14.2 miles 269ft
Found it difficult to get to sleep last night because my feet were throbbing so much, but this morning, amazingly, they felt fine. Howmore hostel is just fab. Loved it. An old croft house; it’s in a super setting. After breakfast we sat outside with a cup of coffee taking in the views and soaking up the now taken for granted sunshine. We had a litle wander and then set off for Benbecula at around half 10. This top end of South Uist had a lot more to recommend it and we enjoyed our stroll along, passing small lochs, crossing causeways, looking back at Ben More and its satellite hils and looking ahead to Eaval, North Uist’s highest hill, which had now come into view to accompany us. As we crossed the causeway that took us into Benbecula the tide was on the ebb and the shades of blue and jade in the water were just beautiful, with patches of white sand adding to the scene as the sea drew back, a little like Luskentyre.
We stopped to get food for tea and after this I think our heavier bags and tired limbs from yesterday meant that the last 4 or 5 miles to the hostel felt longer than they actually were. We weren’t sure what to expect from this hostel, with it being independently run and its website making it sound rather grand. It actually is rather grand as hostels go and it has the most amazing inglenook fireplace. The owner, Donald, is a very cheery chap, and he told us that since they weren’t fully occupied we could have a room to ourselves, with our own ensuite facilities no less. We chatted to another couple, John and Helen, who come from Kent. They are cycling around the islands on a tandem. We retired to our room but we’d only been in it 5 minutes when Donald came knocking to see if we wanted to go with him to feed his lambs. We readily agreed. Donald said he would drive us to where the lambs were, which it turned out was out of the hostel drive, 50 metres up the road, and into the next drive. We could probably have walked it quicker (although maybe he’d seen us arrive and decided he couldn’t ask us to walk any further, even such a short distance). We were then introduced to Chops and Struan and given a bottle from which to feed them. Eager little feeders they were too. Donald took a couple of photos for us but said he should really have taken some video instead because of how much I was laughing!
After tea we were treated to a lovely sunset down on the beach which is just in front of the hostel. Yet another glorious day!
The name of our pub quiz team is Ever the Optimists. Towards the back end of the 1990s we could be found in The Dolphin on Sunday evenings pitting our wits against such rivals as Blessed are the Cheesemakers and, occasionally, scooping the big prize: a gallon of Bass. Then the landlord/ quizmaster retired, the tables became stickier and the provenance of the half time chile con carne more and more dubious, so we knocked it on the head. Intermittently, say on holiday in the Lake District, the Optimists might make a one-off reappearance before slinking back into quiz hibernation. In recent months, though, Ever the Optimists has had a bit of a renaissance at The Cross Keys Tuesday night brain teaser. Indeed, on the first Tuesday of March, when the planets of quiz fortune were in perfect alignment (ie we’d assembled a team of eleven, while the two other teams competing that night totalled eight and a couple of faithful hounds), we won and found that a whole £10 had been deducted from our bar bill. So, sometimes, we justify our “glass (of Pedi) is half full” choice of name.
It was in the spirit of our cheerful and never say die pub quiz team that I packed my rucksack, a couple of weeks after our stunning victory at the Keys. One of the first items to make the touring party was my pair of blue shorts, that can also double as swimming trunks. Upon seeing this essentially optimistic garment on my pile of rucksack clobber, Sharon tutted, Ooh, you’re taking shorts, are you?”, in the same tone of voice that her son used when carrying out his caddying duties at Auld Achy. Today they were summoned up from the bottom of my rucksack, where, for several weeks, they had lain unused, beneath my sleeping bag and the emergency packet of ALDI porridge. So, this morning I emerged from the Howmore hostel, legs as pale as porridge yet savouring that wonderful feeling of sunshine and warmth on the old pins. Sharon, by the way, who hadn’t packed her shorts before we set off from home, bought a new pair in Oban. They’re black and now she’s worn them she’s worried that they look like football shorts, which isn’t like Sharon at all. Ah, yes: walking in shorts – even better than unzipping the vents on your walking trousers! After a couple of miles Sharon had yet to clock my, er, legs (sad face), so I said, “Have you noticed? I’m wearing my shorts.” She guffawed and said “No”, before moving through the next stages of her maniacal laughter. What chance have I, when we’re in the midst of the sunny Hebrides with its sparkling seas and soaring mountains, of catching her eye?