North Uist For photographs scroll down to bottom
with Paul Heppleston and Cate Macfarlane
The idea of 'Spring in the Hebrides' drew us westwards from our meeting place in Inverness, over the sea (actually bridge) to Skye to Uig from where Calmac took us to Lochmaddy. If you drive anti-clockwise around North Uist from Lochmaddy (which is 'at' 3 o'clock) you come to 12 o'clock and our home for 8 days in the northern township of Sollas, in a house right on the water's edge with views straight on to the mudflats (and wading birds) of Vallay Strand and the tidal island beyond.
We spread our beds out in four locations, our home-base beside the water drawing folk from three other sleeping-places within the area; having two vehicles meant moving between our muti-bedded locations was easy and also helped with movements elsewhere during our time; we're very grateful to Isobel for her help and her car. In retrospect it was often hard to tear ourselves away from the panoramic lounge window, the sunroom with telescope and the warmth of a peat fire to go to 'other pairts o' the isle'. But we did - and many were the delights we found - as a group and as individuals.
Lochmaddy has its charm, but oddly enough the Coop is only a mile from our house and 8 miles from Lochmaddy. An ancient fort (very wet day) was followed by a visit to Balranald RSPB reserve (wonderful walking and windy - but with views of St Kilda......ah, the romance of that group of islands). A visit to Trinity Temple at the S end of the isle - and another day a long-ish drive down through Benbecula to South Uist and Loch Druidibeg reserve offered wonderful walking and superb scenery; lost fishing settlements and the sound of curlew. A plan to visit Eriskay and Am Politician pub was abandoned as the day would have been too long and we'd have been overtaken by the darkness and (?) whisky galore. A day on Harris was a really wonderful time, walking lazily to a shore-side chapel ruin where we sang and shouted our praise. Walking across to Vallay on another windy day at the right time of the tide was a tricky calculation, but we played very safe and allowed ourselves only 15 minutes on the island; the walk back was exhilarating, for this was the day when Scotland was hit by extremely high winds (hurricane force elsewhere).
A day on uninhabited Ensay replaced our hoped-for visit to Pabbay (next time!) due to high winds; but Ruari was a most considerate boatman and took us safely and fast to and fro. Worship with Uist folks was important and we were fortunate that on the Sunday there was a service at about 11am at both the RC and Church of Scotland in Benbecula; good to share with other visitors and Uist folk, for to go to an island community and remain isolated in one's own created bubble is not the way of true journeying. Hospitality shown by Mary Lewis, of Welsh origin but wedded to Uist and a lovely west-facing house, gave a memorable afternoon, as was her vision for reaching the people of her township by ways that were best appropriate to them whilst not compromising her own integrity, guidance for all of us there.
We might have slept in different abodes, but we created Community.....