30.03 miles 1000ft
Yet another glorious day! Managed almost 6 hours sleep last night, which is surprising considering it was the lumpiest bed we’ve ever slept in. The owners of the b&b were really nice though and agreed to do breakfast early so we could get off in time to reach the ferry. Porridge (though with salt – ugh) followed by big breakfast which for me included a double yoker from the owners own hens! Chatting to the owners and the other couple who were staying over put us behind slightly but we had a lovely walk, past beautiful beaches, through the interior to cross over to the other side, pausing at Northbay to admire its small lochan and then, because we had a little bit of time, we headed towards the airport beach before going back to the pier to wait for the ferry. The airport beach was every bit as stunning as we remembered, probably even more so. When we eventually boarded the ferry we were almost immediately greeted by the other couple who had been staying at the b&b. They were a very nice couple who obviously love Scotland and they were good to talk to. The only thing was, it meant we didn’t really get to see anything much of the crossing itself. We have vowed to be totally antisocial before we get the ferry crossing over ot Harris so we can take in all the views.
As soon as we disembarked we knew we were in for a sensational walk. The beach next to the pier, where Bonnie Prince Charlie disembarked all those years ago, is one of the most beautiful beaches, white sand, clear blue sea – you could be in the Caribbean – and with the weather as it was even more so. The wind that had been present on Barra was absent on Eriskay and we just strolled along the beach in the warm sunshine marvelling at how clear the sea was and how lucky we were to be here. We continued on past the Eriskay flat we have stayed in on previous occasions and walked on to the beach below it which was just as beautiful as we remembered with a lovely pink hue from all the shells. The Pollachar Inn could be seen across the sea at the end of the headland on South Uist.
We passed the Politician pub, named after SS Politician, a cargo ship, laden with whisky, which ran aground in 1942 just off the coast of Eriskay. The locals, enduring those grim year years of shortages and privations, thought all of their Christmases had come early and went about a lengthy salvage operation. This story led to a book, by Compton MacKenzie, called Whisky Galore, a new film of which has just been released, and made our way towards the causeway. Crossing this took a little longer than we expected and by now it wasn’t just warm, it was hot! A stop off at the Pollachar was a must even though at this point it was now 10 past 2 and we still had about 16 miles to do (or so we thought). The nice lad behind the bar put my phone on charge ( I was a little worried about thebbattery because of all the photos I was taking!) while we sat outside basking in the sunshine and sneaking our dinner. Once again we got chatting to other people and before we knew it we were late setting off again. At this pijnt we were still at the bottim of South Uist and it was now quarter past 3.
We set off following the newly created Hebridean Way, but this proved to be quite circuitous and often ran behind the dunes without any view of the 20 mile or so stretch of beach, South Uist is renowned for. Maybe this is because, of all the beaches in the Hebrides, the beaches of South Uist are the worst. We had thought this from past experience, and today, whenever we did join the beach on this strecth our opinion remained the same. We spent a lovely week in North Uist some years back and the beaches there are tremendous. South Uist can’t hold a candle to them.
After pausing for a break at around half 5 we decided to diverge from the Hebridean Way as our progress was too slow so we made our way to the road, not a problem as roads here are relatively quiet, and at least it meant we could make up some time. We were very aware that we were going to struggle to get to Howmore before dark. The last 10 miles were hard work and the last 3 or 4 especially so. It was certainly a case of ‘digging deep’. We had a beautiful sunset to keep our spirits up but feet were very sore and knees and thighs were aching. We eventually reached Howmore at around 9.40, just as it was getting dark, very tired and weary. Only one other couple were stopping at the hostel so at least we had a room to ourselves which always helps get a better nights sleep. So after a brief chat with the other couple, and two cups of tea, we went to bed, absolutely shattered, but still with a sense of contentment at all that we had seen earlier in the day: the islands at their best!
In honour of Ally McCoist, who’s on a bike ride up through the Hebrides, there’ll be some football-related stuff over the course of the next few sentences; so, cliches at the ready. Today, Brian, was definitely a game of two halves. The first half, up to and including our pint and picnic at The Polochar, was like being a Celtic fan, with one triumphant moment after another. The second half, sorry Ally, was like being a Rangers fan with one’s patience and powers of endurance pushed to their limits. Those last few miles to Howmore dragged on like a football season you wanted to finish weeks ago. With about three miles to go we paused to put on an extra layer or two, as the warmth of the sun had all but disappeared. During this interlude I fished out my Roberts portable radio to tune in to the Real Madrid v Athletico Madrid European Cup semi final, thinking it might take my mind off the old aching back, the tight calf muscles, the throbbing right knee etc. Bad decision. Like Rangers losing a cup semi final to Celtic one weekend, then being trounced 5-1 at home the next, my woes were multiplied by this portable radio experience. Christiano (or CR7 as he likes to call himself) Ronaldo scored a hat trick as Real humiliated their cross-city rivals and if that wasn’t bad enough, Phil Neville was co-commentating: talk about twisting the knife.