Monday, 18 August 2014

Hebrides 7: Benbecula and North Uist

Tuesday dawned blustery but sunny, so since the weather was reasonable we decided to head back to some of the same locations we'd visited with Steve Duffield on Sunday.  We attempted to find St Michael's Chapel on Benbecula, but instead ended up finding a shellfish factory which was being guarded by a herd of extremely inquisitive sheep.  What we thought was a beach turned out, on closer inspection, to be made entirely from scallop shells - thousands upon thousands of them!

We then took the main road anticlockwise around North Uist, stopping off occasionally to admire the view.  The island appeared to be more prosperous than its Southern cousin, with less evidence of dereliction and abandonment.  Many houses sported large Yes signs, indicating their owners' preference when it comes to the independence referendum.  It was easy to see why, too, as the Hebrides are closer to Scandinavia than they are to London: a Westminster parliament must seem remote and irrelevant to the people living here.

We stopped off at Barpa Langass chambered cairn, one of the many ancient monuments on the Uists.  Impressive though it was, for me this particular location fell into the "large pile of rocks in a field" category.

We then decided to hit the metropolis which was Loch Maddy.  When I say "metropolis", the town boasts (among other things) several streets, a ferry, a shop, a hotel, a church and a fascinating museum about life on St Kilda.  The museum also had a "Virtual St Kilda Multimedia Experience" on the top floor, with a narration in Gaelic and English.  Both were completely incomprehensible (and often difficult to tell apart) but the pictures were good!

Having been so impressed by The Dunes catering van in Balranald on Sunday, we were keen to try its legendary crab sandwiches.  Sadly they'd sold out, so we had to slum it with smoked salmon and cream cheese instead (what a hardship).  Of course, there was also the obligatory piece of chocolate cake for afters, since we needed to build up our strength for a trek around the perimeter of the Nature Reserve in the afternoon.