2,300+ mile Outer Hebrides road trip
The weather coming back from Skye through Glencoe and the Highlands of Scotland was non-stop rain. At least it was happening when I was heading back. Weather wise, for the most part, I’d had pretty decent weather whilst exploring the Western Isles, so I cant really complain. It just compounded a slightly flat feeling when you know that your adventure is slowly drawing to a close.
Once again the mile munching T4 ate up the miles with ease. For the first part of the journey back south, I decided to head to the Scotland/England boarder region for the nights stop over. This would be my last stay in Scotland for the trip. Finally with the rain stopping for the evening, it was nice to just sit by the still edge of the loch and reflect upon the fun this road trip had been thus far.
In the morning I was looking forward to stopping off at probably the best service station in the UK. I had come across Tebay Services southbound on the M6 from a previous road trip to Scotland. It’s a worthwhile destination in itself. Not something you normally say about a motorway service station. Tebay is anything but a normal motorway service station! No fast food outlets, instead a Farm shop selling locally produced food, a Butchery featuring meat reared from their own farms and a Kitchen serving home-made dishes produced daily using local ingredients. It’s a real breath of fresh air in terms of a concept for a ‘service station’. This was my obvious spot for a cracking full English Breakfast to start the day off in style. I also stocked up on some food goodies from their farm shop to take back with me to Hastings. The produce the stock and sell is amazing, all sourced locally from the Cumbria/Lake district area.
After a fantastic breakfast, it was time to push on with the journey back to Hastings. On the long drive back, I started remembering some of the amazing places and locations I had visited or stayed at on the road trip. Like the dramatic Mealt falls on Skye and the epic mountain landscape of the island. I had visited Skye before, so had an idea of what to expect. I had never been to the Outer Hebrides before, so this was going to be breaking new ground for me. I had no real idea of quite what to expect?
In many ways that was good, I had no preconceptions. It just added to the sense of discovery, excitement and adventure to the trip. I loved the varied nature and landscape of the Outer Hebrides. Its ancient heritage and culture were also fascinating, with so much to see and explore just on the Isle of Lewis alone!
My back to basics, off-grid, simple approach to travel and camping gave me plenty of flexibility to explore lots of the main island, plus some of the smaller islands that go to make up the Western Isles collective. I got a fairly decent overview of some of what the islands had to offer, but I’m already looking forward to coming back again. There is still so much more to see and explore.
Getting to see the cool tidal bell Art installation on Great Bernera, plus the amazing Lighthouse on Scalpay were genuine highlights as all round experiences for me. Then of course there was the meeting of various fun people on my travels, along with finding some incredible places to camp and stay overnight. This kind of sums it all up for me.
The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun
― Jon Krakauer, ‘Into the Wild’
Then of course there were the unspoilt beaches. Some of these were genuinely breathtakingly beautiful. To the point I found it hard to believe I was actually there! It just felt unreal. So much of the islands expansive landscape made me feel this way.
Getting around parts of the Outer Hebrides archipelago required ferry journeys to hop between islands. You can book them in advance (or get multi-tickets) but where’s the fun in that? I had a much more fluid approach in regards to dates/time as I was travelling around, so on the most part, this wouldn’t really have worked for me. Rocking up on the day and getting in the ‘hope and see’ lane works out no more expensive. This approach worked well for me, although I appreciate it’s not for everyone! Some times I like to plan things out to the last detail, sometimes I prefer to just freestyle things. I’m a mass of contradictions!
There’s only so much you can see from a car window. Sometimes you just need to get out and go for a walk in the landscape. Not exactly a big hardship, as the scenery is so enticing, and so varied depending upon which island your on at the time.
Crazy but true
Some times you hear of things that, when you first hear of them, sound a bit too crazy to be true. Like landing an aircraft on a beach? How does that even work? Well that’s what I had heard about with Barra Airport. A beach front airport on one of the most southerly Islands of the Outer Hebrides. When the tide goes out, there are multiple options and areas where planes can land and take off from on the white sand beach. Has to be one of the coolest little airports out there! So glad I got to see it in action.
There was the strange experiences of driving through the sea across a cool causeway built between islands. I’ve been on ferries, driven over bridges, but never used a causeway to take a short cut through the sea to get to an island before! Another fun first for me.
Th landscape of the Western Isles varies enormously — north to south, east to west, island to island. From the more gently undulating landscape of the Uists, to the more dramatic mountainous landscape on the Isle of Harris. I loved the wild rugged beauty of the ever changing terrain found on the various islands.
The open expansive nature of the landscape is both inspiring and relaxing. Eventually the mountains disappeared in my rear view mirror. The wildness of the landscape became more subdued and civilised. I will miss the raw and rugged nature of the Hebridean landscape. So many happy memories and experiences on this road trip. I’m really looking forward to coming back again soon…
2300+miles, 13 islands and 6 ferries later…
Finally I’m back in Hastings, parking up where I had originally set off from. My back to basics T4 camper had done me really proud on this road trip. It never missed a beat, and dealt with ease any conditions that came its way. There’s a lot to like about that!
That said, the following day I was out driving my split screen bus. When its a choice between head or heart, the heart wins every time!