Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Lewis and Harris - via Glenfinnan and Skye

Seeing as we're living in Scotland, we're determined to make the most of our time here and to see as much of this beautiful country as possible.

The first of our proper explores then was planned for late May and we decided upon a visit to the Outer Hebrides, specifically the Isles of Lewis and Harris.   Now we could fly but suspect it would be a small aircraft and we're still not recovered from our experience in Tanzania from last year, then there's the ferry.  Two ferries in fact, one from Ullapool and, more accessible for us, one from Uig on the Isle of Skye.  We decided upon the latter and duly booked the ferry.

Next-up we looked into accommodation.   Here we'd left it a bit late, we were able to sort out something at the start of our Island stay in Stornoway, capital town of Lewis, then we got a night in a recommended hotel in Tarbert, Harris, instead of the two we'd wanted, and then it was a bit all over the place, and Skye was fully booked too.  So some creative thinking from Helen and we had a room booked in Glenfinnan for the first night of the trip, giving us enough time to make it across Skye to Uig the following day.   We also decided on a house rental instead of a static caravan for the last part of our stay.

Off we set then during an unusually warm spell of weather, it was already over 20c when we left Falkirk, rising to 26c during the day as we travelled North.

We stopped at various points on the way, mostly to take in the landscape and scenery.   This is a snap taken at one such stop alongside on of many beautiful Lochs we passed:


We've a number of targets to achieve while we're living here and this we the day we completed the first one, seeing the Chequered Skipper:


We did this by driving a long narrow road alongside first Loch Lochy and then Loch Arkaig reaching a National Nature Reserve called Allt Mhuic, which is spectacularly located:


We saw a handful of this species of butterfly, now only viewable in Scotland, the UK population having gone extinct in 1970s apparently.

From the NNR, having walked up and down a little we headed into Fort William for lunch and then to Glenfinnan and the monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie overlooking Loch Shiel:


There were unusually large numbers of people at this site we thought,  The shop is also stocked with Harry Potter stuff.  We asked and it turns out the viaduct above the valley is the one used in Harry Potter for the Hogwarts train, hence the crowds.

We did indeed see the train as it climbed, good timing on our part.   We decided to head on and follow the coast road towards Mallaig and unexpectedly we seemed to be keeping pace with the train.   This is a picture of it as it had just passed on a bridge i had hastily parked alongside:


This is a view from the coast towards Mallaig and another viaduct over which we saw the train pass:




The coast, Lochs and scenery of our first day were proving as good as we'd hoped:


After a pricey night near Glenfinnan we drove on to Skye, stopping briefly on the road to photograph Eilean Donan Castle on another beautiful day:


We crossed on to Skye:


With the temperatures still climbing (it hit 26c on Skye and 25.5c on the Isle of Lewis), we drove on up to Uig for lunch before the ferry crossing.  


We parked the car for a mooch and saw a sign to Ella's cafe which we checked out and surprise it's a vegetarian and vegan cafe that offers a single meat dish (quite the opposite of normal!), so a sumptuous lunch was enjoyed before we joined the ferry for the very calm crossing.  Finally the Isle of Harris was close enough to see clearly:


On arrival in Tarbert we headed straight for Stornoway, a one-hour drive to locate our B&B,  The landscape is quite eerie when you see it for the first time, all barren hills and rocks, lots of evidence of current and historical peat cutting, small isolated houses and the odd town, and no trees.

There's some spectacular sections of road in terms of landscape and views and some planted trees which come as a surprise when you do eventually enter a sheltered area where they can flourish.

Stornoway looks more like a typical Scottish port town though quite small.   We settled into our spacious B&B, grabbed a takeaway pizza and relaxed.

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