8.69 miles 542ft
Well, what a finish! Andrew, the owner of our b&b last night, and the two other guests he had staying, Lorine and Trisha, each contributed £10 to the fund and sent us on our way in a suitably celebratory style. We had a definite spring in our step as we knew we were almost there, the weather was glorious yet again if a tad windy, and the views out to sea which accompanied us all the way to the ferry port seemed to be joining in with that feeling of, ‘Wow, we’ve just about done this!’
No sooner had we set foot on the ferry Andy and his wife Muriel, who we had met on Barra, came up to us, ‘Hello there, fancy seeing you again.’ Any previous idea of being anti-social was immediately dispelled. They are such a lovely couple and it was fitting that we should be chatting to such wonderful peolle when that is what has made this trip. This time we all sat outside taking in the views and comparing notes about people we’d met and places we’d been. Muriel told me about the woman who owned the place where they stayed last night on South Uist. Apparently she could point to the house where she had been born just across the field from where she was living now, and the place where she was was living now used to be the school she went to and one of the rooms the classroom she used to sit in. How funny. I told Muriel about the couple Donald from Nunton House had told me about. Apparently this couple had come over from Canada to try to trace their family history which they knew went back to Benbecula. It seems that they had booked into a nearby hotel but upon arrival were disappointed to find the staff rather rude and resolved to find somewhere else to stay. They found themselves at Nunton House and after talking to Donald, that font of local hiatory they found that not only had their ancestors come from the area nearby, but that they had actually owned Nunton House, and so because of shortcomings at the Benbecula hotel they found themselves actually staying in their ancestors home and walking through the rooms they would have walked through. Fantastic. We continued chatting throughout the ferry journey, marvelling at our good fortune with the weather. Muriel and Andy were on their way to the Tarbert hotel where they were staying for the next 3 days. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t bump into them again at some point whilst on Harris. As we approached Leverburgh, and even Leverburgh managed to look inviting in the such lovely weather, our excitement rose. Just before we said our goodbyes, Andy took a photo for us, with the hills of Harris behind. As we disembarked, mine and Ians’ grins were as wide as they could be. We were on Harris – yay!
Our first port of call was the post office, where the woman behind the counter was suitably impressed with the idea that we had walked there from home. We then called at the shop, An Clachan, for provisions. One fly in the ointment over the last couple of days, was that we had been unable to process an online shopping order with Tesco from Stornoway, whicb provided us with a bit of a logistical nightmare. Thanks to the help of Ian’s cousin, Adele and her husband Steve, who live in Lewis, and who very kindly picked Joy and Jim up from the airport and took them shopping before putting them on a bus to Harris, we had supplies to last us for a couple of days. We also now did our bit by filling every available space in our rucksacks with extra provisions, including a box of red wine which we managed to cram into Ian’s rucksack! One of life’s necessities…
Despite the additional weight and the long incline out of Leverburgh, we set off for Scarista with ever widening grins (if that was possible). At the top of the incline we found ourselves looking down upon Toe Head, Northton and the dunes of Scarista beach! Oystercatchers flew over our heads as we continued on our way. They had been ever present since we reached the islands and their cries as they have soared and hovered above us have provided a lovely accompaniment. Today it felt as if they were out in force and there to cheer us in to the finish. We paused at the sign which told us we had now entered Scarista for the all important photographic eveidence and continued on towards Scarista House. We noticed that a lot of the houses seemed to have a had a bit of a tarting up, a lick of paint here, a new sign there – was this to do with the opening of the new Hebridean Way, we wondered? Scarista House itself, in contrast, despite its glowing reputation and the fact that it is very expensive to stay or eat there, seemed a little down at heel, and the garden very unkempt.
On to the schoolhouse. Some years back when we were considering the possibility of buying land or a house up in Harris this house came on the market. Very run down, it nevertheless had the potential to make two really fantastic houses, perfectly situated with a path to the beach from the back garden. From the top floor were views over to the Harris hills which would have been lovely to wake up to. We actually went as far as to put a bid in, but someone else bid higher. Whoever bought it hasn’t done much with it and it still looks careworn and unlived in. Such a shame. Not for us though. If we’d been sucessful in our bid we would no doubt have ended up having to spend a lot of money to be able to do what we wanted with it and the logistics of managing a project like that from a distance would have been very difficult. It was a nice dream for a while, but I’m very glad it didn’t come off.
And so instead we cut up the path at the side of the school house and made our way onto the beach. Stepping foot on Scarista beach was always going to be a special moment. We sat amidst the dunes and reflected on what we’d done. Was there ever a time when we thought we wouldn’t actually make it? We both thought back to Colterscleugh when my shin was playing up and we did think that we might have a problem, but thankfully it was fine. It seemed such a long time since we set off from home and it was such a wonderful feeling to realise we’d actually made it all the way here, and here we were now, sat in the sunshine on Scarista beach with the prospect of a weeks holiday to look forward to and a rest for our tired feet. What a lot to reflect upon. We sat for some time. We took a couple of very inadequate selfies (there wasn’t a soul on the huge expanse of sand to witness our achievement, but that was ok with us), before we continued on our way up through the golf course and over to Sandview, our holiday house. Putting our rucksacks down, we made a quick cup of tea and took it outside to sit on the bench in the sheltered corner at the front of the house from where we could just gaze at the magnificent view over the golf course to Scarista beach and beyond to Toe Head. It all seemed rather surreal.
It wasn’t long though before it was time to go and meet Joy and Jim (on their way to join us for the week), off the bus. We walked up towards the golf course again and watched the bus approach from the distance. As it drew nearer, we got more excited and soon it was coming up the hill – and then it carried on past – with us just catching sight of a hand waving as it disappeared round the bend! The bus driver had obviously decided to drop them right outside the house in view of all the shopping they were carrying. This meant we set off back towards the house at a run – we could still run! As we drew near we saw that they were both wearing party hats and holding up signs of congratulations. Cue lots of hugs and laughter. A superb end. We had our own party hats to don and we were given ‘gold medals’ to wear and the very fortuitous passing by of some holiday makers who had just arrived nearby, meant we got a picture of the four of us in full celebratory mode. It wasn’t long before we were all sat together on the front, with a glass of champagne (courtesy of those lovely Halsalls, how kind) drinking to a job well done!
Grand Total – 579.7 miles!