Early June 2015 - North Uist
This summer has to date been very uncharacteristic with several gales and cold temperatures. So far the warmest has been 12°C, with the norm feeling like 8°C with the wind chill. After the gale in Tobermory we waited a day for the sea to die down before venturing around Ardnamurchan Point for a lively sail to the island of Canna. With the next gale on the 24hr forecast we pressed on to Lochmaddy - the main settlement on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Here we tied to a mooring buoy while the southerly gales blew through. There are new pontoons at Lochmaddy, but we preferred the mooring because at least the boat is always pointing into the wind, though it was rather too exciting for comfort. Those who opted for the pontoons (left) were bouncing around with taught lines - not fun.
After two days and three nights and several books later it all blew through and we moved over the the pontoons making it much easier to get ashore. The marina shore facilities are still in the process of being built, with only a porta-cabin for the laundry completed so far, so it was along to one of the hotels for a decent shower. A lot of money seems to being spent on improving the yacht facilities along the Hebrides. There is even a liner berthing point being built at Loch Boisdale in South Uist.
We have been to North Uist before (see July 2012, June 2010 and July 2007) so were familiar with what to see and do. One of our favourites is the walk around Berneray where there is a fine view of the sound of Harris from the top of the hill (see more pictures) and a long white sandy beach. Here flocks of sanderling (below) ran along in front of us picking up tasty morsels from the incoming tide.
Another day we caught the bus around to the RSPB reserve at Balranald on the west coast. This is entertainment in itself as most of the road system is single track with passing places that twists and turns around the lochans giving an excellent view of the island. This particular journey the bus was early so the driver pulled over at a view point to waste some time. At this point we spotted a sheep on its back in the adjacent field. Tim volunteered to go out and roll her onto her feet again - we were wearing boots at the time so negotiating the muddy gate and traipsing across the boggy field did not cause any problems. The sheep had rolled over into a rut and couldn't get out of it unassisted.
We had chosen a bus that got us to the reserve in time for a guided walk with the warden. This was very interesting and informative, as he explained the low impact crofting system that farmed the Machair on rotation. This has two years of oats, rye and barley grown for cattle fodder, and then two years fallow. Wild flowers thrive in this environment (right). Having been so cold and wet these are further behind than normal at this time of year, but the wild pansies were putting on a good show.
Next we are thinking of moving northwards to the Isle of Harris, the home of Harris Tweed.