The Uists

Name of walk The Uists
Date of walk 2017-06-18

The next leg of our journey was from Barra to the Island of Eriskay then onto South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray. Religion is divided on the Western Isles. Barra and South Uist are Catholic, North Uist and Harris and Lewis are Protestant. We remember from out last visit, 27 years ago, that In the Presbyterian north Sabbatarianism is strong. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and the whole community stops work, shops, pubs and garages all close, and that is generally still the case. So a tourist who is visiting on a Sunday needs to plan ahead. Our second day here would be a Sunday.

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The small ferry from Barra to the small island of Eriskay took 40 minutes. Eriskay has been joined to South Uist by a causeway since 1991. About 150 people live here.

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We head for the harbour. The weather was poor. It was cold and windy and it rained for a lot of the day.

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We take a detour to St. Michael's Church, built in 1903 on high ground.

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Outside the church is a bell from the World War 1 battle cruise 'Derfflinger', the last of the German fleet to be salvaged from Scapa Flow.

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The altar is made from the bow of a lifeboat.

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A few views from outside the church.

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The causeway to South Uist.

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We spend the afternoon at the Kildonan Museum, then make for our hotel, the Orasay Inn at Loch Carnan at the northern end of South Uist. It is Sunday tomorrow so we will stay here for two nights. Their food is excellent.

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On Sunday the weather still feels like October, not June. We head for Howmore, a crofting settlement with thatched cottages. The cottage in the photo is roofted with brown heather, behind it is Howmore Church.

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At the time of the Reformation, Howmore turned to Protestantism, though 95% of the population of South Uist remained Roman Catholic. Howmore Church, built in 1858, is therefore rather unusual; doubly so as it is one of the few churches in Scotland with a central Communion table.

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Nearby the church are the remains of four medieval churches and a burial ground.

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Dugail's Chapel on the left, behind that is St. Mary's. To the right is St. Dermot's and at the back occupying the highest and oldest ground, Clan Ranald Chapel.

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A few more thatched cottages. The stones attached to the thatch around the roof edge makes sure the stuff doesn't blow away in a gale!

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Our Lady of the Isles, by Huw Lorimer was errected in 1957 to guard against any ill effects from the nearby Royal Artillery establishment.

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The view is meant to be good from up here, but not today.

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Today we can't see very far at all.

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We drive over the causeway on to Benbecula and then on to North Uist. We walk up to Bharpa Langass, the best preserved Neolithic chambered cairn in the Outer Hebrides.

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It is built from Lewisian Gneiss rocks. It is one of the few chambers which you can go into and explore.....but not today....there has been a rockfall inside and it has been closed until it can be made safe.

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We head on to Pobull Fhinn, a stone circle which overlooks Loch Langass.

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It comprises of 24 stones. We had parked next to the Langass Lodge. They were actually open on a Sunday for coffee and cake, the owners were English.

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Scolpaig Tower. Griminish Point was to have been our next destination as it is the closest landfall to St. Kilda. Visibity was poor so we continued on.

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Views across the sands at the north end of North Uist. The strange light brought out the colours in the bay.

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We crossed over the causeway on to the Island of Berneray, population 140. The causeway opened in 1999.

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Little glimpses of sunlight through the heavy cloud has a dramatic effect on the sea colours. We take a walk on the beach

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More thatched cottages.

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We stop in the main village and sit on a rocky outcrop.

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We watch the seals, they are Common Seals, Grey Seals have longer snouts.

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I'm being watched.

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We head for Lochmaddy.

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Then we drive back towards Benbecula.

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Sheep on the causeway.

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The cloud is now lifting, so some of the scenery can be seen.

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View from our hotel's car park. It is situated in a peat bog in the middle of nowhere. The hotel is also a croft and it has its own Highland Cattle. The other guests are walkers, cyclists and bird watchers. The Uists are a good place to see owls. I saw three tawny owls in all, hunting in daylight by the side of the road, not 10m away.

A shame that the weather, and more importantly, the visibility, was pretty rubbish for most of our visit. Hoping for something better on Harris and Lewis.

Jo.

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