Friday, August 26, 2016

Tour d'Ecosse Day 4 Oban to Outer Hebrides Barra and Vatersay Tuesday 5th July 2016

Day 4 Oban to Outer Hebrides Vatersay 19km 200m ascent
Cumulative 241km 2978m ascent Ferries 6 Islands 5
Seafood Sharing Platter for 2 just £14.95
Today is officially our one and only total rest day. Put another way, we don't have to cycle if we don't want to. We could walk down to the ferry terminal, but it's quicker and easier to ride.

Breakfast at Greystones was excellent, and given this was our smartest (and most expensive night at £120) I was pleased with my planning that we didn't have to rush off this morning as the one and only ferry to the Outer Hebrides was not until 2pm. I managed not to plan the weather very well. We opted to wear civvies today so we didn't have to spend 6 hours on a ferry in lycra. Our one set of dry evening clothes. The heavens opened as we left at 10. We padlocked our bikes up on the pier, one of only two occasions where the heavy padlock I lugged about was used, but both times essential.

We walked up to Tescos for boat snacks and dinner for the hostel later.Pork pies, grapes and cous cous salad, that type of thing! I went in a yarn shop but it was as dull as could be but the fabric selection was quite good. you don't buy much on holiday when you're lugging it about! Then we retired to 'Spoons on the pier to steam with a coffee and dry out a bit.

The plan was an early lunch at the Oban Seafood Hut on the pier. The number one place to eat in Oban, bar none. Oban is the wettest place, this place is always heaving. There are two bench tables under two umbrellas..oops, I mean parasols. There is also a tap for washing hands. The Hut is famous for winning a court case "Court victory for Oban seafood stall owner who saw red over competitor's green shack" The Hut is famous all over the world for it's colour via Trip Advisor reviews, so the competitor had to repaint his hut red again! Colour is a part of your business signature.

A large Seafood Platter for two was £14.95. There were deluxe platters and also simpler dishes for one, like scallops. No chips, no booze, no salad,  just a slice of brown bread and a can of chilled coke and dipping sauce/mayo. So fresh you could not smell any fishy smells around the hut. Service is outstanding, our order arrived as we wiped a bench dry and sat down, the rain had abated. It was all delicious. The only improvement would be a tin bucket to sling the shells in. If you love shellfish eat here, not advised if you don't. That "pipe thing" bottom right is squid, one friend said he would pay £14.95 to not eat that when I posted the pic on Facebook.

Oban Seafood Hut
After our delicious and very healthy lunch we took our place in the ferry queue in plenty of time. The big ferries need you to be queuing, even as a foot passenger, an hour before as they stack up all the bikes and canoes and then load the cars and freight. A few more than a dozen cars on Ferry#6 Oban to Castlebay, which takes 5 hours. We purchased our second CalMac Hopscotch ticket, it was Hopscotch 8 Barra Uist Harris and Lewis and covered the four ferries we would be using to and from and between the Outer Hebrides in the next 4 days. £29.90 each including bikes. Bargain.
CalMac's MV Isle of Lewis tied up in Oban
Waiting for the ferry in Oban
Adieu (or more appropriately Tioraidh) Oban - We will be back!
Ferry Knitting
Southern Outer Hebrides
Coming in to Castlebay on Barra
Castlebay looked very Norwegian in style to us
Castlebay Harbour
Our ferry snugly tied up for the night, view from Dunard hostel
The sky cleared during the afternoon and the sun was unashamedly shining, we rocked into Castlebay, the harbour, scattering of houses and the church reminded us of Norwegian villages. Our bed for the night was at Dunard Hostel and Lodge, an energetic (not!) 400m  peddle from the ferry. We had a twin bedroom in the lodge, bedding and towels included. Hostels are quite smart these days, you don't have to bunk down with strangers, it's only £5 more a night to have your own room, if travelling as a couple, at most hostels. £42 not including breakfast. We were very glad we had a reservation as hoards were being turned away at the door. It must be quite nice to know exactly when the majority of your guests are going to arrive as there is only one ferry a day.

We docked around 6.30 and by 7.30 we had dumped our panniers, pulled on lycra to go and explore Vartersay, the start of the Hebridean Way , shamelessly adding another island tick to our journey. Unfortunately there isn't a road all the way round, just out and back on our roadies. A heck of a steep pull up and  descended to the causeway.
I admit I just cycled with my mouth open, jaw droppingly gorgeous and exactly why we have come here for our holiday.
Barra and Vatersay's modern war memorial to honour the fallen in WWI and II
The war memorial is a three-sided pillar at Nask/Nasg overlooking Castlebay/Bagh a Chaisteal commemorating those from Barra/Barraigh and Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh who did not return from WW1 [71 total] and WW2 [44 total]. The English and Gaelic names, their service, and their township are listed, Poignant reading the names of those you don't know but imagining yourself in their boots so far away from such a quiet and tranquil homeland. The monument was designed by Dugald Cameron and dedicated on 11 November 1993.
Pretty much tourist brochure weather on Vatersay
Long shadows at 8.30pm but a long way off dusk!
This is the life
We returned to the hostel, propped our bikes up round the back and had a shower. Dinner was pork pies, cheese, grapes and fruit cake! We spent a lovely couple of hours chatting with 3 others in the lovely kitchen/living area with stunning view, all of them doing different and interesting things, interestingly all about our age, no young things to be spotted! Tomorrow is due to be a long day.

Touring Tips in Scotland

1 Utilise every sunny minute you get, even if it is a rest day, they may not last until tomorrow!

2 Plan carefully for accommodation and food when arriving in remote places at the same time as everyone else.

3 Chat to fellow travellers.

Tour d'Ecosse quick links:

Day 1 Isle of Arran and a little Mull of Kintyre
Day 2 Inner Hebrides: Isles of Islay and Jura
Day 3 Inner Hebrides: Isle of Jura-Tayvallich to Oban
Day 4 Oban to Outer Hebrides: Barra and Vatersay
Day 5 Outer Hebrides: Isles of Barra Eriskay South Uist Benbecula Grimsay North Uist Beneray and Harris
Day 6 Outer Hebrides: Isles of Harris and Lewis to Callanish Stones
Day 7 Outer Hebrides: Butt of Ness to Stornoway and Ullapool
Day 8 Ullapool to Gairloch
Day 9 Gairloch to Shieldaig - Applecross Peninsula
Day 10 Bealach na Bà from Applecross to Plockton
Day 11 Plockton to Inner Hebrides: Isle of Skye Armadale
Day 12 Inner Hebrides: Isle of Skye Armadale to Ardnamurchan
Day 13 Ardnamurchan to Inner Hebrides: Isle of Mull to Oban to Loch Melfort
Day 14 Loch Melfort to Tarbert, Loch Fyne
Day 15 Tarbert Loch Fyne to Ardrossan THE END!

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