Outer Hebrides trip Day 10 - Howmore to Castlebay - 37.21 miles

Another very windy day - and they were, of course, major head winds.  Oh great. Still, on I went.  I got a pretty late start - not sure why, just seemed to be faffing around this morning.  I was aiming for the 1pm ferry across to Barra, so needed to get a move on.

It was tough going already.

Cladh Hallan Round Houses - 1100-200 BC

I stopped at Cladh Hallan Roundhouses and they had some great interpretation panels there (always a good thing).  It is an interesting site as it is the only place in the UK where prehistoric mummies have ever been found.  There were around 6 or 7 houses in the development and in some of the houses were burials - including the mummies.  Some of the mummies are believed to have died centuries (up to 500 years) before finally being buried in these houses.  One of the mummies was actually even made up of 3 different people! Interesting site and really very important.  South Uist is FULL of archaeological sites - many of which are yet to be excavated.  If the money were available, you could keep many archaeologists busy for life. Next I wanted to see the wheelhouse at Cille Pheadair - I did not have a good enough map really.  I was hoping there might be a little sign post to it.  I had looked at a 1:25000 map in the hostel and seen it was down a track in the village.  But, of course, there were many tracks!  It's a shame as it is meant to be very impressive and I had yet to see a wheelhouse.  Oh well - note to self - take detailed maps for looking for this kind of thing!

Inside St. Michael's in Eriskay - note the alter made from a boat

I got down to the causeway to Eriskay and it was obvious I wouldn't make the 1pm ferry - so I stopped for lunch.  The causeway is unusual as it has a bridge half way down - to let whales through!  It felt good to leave the Uists - not because they were unattractive, as they are very pretty in parts - but that wind had hurt me.  I was battered and bruised from the hard work over the last couple of days.  But for now, I had another 3.5 hours to look around Eriskay.  So I ate lunch on a lovely little beach and then set off to have a look around the island.  There is a lovely little church (St. Michaels) with a very interesting alter made of a boat.  It was odd having been in so many churches on the islands and then coming into this one.  Rather than the very plain churches of Lewis and Harris, I was now in Roman Catholic country and this church was full of icons and things to buy.  Pretty little church though.

I went into the pub named after the SS Politician - this is the boat that Whisky Galore (the book and film) is based on.  Basically, the boat ran aground in 1941 and spilt part of it's cargo of many thousands of bottles of whisky.  The locals helped themselves and several of them ended up in jail.  The pub was pretty grim though.

Eriskay beach

Looked around more of the beaches and then headed to the ferry terminal.  There is fresh water and showers at the terminal, so wild camping would be easy on the island.

So the ferry took me away - it's only a 45 minute crossing to Barra, so hardly time to sit down.

I arrived in Barra and immediatly could see I was going to like this island.  It's very rugged indeed and there's not a lot in the middle (big hills), so everything is based around the coast.

I cycled down to Castlebay and checked into the hotel.  I bumped into the german chap again and had a chat with him.  It all seemed fine, but very weird to be in a building again!  I relaxed a while and even watched a bit of the Olympics of TV - first I had seen of it so far!  I then went out to dinner just as the ferry from Oban pulled into port.  On the deck was a huge pipe band playing their bagpipes and drums etc. - I was guessing that this did not happen every time and that they must have been at a competition or whatever - but it was a very moving, marvelous experience to see this ship coming in with the pipe band playing.  Everyone on deck was cheering and clapping when they finished, as were many people in the harbour.  Magic stuff.

I ate at a pub which served really good food - I had my first haggis of the trip!  Felt odd eating out rather than cooking for myself.

After dinner, I wandered around the village.  It's quite an interesting place with good facilities.  There were a few people camping in the bay - it might be associated with the hostel.  I was also led to believe that there was good camping near the airport as well.  It was quite windy and stormy, but I sat and watched a seal bobbing about between the moored boats in the bay.  Very cute.

Read about day 11 here!