Scottish Island Hopping

Scotland has 790 magical Islands off it’s mainland. It is well worth choosing a few to explore. The bigger islands are accessible by ferry or airplane. Depending on how long you have, there are different options and routes you can take. Over three days we did the following:

Day one:

We set off bright and early from Poolewe through the dramatic mountains to Ullapool. The drive took around an hour and 15 minutes. Ullapool is a cute village on the harbor. It is worth getting there before your ferry to have a mooch around (you need to be there at least an hour before departure if driving).

Check out The Candle Shop in Ullapool. It smells delightful. The shop is a social enterprise project supporting vulnerable people in the local village. I met the young girl with learning difficulties who made the candle I bought. She was ever so lovely. And her candles unique and skillfully hand crafted.

From Ullapool we took the ferry to Stornoway Lewis. The two and a half hour ferry trip was stunning. As we left the port I stood on the deck watching the mountain’s outline fade into the backdrop. The blue sea remained calm as the boat cut through the waters.

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On arriving at Lewis we drove to the Butt of Lewis. This point is the furthest north you can go in the western isles. As I munched on my pack lunch I looked across the ocean. I was sat on a steep cliff edge which jutted out into the sea. The rock had been weathered leaving it jagged at the top.

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This Island is split into two parts the North named Lewis and the South named Harris. We played a game in the car called creepy Lewis pointing out odd spooky, man-made features. For example, there were old telephone boxes which hadn’t been used in decades, bus stops that had seen better days and creepy garden ornaments staring at us. The houses in Lewis were all rather grey, plain and looked somewhat depressing. The landscape was vast, barren and undulating. I wondered what the residents spent their time doing. Apparently, praying is a big pass time.

Next on the road trip agenda was visiting the standing stones. These were named Callanish.

‘Come on,’ I sung dancing around the mysterious man-made circular formation of stones. After reading the novel Outlander where a young millennial woman runs around Scottish prehistoric stones and is transported back in time; I was keen to have a similar experience.

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However, my friends didn’t need to call a search party as I remained in the present day. Instead, we looked at the stones and began to see facial features on them.

Legend has it that witches used to congregate around the stones. Other stories say that during a  famine a mythical cow emerged from the sea and waited by the stones providing milk for many.

Alternately, the stones may have been used to tell the time, read the stars or study lunar activity.

We hopped back in the car and continued our scenic ride south towards Harris. Our next sight-seeing stop was Carloway Brook. An Irone Age structure over 2000 years old. It was an impressive defense building home to tribal leaders. It was in well- kept condition.

As the day came closer to its end we went on a quest to find somewhere to pitch our tents. We found an amazing campsite on the beach named Hogabost.

We put up our tents overlooking the crystal clear sea and walked onto the beach. I had a sudden urge to run into the sea. So I quickly chucked on my costume and ran in. The freezing cold water caused me to gasp. My whole body felt refreshed. I ran along the soft white sand in order to warm up before layering up and crawling into my sleeping bag.

Day 2:

As the sun seeped into my tent I stretched my arms out and took a deep breath. It wasn’t too cold. I unzipped my front door to be greeted with the calm sea and sandy beach. Laying my head on my arms I gazed across the ocean. I could stay there for ever I thought.

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Just as I was admiring the view rain began to pour down. It was Scotland after-all. Before long it passed and a rainbow fell over the adjacent tent.

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I decided I wanted to go on a long hike after all the time we spent in the car. The others spent the day fishing for crabs while I set off for a 14 mile hike.

The walk began in Tarbet which was the village 12 miles away from the camp site. I got a lift there and following a map and Tourist information instructions I began my walk.

Walking along a winding country road I began to search for the wilderness. Before long I made it to Lochanan Lascadail and veered off the road and walked up through the mountains. I followed a roughly marked path. There was not another human or car in sight. It was just me and the mountains. I smiled at the thought of being totally alone. I climbed for quiet some time breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. This way I got into a meditative pattern. My mind was beginning to clear and the scenery around me took over my thoughts.

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As I crested a hill I was greeted with the best view I had seen thus far. The ocean stretched out in front of me with the land jutting out smoothly into the blue sea.

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It was time for a homemade brownie. I let the chocolate melt in my mouth as my eyes were transfixed on the nature all around me. A fluffy caterpillar shuffled next to my feet.

I slowly walked down the hill being greeted with further more spectacular views.

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The next section of the walk was along a road which I shared with sheep. It took me along a couple of lochs and rivers.

I then joined back onto the wilderness path and walked beside a huge loch. The morning had been pretty sunny but just as I reached the lake a grey mist drew in. It looked somewhat romantic and daunting at the same time. I picked up my pace. I didn’t want to get stranded in the cold.

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Just as I got to where I had started the walk the rain chucked it down. I threw my waterproofs on and found the road leading to the village Tarbet.

Practically as soon as I set foot on the tarmac a car passed me and I stuck out my thumb. The car stopped and let me in. The young man in the car was an engineer. Interestingly in the highlands electo-fishing is how fish are commercially caught. It was this man’s job to fix any electrical fishing equipment that may be broken.

He kindly dropped me off in Tarbet where I took a public bus back to the camp site.

For dinner we had tasty left over Chaunterelle and tomato pasta with a crab that my friends caught that day. It was a good end to a fabulous day.

Day 3:

We woke up at the crack of dawn, dismantled our tents while half asleep and headed over to the ferry port at Tabert. From there we journeyed for a couple of hours to Uig (the well known Ise of Skye).

Our first stop on the island was where dinosaur footprints were discovered. The view point named Kilt not only taught us about dinosaurs but also provided a magnificent view of a  waterfall.

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Also on the Ilse of sky is The Old Man Storr, these are natural features formed on the top of a mountain. It is where the weather has left rod-like stones protruding out of the cliff top.

Our final stop on our road-tripping adventure was the Donan Castle  built in the 13th Century.

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We then returned to Poolewe for a hot bath, many cups of tea and a pub dinner. It was a fantastic road-trip where we saw gorgeous nature, interesting history and had a good laugh.

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