I read in the travel guide of Scotland: “The Western Isles [Outer Hebrides] are separated from the mainland of Scotland by the Minch, a wide and often stormy strait”. Exciting, I thought.
The ferry from Oban to Barra, the southern most island of the Outer Hebrides, takes five hours and goes only once per day, at half past one in the afternoon.
As we’re buying our tickets for the next day, we’re told that the ferry will leave three hours early because of the upcoming weather. Rain and storm.
Whoops, that might be a bit more than we bargained for!
Just before we came into Oban, we already had been cycling in the rain the last couple of hours. If we had gone straight to Oban, we could have kept it dry, but because we had some spare time and Oban was the final destination for that day, we decided to take a 30 kilometer detour to see Kilchrun Castle, which is the most photographed castle of Scotland. I thought the evening before about all the pictures I saw of the castle (some maybe photoshopped) with dark threatening clouds in the background. I wondered how it would look like with the sun shining. Well, we didn’t get to see that. The closer we got, the more threatening the clouds got. As we got there, it was raining. Not hard, but bad enough to put on our rain clothes. So, no pictures with Kilchrun Castle in the sun.
Once in Oban the sun broke through and we just heard that there was more stormy weather expected on stormy Minch...
And what a storm! Once on open sea the high waves started hitting the bough of the ship and it went up and down and sideways as well. We weren’t afraid that we would sink. No, we had something else on our minds. We’re both sensitive to motion sickness and by the time Remy announced that he was lying down at the rear end of the ship, it was too late for me. I felt that I couldn’t stand up any more.
I’ll spare you the details, but after our arrival we had to collect new plastic bags...
The moment we set foot on Barra, the sun broke through. And once with our two wheels on the motionless asphalt, we soon forgot about the last couple of hours. With a powerful wind in our backs we cycled from one side to the other side of the island. If it was up to Remy, we took the first available ferry to Eriskay, the next island. But luckily it wasn’t up to Remy. The last ferry of the day had just left.
The next day it was beautiful weather. A strong southern wind was blowing and we almost flew over Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray. All connected through dam-roads. A couple of times people called out ‘you’re very lucky with the weather today!’ and ‘Welcome to paradise!’
And yes, this is indeed cycling in paradise!
The road is winding end sloping, but often flat. We cycled past beautiful bays and sandy beaches and through small villages. We see a rough landscape with rocks and cliffs, mountains, small lakes, islands, swampy heaths and every now and then we need to go around lambs and sheep. After more than 100 kilometers we arrived in Berneray.
We couldn’t find a suitable place to camp in the wild and end up in a small youth hostel. That night it started to storm again. Bad weather was expected the next day. And that day we want to go to Harris with the ferry...
Harris is even rougher, bays and beaches are more beautiful, the mountains, rocks and cliffs are higher.
The ferry that brought us to Harris, would be the last one because the wind was too hard.
And in that stormy wind we cycled over this beautiful island. Every now and then it was hard to stay on the bicycle. In Tarbert it started to rain, but we managed to get there on time for the ferry to Skye. That ferry did sail despite the storm. A storm that once more blows over the stormy strait called Minch.
Yesterday evening we arrived safely on Skye. The one and a half hour trip was not so bad and after arrival the wind dropped and the sun broke through.
And so an end came to some very stormy days.