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Highlands and Islands. Just a tour around one of our favourite desinations. May/June 2022


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4 hours ago, Soukous said:

Did you by any chance visit Shieldag, one of my favourite places with one of my favourite pubs

Not this trip although I know the place from other years.

I don't have a favourite Pub.  If it's open and serving it's my favourite that day.:o

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Update. We have re-located by diverse means and have Wiffy access so can catch up shortly with our journey.

Sadly the weather has been dire and speaking of which we have seen rather too much of Tarbert Ferry terminal in the last 48 hours.

Here is a taste of our journey from our last location to the South Lochs area of the Isle of Lewis undertaken on Saturday 11th June 2022.


To be continued.


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Lots of Lochs need lots of water to fill them.

The weather takes a turn for the worst.






From the observation lounge of the MV Seaforth in Ullapool Harbour.


I may have found my dream job.

Vehicle check in for CalMac at Ullapool is not without its up side.

First of all, the vehicle check in area is on the opposite side of the Pier road to the actual Pier where the ferries load and disgorge the vehicles and the area is not in ‘plain sight’ but up an alley more reminiscent of a pub or supermarket car park. Stir into that mix the fact that many drivers these days cannot or will not read ‘direction signs’ that clearly state “Ferry traffic check in” backed up with a darn great Arrow AND there is no staff clearly wearing the obligatory yellow waterproof jacket with a great red ‘Lion rampant’ and the legend ‘Calmac’ emblazoned thereon and you can see some measure of the fun to be had.


But I am getting ahead of the tale. Read on, or if you happen to be one of those drivers referred to above, better not…


So it is with this unknown action lying ahead of us that we load our car and depart the lovely ‘Wee Barn’ for Sealoch Cottage on the Isle of Lewis in nice time to drive the 30 odd miles to Ullapool for the next ferry on our list.

In due time we arrive and, noting the signage mentioned above, take up an early place, 2nd, in lane 1, to await check in and watch with growing interest the later arrivals. NB. Not ‘LATE’ just ‘later’.


Fully 50% get it right first pass and turn into the next place in the ‘lanes’ without the intervention of the Check In Chap. Dare I suggest the acronym ‘CinC’? Of course vehicles come in many sizes and even some of these arrivals fail to comprehend the signs denoting vehicle differences between ‘Cars only’, ‘Cars with trailers’, SUV types such as Range Rovers and other Chelsea Tractors, Vans (both fully blown Mobile homes and simple commercial type vehicles, both converted to a Camper in disguise, and unconverted for trade use). Then add in that many of these will have thoughtfully added a pedal cycle rack on the roof or on the rear of the vehicle but may or may not have disclosed this important fact on the booking form despite having to pay extra for that space and you can imagine the jolly time the Check in Chappy has when he arrives to examine their booking form and receipted ticket. With much arm waving and other visible manual signage, some more polite than others, he directs the miscreants into their correct lanes with a view to a smooth loading operation AND ensuring that everyone as paid the requisite amount.

So that has dealt with the ‘normal’ 50% who saw and understood the signs. What about the other 50%? Indeed! Well this breaks down into several modus operandi dependant on events. Many swing left to the building housing Foot Passenger Check In, Offices, and waiting rooms. They park on the ‘no parking’ signs, enter the building and promptly get ejected and directed to where they need to be. Now they only have to exit that area in the face of incoming vehicles, cross the busy road, now made even busier by like minded spirits as well as legitimate through traffic, and into the tender and loving care of the correct Check in Chappy. Easier said than done even when Native Highland Scots is your first language.

Then there are the other non conformers who have blithely missed ALL signs and driven on passed either turn. Well they have to do a 180 ‘U’ turn somewhere further on before returning to make a ‘left’ to seek the aforesaid tender care of our hard working and strangely calm Check In Chappy whose patient temperament is now to reach its final test.

This is the many drivers who think that the closing time for check in applies to as many assorted vehicles as the Ferry can carry. So it is alright if say 50-100 vehicles arrive simultaneously at ‘Last Check In time’ minus 30 seconds with, or more likely without, their paperwork perfectly in order. Oh how our Check in Chappy must love these.

I KNOW I would. You can measure his pleasure by the increased frenetic arm waving signals displayed accompanied by his ever widening welcome smile.

And with punctilious timing the MV “Seaforth” now arrives to disgorge more vehicles direct into the path of those most welcome ‘last minute’ arrivals. Oh the fun this Chap must have each day especially in high season. I wonder how much he pays to do that job? Worth every penny of my Pension.

And now it ends and with practised efficiency all vehicles are now boarded into the recesses of the “Seaforth” and parked on TWO decks with precision by enthusiastic loaders determined to load all booked vehicles, large and small, tall and short, with projecting bikes and without, as organised by our hero on shore, the Check In Chappy. Let’s hear it for him. The ‘Seaforth’ sets sail on time and could not have done this without him.


Oh how I do wish I could haved photoed even a part of this entertainment.


And we now proceed over the somewhat choppy and boisterous waters of “The Minch” to our destination of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, the northernmost inhabited Island of the Outer Hebrides where we arrive on time. After disembarking into the ancient streets of this Island Capital we head for the Coop Supermarket to top up our consumable supplies for our stay in the remote South Lochs and previously infamous, but heroically legendary Pairc Area in the south east. More on that later.

There is just space to relate our short drive of 18 miles through very remote country to our new home of “Sealoch Cottage” near the isolated hamlet of Grabhair (strangely translated from the Gaellic ‘Grabvir’) Whose hair and who did the grabbing? Is this a relict of some ancient foreplay before marriage? We are not told.


Unsurprisingly Sealoch Cottage is perched above a Sealoch ( Loch Oddhairn which maybe a clue to the name Grabhair) with tremendous views on a clear day but with nosey neighbours peering into our garden.





It is a well converted old cottage with many interesting improvements and well placed for the exploration on foot or by car of this historic area. Set out on two floors with the upper lit in the modern manner by Velux roof windows and with a large warm conservatory in which we were to spend a lot of time including all meals.



From the Conservatory..




Lounge. Barely used.



Modern kitchen. Heavily used.


Two loos...


Downstairs with Sauna???



And upstairs more regularly used.

Adjacent to the bedroom and excellent warm bed..



All together a very comfortable place.


More to come…..





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Well now we are here on Lewis, what is there to do?


The cottage is lovely and so is the area so we are off at early doors on our first day on Lewis. I have fond memories of birding at Loch Stiapabhat from a nice hide and given the weather, it is blowing a houlie, we set off for there as at least it promises shelter. The Loch is just off the main road to the But of Lewis and is clearly signed at the turn off onto B8013. We park up and your scribe heads over the field path to the hide. Just as he reaches the point of no return the heavens open but happily the door is unlocked and entrance is made. After settling in and opening a couple of down wind ‘windows’ it is disappointing to find no sign of the target birds which are male Ruff in breeding plumage. Several other birds, Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe are still a pleasure to see.

DSCN6994.JPG.ece406a92e3f4a33dcd80adb7687042b.JPGDuring a dry spell his waterproof jacket is delivered by a concerned spouse. Bless her cotton socks.

A pleasurable viewing are a family of Mute Swan with several cygnets riding on parent’s back.


The highlight however is a nice Dog Otter fishing happily in the loch and even entering the small inlet just outside the hide to give an excellent photo opportunity.




After a couple of hours or so we drive on to the tip of the island and view Stephenson’s lighthouse and the nesting seabirds along the cliffs. It is dry but blowing very hard so we decide to return the way we came over Lewis’s barren and wild landscape. Next day we do a circuit of the local roads in the area of South Lochs and Pairc but see little of interest in the way of birds. The local White-tailed Eagle does another fly by.




Other outings to the Community owned Aline woodland were jinxed as despite twice setting off in good weather it seems that as soon as we park up and prepare to explore, the rain sweeps down from the Harris Mountains and the walk is cancelled. Compensation in the way of Tea and excellent home made cakes at Ravenspoint Centre in Kershadar and its lovely museum and shop. We indulged ourselves there three times it was so good. They even had a 24/7 fuel pump dispensing our much needed E5 unleaded petrol so provided an even better excuse, should one be needed to call round.

Sadly the weather was awful for most of our stay and apart from an exploratory trip to Tarbert in Harris we did not go far. Even our local Red deer failed to show up some days. Tarbert failed to impress and had little to offer on a fine day so I leave you to guess what it was like in the rain.


Little did we know that the fates had more of Tarbert in store for us at the end of our stay.

And so ended our week on Lewis and if that was not enough it very nearly got extended even longer. Our first indication of problems was an Email from Duncan, our host at our next destination, in which he hoped we were enjoying our stay on Lewis and suggesting it may prove longer than we wished. Our next ferry was broken down and cancelled. Not that the normally caring CalMac people thought to tell us.

So at the end of our stay we packed the car and left on time for our 10.45 booked crossing over the Sound of Harris from Leverburgh to Berneray.

More next time.

Spoiler alert. We did not get to Uist that day but we did not stay on Lewis.

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So on our departure morning we rose early and set off with the packed car in moderate weather for Leverburgh on Harris where we were booked on the 10.45 ferry over the Sound of Harris for Berneray and thence over the Causeway linking that island with North Uist to our next venue at the lovely ‘Lochside’, Hosta where we have stayed many times before.

BUT when we got to Leverburgh the check in staff confirmed the ferry was not operating due to problems “with the propulsion unit.” Well as boats are driven/propelled by an engine we interpreted this as ‘the bloody engine is broke’. Not likely to be repaired until Monday if then. What do we do? ‘Go back to Tarbert as we have no booking connection with HQ’ says the Check in body.

So we did. Another wasted batch of fuel is consumed.

Back at Tarbert the office does not open until 09.00 so we sit and think bad things about Calmac. When they do open we are told there is no way to get us to our destination as the boats are fully booked. Oh Yes?

I remind the nice lady of the content of the EU Ferry directive which remans in force despite UK leaving, allegedly, the EU four years ago. The directive states that delays must be remedied promptly so they set to work re-booking us and after some kerfuffle we get ‘standby’ for a lunch time sailing to Uig on Skye which may or may not connect with the sailing from Skye to Lochmaddy on North Uist. NB. It is the same boat for BOTH sailings so how can it NOT connect??

Ask Calmac that if you can.

In the event the Tarbert - Uig boat is full and we do not get on it.

So back to the Office I go.

We now get a firm booking on the 21.00 to Uig PLUS a firm booking on the 09.30 boat from Uig next morning. OK , We will take that.

Now, where do we sleep that evening? ‘Calmac’ suggest we try some places from their list. I suggest they read the EU directive where it says they must render all due assistance. That sets them off ringing many hotels on Skye and to cut to the chase they eventually find us a room in Portree for a midnight arrival where we will let ourselves in and after a good nights sleep depart again next morning for Uig.

The place was very nice when we arrived at 00.15 on Sunday 19th June.

Next morning, 19th, we had breakfast and retraced our drive back to Uig and checked in for the 09.30 sailing to Lochmaddy.

And at 11.15, having crossed the Little Minch twice we docked at Lochmaddy on the island of North Uist where we had hoped to arrive 24 hours ago.

Who was it that s/aid “ tis better to travel hopefully than to arrive?” Had he ever travelled with Calmac I wonder?

And so after a detour to check up on Red-necked Phalaropes we eventually arrived at our cottage/bird hide, known as ‘Lochside’ as it is next to a Loch, for six nights.

Now we can start the final cottage of our extended trip.

More later but we are delighted to be here..



This is what our  booked transfer looked like Total planned time 4 hours...



And this is what we ended up doing thanks to Calmac.



Saturday 18th June, time elapsed  16 hours.




Sunday 19th June. Time taken 9 hours.

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I am just catching up.We just arrived home after a while with no Wi-Fi.

We heard about the ferry problem and thought of you.

You managed it well and good to see that you got to Hosta. You have some lovely sightings despite the weather

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8 hours ago, TonyQ said:

You managed it well and good to see that you got to Hosta.

We had a determined attitude and sense prevailed.Wait until I submit my claim to Calmac.

More on Uist and Argyll to come once home (Wednesday). Have booked 2023 at Lochside. Need a nice place with Martens to augment.

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Well done for pushing Calmac and knowing your rights. Glad you got to North Uist eventually.

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On 6/28/2022 at 7:50 AM, pomkiwi said:

Glad you got to North Uist eventually.

So were we and even the bad weather could not diminish that.

So careful I have been to 'protect' Lochside I have had to go back a few years to get photos for this report.

It is  a simple 'log cabin' with a turf roof. I deem it the most comfortable bird hide in the country if not the world and the owner is now a personal friend as well. Win Win!

So here are the 'internals' and looking back not much has changed. OK, there is now a small oven and minor decor changes and I think the Fridge has been replaced as has the cooker hob/hotplate but they are just peripherals.

The Eagles and Owls are still there but I have not seen an Otter on the loch for a few years.


Even my car is the same model....:lol:


The warm bed.



Stove and lounge units. New blinds I see too.

There is central heating.




Kitchen, cooker and sink.  NB. The bottle of wine is looong gone. The picture has changed too.

Bathroom through that door.



Nesting neighbours..



Absent friend.


This was our home for the week and it is very well placed for everything. Indeed the changed 'picture' is now of  a Corncrake in the garden outside. I have seen Eagles hunting on the slopes opposite and ground nesting birds, Snipe, Lapwing etc.., are all around. Indeed be very careful when entering or leaving by car to avoid running chicks over.

Deer on the hills  and our favourite post dinner ride is up the hill for Owls hunting the slopes as well as glorious sunsets out to St.Kilda.

So this is my little piece of heaven which I have booked again for next year. (If I am not already in the original.;))


And I got my Corncrake, Diver , Owls and Phalaropes and a bit more besides.




Wet in or out of the loch,






Another near neighbour at Lochside....


And the view we all share..



Remote wilderness of North Uist.


And so it was that on a very wet morning we returned to the small harbour of Lochmaddy to be carried "over the sea to Skye" but not dressed as a washerwoman like bonnie Prince Charlie but it's a lovely refrain and I think I might even have made a good King had I been born to it despite the rotten pay..

But Charles 1st did his best to put an end to my GGGGGGGranddad but you can't do that to a Yorkshireman AND keep your head. Sithee and learn.

(Doubters of this tailpiece should read Thomas Carlyle)


From Skye we drove via Fort William and Oban to the final stop of our own saga which follows shortly


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Posted (edited)

I seem to have rather 'glossed over' my favourite Island as I know it so well. Birders will have seen some of my tips but there is more to do than that.

The island is not that big but has a huge coastline with all the headlands and inlets so will repay slow exploration.

Lots of Deer and Otters for the lucky ones. Mostly open tundra type landscape that appears bleak but rewarding nevertheless.

RSPB Centre at Balranald organise walks with the Warden or fellow expert almost daily. To seek out wildlife such as Otters or the elusive Corncrake but also over Machair to explain the way of life. Free to members of RSPB but a donation expected from non members. A great way to meet experts and non experts to exchange news and views.


There are three Restaurants on the island, Westford Inn,  Langass Hotel and Temple View in Caranish. Booking is advised but not compulsory. We love the Langass as it is secluded and handy for Otters on the Loch and birds in the Langass woods where you can also meet a memorial to Hercules the famous Grizzly who found temporary freedom there.

Provisions on Island are mainly from three minimarkets/Spar shops at Bayhead Stores, Paible, a Co-op at Sollas on the north road and a Spar in Caranish. Bigger stores in Benbecula at the north by the airport and further south.

Fuel at Bayhead Stores.  Lochmaddy, harbour for ferries, also has fuel and a store and an Inn there too.

The main part of the island is almost round in shape and the road runs virtually around the perimeter with the main diameter neatly bisected by 'the committee road' which was made as a 'source of work' in harder times but is now the main thoroughfare for those seeking Hen Harrier, Short eared Owls and even Eagles at the summit stretch.

On causeway  linked island of Grimsay there are boat trips from Kallin/Ceallan on Lady Ann usually for two hours afloat looking very successfully for marine mammals and Eagles. Also a very good source of Shellfish.

Also to the north is the island of Berneray, linked by causeway, where ferries to Harris leave (and where ours should have arrived) and also the small hamlet of Borve with many seals basking on the nearby rocks and access to some lovely Machair with its ground nesting birds.

There are some beautiful beaches I am told but have never been tempted to try the bathing facilities.

On a hillside to the west you will see some 'Golfballs' of a radar station. There is an access road up to them which is signed "St Kilda viewpoint". Equipped with stationary telescope there are excellent views around the whole island and even to St.Kilda/Hirta some 40 miles out into the Atlantic. Trips possible out there by prior arrangement but allow for adverse weather. That road is a favourite place of mine in an evening to just park up and wait for the regular avian fly by of anything from White-tailed and Golden Eagles, Buzzards, Ravens, Harriers, Short eared Owls and Merlin.

So that is my view of the Island of North Uist. Enjoy it but drive carefully and use the passing places wisely to allow overtaking as the locals have work to do.

Edited by Galana
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Posted (edited)


Time to head south.


Our route homewards


As stated earlier we left North Uist on m.v.Hebrides sailing back to Uig on Skye. The weather was ‘mixed’ although the Captain stated it was dreich in his welcome announcement and at first I would not argue with that although it did brighten up as we approached Skye with the ‘Far Cuillins puttin their love on me’ as the song goes.  


A very damp Red-throated Diver bade us farewell.




Loading the MV Hebrides in Lochmaddy and a view of the small marina from on deck.



Not all Dreich but the promise of some sun on the Far Cuillins as we approach Skye.1-DSCN7584.JPG.75e503c510b5609a88653dff98fdacd5.JPG


From Uig we drove via Fort William and Oban to the final stop of our own saga by running down the coast road from Oban, passing by ‘Falls of Lora’ where we had stayed at the start of this Odyssey some four weeks earlier.

We were headed for the hamlet of Kilmartin and the lovely Dunchraigaig Guest House run by Lynn and Gordon Laws https://dunchraigaig.co.uk/ in a part of Scotland we had rarely visited. It was beautiful country, steeped in history with many standing stones and cup circles and with Lochgilphead and the Crinan Canal just six miles south. We did several drives along this almost unspoiled coastline with its many fjordlike inlets sprinkled with picturesque small villages and harbours during our three day stay. There are even re-established European Beavers in the area.



Not much for one to photograph in a B&B so here it is together with the view of some standing stones from our window.

Stars for us however were the visiting Pine Martens and Red Squirrels that presented many opportunities for some photography. Also observed on the feeders were many birds and both Bank Voles and Woodmice with Roe Deer in the woods and large heathland.




Lift the lid with one's head and pull out the food.


Red Squirrel have lived alongside Pine Martens for millennia.






Bank Vole.



Great Spotted Woodpecker share the leftovers.

and in the woods we find...


Roe Deer Doe with twin fawns, A Roe Doe.


We were delighted with our B&B find and really enjoyed the area. We dined each evening from an excellent menu and wine list in the Kilmartin Hotel just up the road.


The final drive..


At the end of our stay we topped up our tank with a supply of the correct specification of fuel once more and set off to drive via Inverary where recent rain, did I mention it had rained?, had caused problems with landslips threatening the road. As we cleared them we crossed the pass known as ‘Rest and be Thankful’ to yet another Tarbet, this time on Loch Lomond, where we again crossed our original track on the A82 and so down to Glasgow and the M74 and M6 to Heysham for our Ferry home to the Isle of Man after a meal and a Pint of ‘English’ Beer in the ‘Duke of Rothesay' at Heysham Port. We had reserved a cabin on the Ferry and put it to good use for a rest before arriving back home at 06.30.


Seen flying  via the Crinan Canal to avoid low cloud was the restored Catalina PBY 'Miss Pickup' from Duxford in Cambridge. Always better to be down here wishing I was up there, than 'up here' wishing I was 'down there'. She had been attending a display at Oban airport.





Next year we will be back on the Islands but this time our road will not be ‘via Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber’ but via Oban to Coll and Barra before crossing to Eriskay and South Uist to Lochside on North Uist.


It's booked!


Hope you can come along with me again.


The end.

Edited by Galana
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@Galana thanks so much for sharing your annual Scottish sojourn, so many wonderful ideas and accommodation recommendations. Not to overlook the wildlife of course. Your final B&B with pine martens looked fantastic.

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7 hours ago, Treepol said:

Your final B&B with pine martens looked fantastic.

It was. Lovely hosts and stunning countryside and history. The ancient Dalria that became Scotland when invaded by the Scotia.

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Zim Girl

Always very interesting to read about your Scottish exploits @Galana.  It gives me lots of things to think about for future trips.

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so enjoyed going with you virtually on your journey. thanks for sharing.  

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23 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

Always very interesting to read about your Scottish exploits


23 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

It gives me lots of things to think about for future trips.

Same here. I have just booked a cottage for next year at Rosemarkie

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

After a couple of domestic interludes I remembered I had not 'done' the video clips of the Otter sighting on Loch na Keale on Mull. 

It is not of the best quality as the distance really tested my camera as did the early morning light and the wind makes it all hard work.

Even the wind strength makes the water look as though it is flowing or the rock moving up stream but here it is warts and all if anyone is interested.

Edited by Galana
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Nice video of the otter @Galana

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