24 hours in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland by public transport (Day 17)

Continuing from the previous post, I had planned to set sail for the Outer Hebrides to spend an entire week beach-combing across Harris and the Uists before sailing back to Oban. However, after a few hours, the weather turned to become very wet, windy & miserable. So I had to turn back after a very memorable 24 hours. Here’s my timeline.

You did read it right, I planned to beach-comb for a week in Scotland. Here is my favourite picture taken in the Isle of Harris. I will be returning with Yoda, my beautiful wife, to spend a few days here for a mini-honeymoon of sorts.

Map

map

11:20 AM – Arrive at Tarbert from Uig

Woke up bright & early to pack up my tent and catch the first ferry to the Isle of Harris. There were quite a lot of people on the ferry actually. Turns out, the music festival called HebCelt (Hebridian Celtic Festival) was starting the very next day at Stornoway (headlined by Red Hot Chili Pipers of course). Had a whisky to quell my seasickness on the almost 2 hour ferry. Had a fish & chips lunch at Hotel Hebrides.

For the benefit of our non-Scottish readers, we are sharing a concert clip from Red Hot Chili Pipers, a pipe rock band par excellence that are well known for their bagpipe covers of rock songs.

1:28 PM – Bus to Luskentyre Beach (one of the best in Scotland)

The highlight of the trip was a visit to Luskentyre Beach (pictured at the very top). Due to some confusion (the bus driver was not helpful at all), I got dropped off a 15 minute walk away from the main entrance of Luskentyre beach. 😦 I was also told to be waiting at the exact same spot by 3:10 PM (ie 1 hour & 10 mins).

I knew I had to act fast so I dumped my backpack by the roadside (Scotland is THAT safe), took my camera & laptop & stuck my thumb out for a lift. Thankfully, the very 1st car gave me a ride to the entrance, a very nice family from Glasgow. I was racing against the clock but once I saw the beach, I forgot all my worries. I will let my pictures do the rest of the talking, took many pictures & walked back quickly to make it to my backpack & bus stop by 3:05 PM (even had time to enjoy an Isle of Skye beer on Isle of Harris, Scottish crossover).

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The beautiful sand colour gradient

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Sands lighter than a Golden Retrievers fur!!

3:10 PM – Left stranded & panicking in the middle of nowhere

Here is the not fun bit. Luskentyre is a request bus stop so the bus (W10 run by Hebridian Transport) is not supposed to come there at all unless someone makes a request (which I did). However, even after I reached my stop on time the bus did not show up till 3:40 PM (30 minutes late). Plus, it is so remote, there is actually no cell phone coverage. I began to panic a lot as my last bus connection to make it to my hostel was missed. The hostel was over 10 miles away, there was no way to walk over 4 hours with 12 kg of luggage.

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Stellar buses but poor customer service

In my panic, I called the UK emergency number 999, the only call my phone would make. They quickly pointed out that my situation did not constitute an emergency and correctly so but also told me they’ll get in touch with Hebridian transport to check what happened. Meanwhile, I picked up my luggage and started walking, there wasn’t anything left to do, walk and hope someone would give this brown guy a lift. And within 15 minutes of walking, a very kind former-Glaswegian gave me a lift. He even dropped me off at the hostel even though it was a detour from him. The kindness of the Scottish just cannot be understated!

4:10 PM – Checking in to the best hostel in the world

Because of HebCelt, both Lewis & Harris were super busy and the No. 5 Hostel, also in the middle of nowhere in Drinishader, had just a 1 night availability. As I had read the weather was going to turn, I wanted a roof over my head so I took the booking. Boy am I glad I did, this is the best hostel in Scotland!

The location is so rural & beautiful, the entire village has maybe 10-15 houses tops. It feels like time stands still!! The hostel had a washing machine that I paid £4 to use and then went straight to my 4-bed dorm room. The room had Harris Tweed blankets and comfy beds!!!!! Plus no one else showed up to my room meaning I had a great nights sleep after a harrowing day.

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The view from the front of the hostel, this is a sea-kayaking hotspot

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Traffic jam outside the hostel

4:30 PM – Awakening my inner fashionista at Harris Tweed museum

One of the 10-15 village buildings turned out to be the Harris Tweed museum. Though we both have no fashion sense, I do not even have a fashion inclination. Nevertheless, I had to visit the museum to read the history of this world famous fashion brand. In a day of superlatives, the museum visit was not out of place. Harris Tweed is made out of virgin sheep wool spun & dyed in the Outer Hebrides. They have been traditionally made for centuries for the locals to be protected from the cold and are now a fashion statement.

If you’re visiting the Isle of Harris, please do visit this gem of a museum. The area is beautiful, you can do some sea-kayaking, see this museum & shop some tweed gifts / garments on your visit.

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The most interesting section, with pre woven wool

8:20 AM – Cancel beach-combing & turn tail to reach the mainland

The weather forecasts were spot on, it was wet & windy in the morning and was set to be that way for 4 days. Hence, I decided to go back to the mainland and re-plan my week. I had a 1 hour wait at Tarbert where I visited the Isle of Harris distillery, which is quite new. As their whisky is still maturing, the only thing they sell is gin in a pretty bottle (I bought one for £34). They also had a cafe that looked inviting but I had no time. Reached Stornoway by 11 AM.

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The distillery on a very wet day

11 AM – Get soaked to the bone buying blood sausage

I had an hour before I wanted to enter the ferry terminal to catch my 2 hr 40 min long ferry to Ullapool in the mainland. I had planned on buying two of Stornoway’s food treats, its Black Pudding (pork blood sausage) & smoked fish (any port town in Scotland has great smoked fish). Headed over straight to Macleod & Macleod, the famed Scottish butcher known for their black pudding & bought some haggis too as insurance. I’ll write how they tasted in a separate post. Throughout all of this, there was horizontal heavy rain ongoing so no chance of taking any pictures. Instead just got thoroughly soaked to the bones. 😦

I hope you enjoyed my curtailed but packed 24 hours in the Outer Hebrides. I also hope it wasn’t too rambly and the pictures made up for your time 🙂

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