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go uist! (life is peaceful there)

juli 19, 2017

on our third day of our journey in the outer hebrides, we had gone from barra via eriscay and south uist, and were now on benbecula. 

we didn’t get the best of sleeps that night in the shell bay campsite, it had rained all night with a chilly wind, and now we had to go buy some propane for our motorhome kitchen. thankfully the owner at angus motorhome hire had said he would pay for a second bottle if we ran out, because the one he gave us didn’t even last for two days. we’d already asked around for places to buy propane the previous day without any luck, but just before we entered the causeway/bridge from south uist to benbecula, we had spotted gas flasks at an agricultural merchant called carnan stores. they were open and helpful and had everything you could ever possibly need for agricultural business or your household. not only did we get propane, but also a thermos and a new cap for the chap. we could’ve bought a whole lot more in this curios shop. the grey weather had come to stay for the day, but that didn’t stop us going exploring (it just made it a bit less nice). we’d seen some ruins on south uist the previous day so we drove back to howmore where there’s a youth hostel. not your everyday youth hostel this one, since it’s located in a typical hebridean blackhouse (which in fact was white).  it’s been on the site since 1966 and offers 16 beds in three dorms. they don’t operate with any booking in advance and only has an honesty box and a warden who’ll check up on that everyone’s fine. these of course weren’t the ruins we’d seen the day before. they came from one of the most significant historic sites in the western isles, ruins of the old parish church teampull mor, caibeal dubhghaill (dugall’s chapel) and chlann «ic ailein (clanranald’s chapel). 

not lacking any castles this island either, as we found one at ormacleit. although just a ruin, ormacleit castle -one of the last castles being built in scotland, dates back to the early 1700’s and was built by the clanranald’s chief. it didn’t last long though since it burned down only seven years after it was put up. it does have a more intact stable which is more visible in the landscape than the castle itself, which we almost missed. it is set on private land, so we didn’t obtain access to it. the story says (or at least one of them) that the castle burnt down the same day as the owner was killed in the battle of sheriffmuir, which also saw the end of the jacobite uprising.  the hebrides is full of recognizable names for us norwegians and the weird sounding name ormacleit gives much more sense after we learned that «cleit» means a stone hut or bothy. we interpreted that it would’ve been a man called orm (meaning worm or snake in norwegian) living there, or maybe even a stone house with worms in it (a bit unlikely on an island though?).

we’d already had a short stop and quick look in lochboisdale the previous day when we looked for propane, but to be honest it wasn’t much to see there (sorry about that). it’s the main village on south uist, and the port that connects south uist with barra (castlebay) and the mainland (oban) but i wouldn’t recommend taking the ferry to this place and scip barra, you would really miss the jewel in the crown. but not a bad word said about uist, it was easy driving through and had some nice sights. a sight that we actually decided to miss was the statue of mary (another lady of the isles), because we simply couldn’t believe that it could compete with the lady that we’d seen on barra (apologies again to the people of uist). also we could see it from the road, so we can technically check it off our list. when the rain stopped, we parked the car at langass lodge (which i actually think is worth a consideration if you want a quiet hotel in lovely surroundings) and walked between grass and heather to find the stone circle at pobull fhinn. it was a bit hard to see the actual circle, cause the stones were barely standing up anymore, and a lot of them were covered by plants. but we tried to imagine how it would’ve been there, and we also enjoyed some lovely views over the sound. no wonder they would put up a land mark (or a sacred place) in such lovely surroundings.  the path went further on, up a hill and over to the other side of it we found the broch (house made up of stones) «barpa langais».  signs said that it recently had fallen down a bit, so no one were allowed to go inside it. when i saw a man climbing on top of it, it kind of made sense that it eventually would fall down.  we went on looking for other sights and met some highland cows along the way.  unfortunately we couldn’t find the last sight we looked for here on uist. dun an sticir was supposed to be an iron age (but last inhabited in the beginning of the 1600’s) broch in a lake, but we couldn’t see it nor any signs for it. we did see another tower in the middle of a small lake, which seemed to be a common thing here in the hebrides -buildings on rocks in lakes. this one wasn’t particularly ancient though, but quite picturesque anyway. the scolpaig tower is a so-called folly, which is a tower built for decoration only. it was built in the 1830’s by a macleod over an iron age dun which has disappeared completely.

the balranald campsite (in a rspb area) was unfortunately fully booked when we arrived in the afternoon looking for an overnight space, but that turned out to be a silver lining when we drove just a couple hundred meters north. a small almost invisible sign said motorhomes this way, and led us to the most quaint little private campsite a stones throw away from the beach. it had three spaces, but we were the only ones there, and the fact that it didn’t have any el hookups didn’t bother us at all. nothing to complain about when we could just step outside and enjoy a walk on the beach. i think the owners lived across the road, at least they waved and greeted us when they passed by, but since it was operated by an honesty box, we didn’t have any contact with them. how can you not love the hebridean way of living?! we fell asleep listening to the waves slowly crawling up on to the white stones. 

earlybirds aren’t regularly something we can call ourselves on holiday, but traveling in a motorhome made it much easier to get to bed early and also get up early in the morning. it helped if we had a cup of coffee in our hands to wake us up though. the morning of june the 15th, we also had a ferry to catch, so we had to get going at nine. we said goodbye to the lovely campsite in the calm bay, and headed for the small island berneray just north of uist where the ferry would take us to the largest (and last) island on the trip -isle of harris and lewis. of course not without beautiful scenery the last leg either.  

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