Here is the thing. I know my body is too done in to tackle the Trotternish Ridge and Storr en route to Uig.
   The bugger of it is that I could do it in the time, which is a full day today and half a day tomorrow before catching the bus back to Fort William in the early afternoon. But it doesn’t break up like that. Half a day today to walk up to the Storr by road, bus back and full day tomorrow, fine. But trying to get to Uig via the Storr by 2.00 tomorrow, even taking a bus up to it first, would be conker bloody bonkers.
  So if I am going to get to Uig today, it is going to be a road trudge. And as half of yesterday was a road trudge that is far from appealing.
But here is the other thing. There is a ferry at 2.00 pm to Tarbert. If I can get to Tarbert before 2.00 I can catch the ferry and nip over to Harris to stay with my friends Tracey and Flossy, rather than spend another night in a hostel in Portree or Uig. Then catch the morning ferry back to hook up with my bus, and then my sleeper train.



Last night I went through all the options and this plan emerged. I phoned Tracey and let her know I might be coming over, would be so long as I caught the ferry. 


And that is why I am up at about 5.30. Quick cup of tea and bite of breakfast and I am out of the hostel before anyone is awake.
It is another gorgeous morning, but different because it is so much earlier and so it is still cool. I even start out wearing a fleece. The bag is not exactly light but at least I have now chomped through enough of my mountain of breakfast bars to make a difference, even if I still have all the redundant waterproofs.


It is so early that hardly anyone is up except some rabbits that I pass on my way out of town.
But one or two early vehicles pass me as I take the Uig road and head out past the big co-op and some industrial buildings to the edge of town.










And quiet is how I like it on the road. I pass a squished hedgehog that reminds me of the dangers of traffic. There are a few more cars now, mostly coming into town. I guess that there will be a mini rush hour before long.

I pass Borve, the first village outside Portree. And then the turn off to Dunvegan.
   And then I get a bonus. Another old road left off to the side of the new and faster version.
This one is great. Not just because it takes me off the main road and because it is pleasantly overgrown with bushes, sallow in particular, but because it is absolutely alive with bird activity.

Willow warblers dominate again, but I see something up ahead and get my bins out, there is a lark in front of me on the pathway.

I remember all the larks in the high pennines when there was almost no other sign of animal life. That seems a long time ago and I suppose it was nearly a year. But it does not actually feel that far away.

I really enjoy this stretch. I think it is a scandal that no one has had the wit to turn the old road into a cycle track and walkway, but there is a zone between the old road and the new and to the far side of the old road that has just been left and this has turned itself into a linear nature reserve.


I suppose that there might be some management. A plan even, but I don’t see any sign of any work to encourage the wildlife. The wildlife seems to have just helped itself and it is lovely walking.



Naturally it comes to an end and I have to scramble off but there are no problems like the ones I had in the jungle beyond Broadford.




A Truck speeds by, Mackaskills of Stornoway. Not the first time I have seen the name of my ultimate destination on this walk but close. I saw another truck this morning but was not quick enough to take a photo.
It makes me feel that I am really getting close now.





Even now I am on the road the birdlife is active. A couple of goldfinches watch me go by and then I see a pale raptor




At first I cannot work out what it is but though it flies away it settles a little further down the road and I decide it must be a buzzard, albeit a very pale one.


It flies down road of me a couple more times before getting bored of the game and disappearing as the road descends towards Kensaleyre.
I get a bit more old road as a bonus and that takes me to a pavement. As road walks go this is turning out to be a good one.

Past Romesdal and a bit of old road (by the looks of it) has been turned into a farm track. I take the chance to leave the road once more, ready for a break though it takes a while to find a spot not turned to dried mud by the cattle and sheep in the field.
When I do stop I hear a rustle and see a flash of snake or slow worm but am too slow to see what it actually is.
Further on there is a track back to the road but also a continuation. However the way is barred by what looks like an electric fence. I don’t think it is on but don’t really want to try it so I slither underneath it (there is a big gap)

Back on the road I crest a rise and the view opens up before me. Not just this part of Skye but the Minch and beyond, it blue, indistinct hills.
But indistinct as they are I can still recognise the shape of The Clisham, biggest mountain on Harris and an old friend.
Looking back, I can still make out the Cuillin. Looking forward, I can see the Clisham, Toddun and the hills of Harris. What a great day to be here.

Another old road loop looks promising and I take a break on an old bridge. But the promise is a false one and I have to back track to the road.
Time is getting on. I should have two hours to spare having started so early but these rest breaks have added up. I need to get a move on if I am going to avoid a race to catch the ferry. And this is definitely strolling not racing weather.

To my surprise I can hear a siren. Can that be right? Out here? But, yes. It gets louder and an ambulance appears, speeding by and still blaring though there is no other traffic to be seen.
Ahead there are some road works. A young guy is controlling the stop go signal. As I approach I see a car come from Uig direction and stop. There is no other traffic but the kid does not change the sign to let the car through. What is going on? One car in sight on the whole road and he does not let it through.
Then, suddenly, he starts, at last sees the car, and turns the sign to go. I guess he was dozing. That or he is not the most observant.                           

 I say hello as I pass but Mr Observant does not acknowledge my existence. I wonder if he noticed me?
I have a rise now but when it is gained the walk is pleasant. There is very little traffic now at all. The fields are vivid green, the sea and sky appropriately blue and for a long spell there are no houses in sight.
So I am on the look out for Earlish, the last village before Uig. And when I see it there is a surprise. Because I can also see Creagile, the distinctive headland west of Uig itself. And it looks very near.
And it is near. I am barely out of Earlish when I see the familiar view of Uig and its bay. All the scene needs is the ferry to complete it but, of course, I am glad there is no ferry there because that would mean that I was too late.
And though I feel I have arrived, in fact I have a couple of miles still to the Ferry.

Fortunately I have time for another break by the Youth Hostel and I phone Tracey to let her know I am in good time for the ferry.
And then stroll down the hill.


There is a bank of gorse above the church and other buildings that looks amazing. Gorse flowers pretty much all year round but this sunny spring seems to have made it explode into bloom. I don’t remember ever seeing anything quite like it.

But I don’t pass directly below it. The map is no use but I remember from a previous visit that there is a Woodland Trust wood here with a path through it and, since I am in no rush, I go that way.

It is every bit as delightful as I remembered. Fresh green foliage, pink campion and bluebells. Then, to complete the palate a burst of gold marsh marigolds in a dank pool.
My excess time is draining so I don’t dawdle. I take a new path, less lovely than the one I have been on but obviously put in to make the woods more accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. This takes me to a side road and then back onto the main drag.

My feet are a bit sore and the pavement irritates me because it is rough and uneven. Why is the pavement worse than the road? In fact I take to walking in the road as it is such a better surface.


But anyway, it takes me to the ferry terminal where I buy my ticket. I consider the cafe and bar but there is not that much time. Indeed the ferry is coming into the bay so I go directly up the pier and watch it dock.
Then I get on and get myself some horrible Macbraynes food as soon as the cafe opens.











































Uig to Tarbert

I had intended to make this its own leg with its own blog page. Mostly because I had thought I would probably not walk the day I made the crossing. But as I made the crossing on the same day as walking from Portree to Uig I have stuck in here as a sort of appendix.
There are those who are of the opinion that to say I walked to Stornoway, I should really walk around the boat in circles for the duration of the crossing.

To those people I have one thing to say and that is “Bollocks!” I reckon I have earned the right to one free leg. Hey, I turned down two unasked for lifts on the Loch Hourn road and one at Kyle Rhea. I have walked my legs to bloody stumps that only come down to just below the knee know. Honest!


And I still have a bit of Harris and a lot of Lewis to go. So I am going to enjoy this trip sitting down for the most part.
For the most part. But it is a gorgeous day. Too gorgeous to spend all the crossing in the observation lounge or cafe.

Mind you, finding the way to the deck is far from easy. It turns out that there is only one way on this boat and that is cunningly disguised as the only sign on it say “to designated smoking area.”
An unexpected consequence of the smoking restrictions that. What used to be called “outside” is now “the designated smoking area.”

Anyway, eventually I find the designated smoking area. There are clumps of lepers, murdering themselves, here and there and lots of people sitting at the back like people in a Giles cartoon determinedly enjoying the seaside in a hurricane.  http://www.gilescartoons.co.uk/cartoon.asp?cartoon=88

It is quite breezy. And the breeze is cold. Not a word I am used to typing any more. So I don’t stay out that long. Just enough to scour the seas without success for puffins, and to spare the poor lepers a glob or two of pity (the Giles cartoon people are beyond help).
And I return to my lovely comfortable seat and read the last bit of The Blind Watchmaker by Dawkins.





But soon enough Scalpay is looming and the Bays of Harris getting closer on the other side. Search for and eventually find the designated smoking area again and take a couple of photos of Laxdale.

It is not much more than a gap in the hills but that is my next leg so I wanted to get a photo. Then it is time to go to the other side of the boat and look out for Tracey and Flossie’s house.










As usual, the workshop (up on the hill behind the house) shows first but so does the red house, their renovation project which, when finished, will be a luxurious little holiday cottage (The photo is not from the ferry)
This is blinding white with a red corrugated roof and very visble.

The ferry slips into Tarbert and, there being few foot passengers I am soon off. I am not sure if Flossie is coming to get me as Tracey was unsure so I hover for a bit as the boat is early.

It is not far to walk, but it is not on my walking route and I have had quite enough of walking to want to avoid any that is unnecessary. So I go and ask the tourist information lady about buses.
There are two at four, she tells me, one going one way round South Harris, the other the other way. It makes little difference as the road I want is just outside Tarbert and they both go past the it.
So I decided to wait and go and get an expensive but beautiful cappuccino from the Fresh Fruit cafe.
At five to four I go over to the Bays bus for no better reason than it is smaller and tell the driver where it is I want to go.
“You see that bus,” he says, indicating another small waiting bus, “he goes down that road.”
I did not know any buses went down the side road but I am not arguing so I wander over to it.
“Yes, I go there” the driver says, “are you going to the B and B?”
“No,” I tell him, “I am going to Tracey and Flossie’s.”
“Oh, aye,” he says, “I am just going to pick up their kids. No, tell a lie. I am just going to pick up Sam because Molly has swimming.”
And so we drive down to the school to pick up Sam and two other boys and off up the road.



Which is how it comes to be that I am sitting looking at the seals that swim in Ob Likisto, the lovely lagoon in front of Tracey’s house, drinking cool white wine in, still hot, evening sunshine.



Having walked all the way here from Junction Road in North London.

2 comments:

  1. JaneGS said...

    You earned that glass of cool white wine...and rest breaks can add up. Everytime I read your blog, I want to do a similar walk. I love the descriptions of the views, the wildlife, and Mr. Observant :)  

  2. Trevo said...

    Hi Spencer. Paul told me of your blog. I once bought pants in the Gaelic Pakistani store just up from the harbour. To Whit the banks of Tarbert. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world that I've seen. Archway on the other hand..... Keep on truckin' Trevor.  


 

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