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Outer Hebrides

by

Rob Jenkins

Outer Hebrides 2016

Imagine my excitement to read on the events page of the forum an island hopping three wheeler road trip around the Outer Hebrides!

Spaces were limited in order to stay as a single group with all the ferry crossings. Colin, Tom, & myself in Pembletons, Bert in his Lomax, Ian in the Barlow Special and Bill in Crozier III making six in total, seven if you include Jock riding shotgun with Colin. As the only non Scottish participant my journey started the day before everybody else with a 350 mile drive up to Colin's house in Coupar Angus albeit by van with my trusty Pembleton on a trailer.

Outer Hebrides 2016

Bert arrived at Colin's and we hooked up with Tom & Ian near Aberfeldy, continuing over fantastic roads alongside Loch Tay at which point we had our first breakdown in the form of Tom's rear suspension collapsing! Still driveable he made it to an Engineers yard where hasty repairs were started.

In the meantime the rest of us carried on to meet Bill by the Green Welly Bikers Cafe at Tyndrum. As we were now behind schedule the pace was stepped up a little to ensure our places on the Oban to Barra ferry. Unfortunately Tom's emergency repairs did not hold & he made the decision to stay in Oban overnight whilst having a more effective repair carried out.

Outer Hebrides 2016
Outer Hebrides 2016

The ferry to Barra was like crossing a mill pool; it's hard to imagine the water so calm in such a dramatic corner of the country! We landed in Castlebay late afternoon with a short drive to our luxury stay for the night in a field alongside a cow shed. To be fair the camping was fantastic, we were pitched less than 100 feet from the shoreline & with the amazing sunset a feeling of being on a desert island was felt by all.

Outer Hebrides 2016

Tuesday morning, packed up camp ready to explore Barra and true to form adventure was found 5 minutes into our day, I managed to put my passenger side front wheel into a grass covered gully, thankfully Bill came to the rescue with his trusty tow bar & tow rope. No damage other than dented pride but within 30 minutes Bill himself broke down with an oil leak caused by his breather box going AWOL. This was promptly solved with creative use of a folded cloth over the engine breather pipe.

Outer Hebrides 2016

Stopping for lunch at Barra airport allowed us to view planes taking off & landing on the white sand beach. A whistle stop tour of Vatersay and on to the ferry for Eriskay. There is a causeway over to South Uist where we met up with Tom who had travelled from the north on in order to rejoin us.

Wherever you are in the isles there is a soundtrack of island bird calls such as Oyster catchers, Plovers and Lapwings and the elusive Cuckoo make this a very special place to spend time relaxing and contemplating life.

Outer Hebrides 2016

The best camping was on the Wednesday night at Horgaboost on South Harris; the pitch was along the most glorious section of beach with white sands and clear water, more like the Caribbean than Scottish Isles! With the weather so hot we were all now showing signs of peeling noses and foreheads, hard to imagine given our location.

The landscape varies so much across the Isles, from rolling hills to rocky moonscapes all with very well maintained tarmac roads most of which are single track with passing places. The roads are generally very quiet, Locals pull over and wave, coaches full of tourists wave and take pictures as we pass in convoy, a feeling of celebrity status was growing on us all.

Outer Hebrides 2016
Outer Hebrides 2016

Thursday was the day for ancient and local history with visits to Callanish Standing Stones and the black house village, a living museum of traditional crofter's cottages. Our final night in the Isles was a remote bay nestled on the west of Lewis, the place was hard to find and several wrong turns were made including one to a very creepy deserted military complex, we couldn't get out of there quick enough!

Outer Hebrides 2016

Friday morning started with terminal engine failure of Colin's car and once again Bill came to the rescue as recovery tow truck complete with novelty flashing light. Luckily Stornoway was only a short distance away so whilst they made a slow journey to the ferry the rest of us drove to the butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the Hebrides, tea and cake in the only cafe there and we were also on our way to the ferry.

Once back on the mainland Colin's car was deposited in Ullapool with a family member of Tom's and our journey continued with Colin and Jock as Tom's passengers.

The last night of the tour was celebrated with a hasty pitch of tents and a fantastic meal at Crofters Bistro in Fortrose which I would highly recommend if you are passing.

Saturday did not disappoint in spite of wet weather. Bill headed south towards home and the rest of us embarked on a magical mystery tour of the Highlands including the Cairnwell Pass, the highest road in Scotland.

Quite an adventure, covering over 500 miles and made perfect with excellent company and fine whiskey. The crossings were all great although a little frustrating for the ticket collectors on seeing our "motorcycles" as space is limited on each ferry.

A massive thank you to Colin and Tom for planning such an inspired trip, Bill for being the man who can, Bert and Ian for all the banter and Jock for keeping Colin on a lead for 6 days.

If you fancy a trip to the Scottish Isles I would highly recommend it and while you are there keep an eye out for Bill's breather box, it's there somewhere!

Cheers,

Rob


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