Outer Hebrides - 2008

Oban to Barra (16 miles) - Sunday, 1 June

Left Durham at 8.05 am with 236 miles to drive in just over five hours. Leaving behind the cloud covered North East, it soon began to warm up as the sky cleared. I made good progress across the country and stopped at Annandale Water services for petrol and drinks. It was a beautiful 22°c at Loch Lomond and I arrived in Oban with plenty of time for the 3.10 pm boat.

After getting some cash at Tesco, I parked in the Central car park not far from the ferry. I discovered whilst lifting the bags out of the car that the bike oil bottle had emptied itself all over my nice new yellow Arkel panniers. I did my best to clean off the worst of the oil, made a final kit check and rode round to the Calmac terminal ticket office.

The £53 eight day Rover Ticket still seemed the most flexible option and the bike went free. Together with several other touring cyclists I waited for the Clansman's ramp to be lowered in the warm Oban sunshine and we boarded at 2.35 pm. The boat pulled away on time, for the five hour voyage to Castlebay.

I had steak pie, carrots, chips, peas and tea in the restaurant, most disappointingly there was no lasagne. The Channel 5 film channel was on and I sat through some black & white war time drama, a Greek god film with Ursula Andress & Maggie Smith and Gattaca with Ethan Hawke. The ship's tannoy alerted us to a basking shark on the starboard side, its fin was clearly visible cutting through the waves.

The islands grew bigger on the horizon until finally we approached Castlebay and the boat manoeuvred into position. A group of motor bikers were parked alongside me and I disembarked behind them. I decided to cycle around the east side of Barra to camp near the Eriskay ferry ready for an early start. A very steep ascent out of Castlebay afforded lovely coastal views, I watched the Clansman leave the bay and saw it a few more times on its way to Lochboisdale. Then a relatively easy ten miles or so around to the beach near the Airport.

Following a mooch around looking for somewhere to camp, I settled on a spot with a beautiful aspect over the sands (NF694057) within sight of the airport. After setting up the tent, I walked over to the west side through the dunes and onto the beach to watch the sun sink into the sea with a stunning display of oranges and crimson reds. My camera battery was not fully charged.

photograph - Barra sunset

Supper consisted of tea, potato chips and chocolate brownie, whilst listening to Radio 3 until 10.45 when I turned in for the night.

Next day