Scotland tour part two: Ullapool to Lewis and back again. #NC500

Ferry rides… they come and go, one crossing much like the next I should think, apart from Stornoway Coastguadchanges in weather conditions. But that’s without counting on the Stornoway Coastguard to drop by. Purely a training exercise they said, nothing much to see here. Well, being easily entertained Bob and I loved it. We were also impressed: well done the Coastguard. As the boat charged along the helicopter arrived from downwind, kept pace for about 15 minutes as its crew discussed where they might drop someone, then went ahead and did just that. He swung around above the waves for a while, then was gently set down on the boat’s stern, followed by a stretcher. Both were then picked up (the stretcher still empty: nothing to see here, remember), and off they went. Amazing stuff and hopefully a fixture now on all Ullapool to Stornoway crossings. The ferry itself was pretty new, introduced this summer. Good food, a great viewing room in the bows, friendly staff and some impressive car loading. (Plus a helicopter. You got that, right?)

This is the second post covering an August 2015 tour of Scotland, with part one here and part three here. The fourth post provides daily route information. We only had two nights on Lewis and Harris (they’re one island) as a side mission from our drive around the North Coast 500. We loved the island though, so it gets a post of its own, with plenty of photos. First up, a dusk drive across to the Atlantic west coast, with views like this:

Isle of Lewis

 

We were heading to Uig sands, which was beginning to sound mythical and mystical thanks to the lack of information on it: little on the internet, few clues from the road signs. We got there though, as confirmed by a four year girl (and her father) who had pitched the only other tent. The wind was getting up, the light was fading, but the situation looked agreeable and the whisky tasted good. The next morning brought more good news – click on the photos if you’d like to see larger images.

Simply stunning.

The facilities were also excellent. If you’re anywhere nearby, and you can find yourself a pitch out of the wind, get yourself here. (Constant wind meant nae midges for us.)

Onwards, to Callanish and its standing stones. The visitor experience here is nicely balanced, with the stones themselves left to commune in relative isolation, as their guests wander between them and gather their thoughts. Close by are Harris Tweed hats (courtesy of the shop), excellent sausage rolls (via the cafe), and local art from Ivor MacKay’s studio. We made purchases from all three.

We kept being told about the terrible weather they have been having this summer. Not for the first time we felt lucky for the glorious sunshine we were getting. Driving south, into Harris, was a beautiful experience for this. Single track roads much of the way of course, but plenty of waved thanks as one car pauses for another to pass.

Onwards, then, to a place called Hushinish. The settlement was very small, but over the crest of a summer meadow we followed a walk that took us up high over the coast of a sea loch where we could look across to the island of Scarp. Around the corner and there were sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, that (rather repetitive) helicopter again, boggy stretches and more stunning views.

Lewis and Harris deserve repeat visits! Thank you also to the Park Guest House for some excellent food, and a first night’s sleep under a solid roof that didn’t rustle in the wind.

The third episode in our tour diary will cover the final two nights, from Ullapool to Skye to Ballachulish and a glorious final day walking part of the West Highland Way. Meanwhile, a few more photos of a noisy helicopter and some quiet tents.

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