off my wonder by adding that it can get heck of a lot rougher than this.

It’s been a fairly laid back day really. The hotel didn’t start serving breakfast until 8am, and there was a coach party stood waiting, ready like a pack of greyhounds in their traps, to be allowed into the dining room, grab their scoff in their allocated 30 minutes and be on their coach to heaven knows where. We were allowed a more leisurely dining experience and set off after 9am heading for Ullapool by way of Inverness.

The first stop was a wee little town call Carr Bridge, just because we liked the look of the bridge from the car and stopped to see it closer. It turns out to be an old packhorse bridge, built across the river Dulnain in 1717. It was damaged in floods over a 100 years later and has looked like in the photo ever since. Very picturesque and judging by the solitary beer can in the middle, something of a dare for the local youth.

From there is was a fast run along the A9 to Inverness, where we stopped for a drink and a poke round. A nice little town, but seemingly full of people pulling little suitcases on wheels. It”s a main railway terminus and folks seemed to be busy shuttling between the railway and the bus station. There were a few shops to wander round and a Victorian Market to explore (plus drink latte in). All very pleasant. It had gone all grey and cloudy and chilly by this time, so we pressed on a little and soon the nice weather came back to us.

From Inverness the road because a proper windy A-road of the type I was much more expecting to see in Scotland. Still 60mph fast for the most part, but less like a motorway. The scenery was spectacular – much more so than our run through Aviemore and Cairngorm yesterday in my opinion. At one point we came upon the unexpected sight of the massive Glascarnoch hydro-electric dam straddling the valley. Stopped for a look and to take a snap and could hear the echoed thunder of military aircraft somewhere in the glens.

All too soon Ullapool appeared; a seaside town of white-painted cottages basking in the sunshine. We were in time for a late lunch, but really a bit too early for the ferry, which doesn’t sail until 5:30pm. I should have let Wendy look around that heather nursery back near Nethy Bridge this morning!

Still there are less pleasant places to spend a couple of hours than looking out to sea on a sunny Monday afternoon. Eventually the ferry did turn up, and after a very complicated loading plan to get all the vehicles on board, we set off. It was only when we cleared the last headland that the bouncing started. By the time we reached the shelter afforded by the bulk of the island of Lewis, I think most of us were grateful that the seas were calm again. A long wait on the car deck and suddenly we were sprung free on to the streets of Stornoway and looking for the Royal Hotel. It turned out to be pretty easy to find – follow the road from the harbour and there it is. Finally we’re at an actual destination instead of travelling to get there. Tomorrow we get a chance to explore Lewis, the reason we’ve come so far.

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