Day 13, The Uists and Eriskay

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30 June 2013

The lochs of the Uists are often not large expanses of water, but rather one small pool after another, stretched out indefinitely across the moors – giving the impression of as much water in the landscape as there is land. These lochs are covered in water lilies, great spread out carpets of them with giant white flowers and a golden heart.

Then there is the bog cotton, with a creamy bobbin like torn cotton wool that flits and waves on the end of its thin, dark green stalk. The cotton, split at its ends, points determinedly in the direction of the wind, and these soft creamy balls cover the marshes like sheep’s wool caught in the grass.

Today I am exploring Eriskay, another island connected by a long causeway, and with a sign, “Beware otters crossing”. The weather is wild as I drive, changing from blue to grey in seconds and back again, clouds skitting overhead. Horizontal rain strips the sky, then sunshine breaks through and lights up the yellow of the machair, and splashes white where houses scatter on the hillside.

It is a relaxing day of just looking and recording the wind and the sea, exploring churches and graveyards. At St Michaels’, perched on the hill above the village of Am Baile, the altar celebrates the island’s fishing heritage. Designed by Father Calum MacNeill, the altar is shaped to resemble the prow of a wooden boat.

(The blog Digital Resources page has a bit of information on Eriskay, its role in the film “Whisky Galore” and Eriskay’s relationship to Bonnie Prince Charlie)

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Day 12, Heading for the Uists

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29 June 2013

Today I am leaving Lewis and Harris to catch the ferry across to Berneray, on my way to South Uist.

I drop off my hire car at the local Stornoway garage, and Linda kindly takes me, my bags, and all my equipment to the bus station for the journey south to Leverburgh.

From South Harris, I catch the small ship to Bernaray. It is an hour’s journey across the Sound of Harris, passing little islands and looking back at the black hills of Harris before reaching more open sea.

The ferry, when she pulls into shore, seems to drop me in the middle of nowhere. There is not a soul around and I stand outside the little shelter at the pier not knowing if a bus will actually turn up. I try not to look too longingly down the narrow road that winds off into a flat deserted landscape. The rain is pattering down.

It is early afternoon and I am feeling rather hungry after an early breakfast. In my pocket lie waiting two bars of chocolate that could be bought from the sweetie dispensing machine in the small passenger cabin of the ferry. I eat one bar and resist the other.

The bus does eventually arrive and, relaxing a little, I climb in. We slowly rumble our way around Berneray, across the causeway to North Uist, then the causeway to Benbecula, and finally on to my destination of South Uist.

Here, in the early evening, I pick up my hire car and drive the last few miles to Daliburgh where I let myself into the B&B to make a much-needed cup of tea, and hoping to goodness I am in the right house!

I am staying with Morag and Neil, who do the post bus and the parcel deliveries. When they get home from their long days of deliveries, they are as warm and as welcoming as anyone could ever wish for, and I settle in for the next stage of the residency.