Day 2 – Barra to North Uist (64 miles, 2000 ft of ascent)
The next morning we got off early to catch the ferry (9:25 am) to the Isle of Eriskay (Ferry Timetable – Isle of Barra to Eriskay)
Eriskay is very small, just a few miles long, even smaller than Barra, from here we crossed to South Uist on a mile long causeway. This island is very flat on the west where the Sustrans route runs and edged with beaches of white sand and turquoise waters. The sun wasn’t out and it was quite chilly so we were wrapped up warm. One of the things we were noticing was how few places and people there were, you could cycle for miles without seeing anyone. The Sustrans route takes you off the ‘main’ road onto smaller roads, the kind which have very broken tarmac and grass in the middle instead of lines! There seemed to be lots of suicidal rabbits which took to playing chicken in front of our wheels which added a degree of entertainment! We stopped for a coffee at the Kildonan Museum, a little community run museum and cafe which was the only place to stop for 30 miles.
Not long after we left the cafe the road came to the edge of a beautiful white beach just as the sun came out so we stopped for a walk. By now we were quite accustomed to parking our bikes up without a care in our minds for security. We met a very interesting couple as we were leaving the beach, they had toured the UK in a campervan for 12 years before deciding to settle on the Isle of Berneray. When they asked where we were cycling they put fear in us about the hills we had to climb to get to Lewis. I don’t know why I didn’t click at the time that it’s all about perspective, to them they are big hills but we’re strong cyclists and so to us they would be a challenge but not a problem, or at least that’s what I tried to convince myself!
We crossed another causeway onto ‘Benbecula’, another small, flat island. We found somewhere to eat, the Stepping Stone Cafe which was the second and last place we would pass today where we could get food. We ended up having lasagne at 3pm which would double up as lunch and dinner. We were soon crossing another causeway onto North Uist, our final destination island for the day (Monday). North Uist was again quite flat (on the west). We stayed the evening at the ‘Tractor Shed Bunkhouse‘. By the time we arrived it was threatening with rain and was quite cold, the wind didn’t help either. We decided to buy some Sultana loaf, tea (essential), milk (for the essential tea) and bananas from the garage at the end of the road.
The shed we had booked came complete with turf roof and double mattress (made up with ‘proper’ bedding, no sleeping bags!). Duncan, the guy who had built the sheds had positioned them all a good distance from the bunkhouse (which had a kitchen, seating area, toilets and showers) with their fronts facing the sea (and away from the bunkhouse). There was a veranda with a roof and side walls with a stove and socket for the all important kettle! We set up the place as home for the night, again just leaning the bikes up, unlocked and put the kettle on.
Once we’d had a shower and changed into the only change of clothes we both had we headed down to the beach.
Now you might be thinking warm relaxing thoughts but unfortunately not, the sand was white and if the sun had been out the water would have been turquoise but if that was the norm the place wouldn’t be so deserted as it is so we accepted the weather and went for a walk.
It seemed like the gulls had been taking lessons from those at St Ives and one started diving at us, we didn’t have any food with us, but it still persisted so we cut the walk short and headed back. I was quite cold and sitting around the shed I felt cold and was dreading having a sleepless, very cold night. When we got into bed we soon got very toasty. The very light nights meant that the light glinted in between the boards of the front door. We had a good nights sleep and woke early, lying in bed with the doors open and a view across the moorland and sea, very special.