Castlebay, United Kingdom
Thank goodness a lazy day on Barra without the need to be anywhere particularly at any time. A chance to actually bimble round the narrow roads like a tourist instead of blasting round like a local.
After a lazy brek we started out by heading out to the tiny island of Vatersay – our tenth and last island on this trip, so something of a milestone. For the record they were (north to south) Lewis, Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, Barra and now Vatersay. If I had got up early this morning I *could* have taken a boat ride out to the abandoned island of Mingulay, but I think I’ll leave that for another year!
Vatersay is connected by a causeway to Barra, so there’s only the man-made strip of tarmac to negotiate and suddenly the word ‘narrow road’ becomes entirely redefined. Previously I was of the opinion that if they had spent a little more time with the stone grader and a little less time concreting in ‘passing places’ signs, there would have been a lot less need for said signs. Here they seem to have forgotten a deal of the passing places, never mind the signs. But we follow the track for several miles until it peters out in a magnifcent curve of white beach, which seems to be highly popular with the camping and the kayaking crowd. There is also what looks like the world’s smallest post office, being pretty much a garden shed. Closed of course since it’s Sunday.
Retracing our tracks we come across a memorial to a crashed Catalina flying boat from WWII. Not only is there a memorial stone, but a large amount of the aircraft is still scattered across the hillside just above the sea.
Coming back off Vatersay, we again diverted down the airport road, but not stopping this time – the airport was actually closed on Sunday – straight on to the little harbour at Eoligarry. This is almost impossibly pretty, and we spent a while there just taking it in.
Lunch was back at the hotel; it was on our route and we didn’t fancy the Cafe Kismul again and didn’t know where would be open. It turned out there was a nice little cafe in the children’s centre next to the leisure centre, but we didn’t know that then. But after lunch it was on to Castlebay and a date with Donald MacLeod and his boat to Kisimul Castle. I have always fancied a look round there and it was surprisingly bigger than I expected inside. It’s been acquired by Scottish Heritage who are assessing it before deciding how to restore it. Meanwhile there’s a strong smell of tantalised timber as they have been spending a deal of money re-tiling and re-flooring.
A good couple of hours round the castle and Castlebay and we were ready for home the long way round (looping all round the island). In Northbay , over the harbour from the fish processing plant, we came across a community garden centre which was worth looking at. Nothing was bought though! Finally back to the hotel for dinner – we have an early start tomorrow to catch the long-haul ferry back to Oban and the mainland.