Monday, June 16, 2008

Thursday May 1st - South Harris and Berneray

It rained most of the night and early in the morning, and there had been a bit of sunshine since then, but the weather seemed a bit unsure about what it wanted to do. I chose a sunny moment to say my goodbyes to Laura and Jack, and head off through South Harris.

Luskentyre beachThe first six or seven miles were desolate, grassy and rocky. The map pointed out "South Harris Forest" to the north, but there wasn't a tree in sight.

The road looped inland and emerged on the coast again at Luskentyre Beach, a vast expanse of fine white sand and quite a jaw-dropping sight as it first came into view between the bare hillsides.

Beaches were the theme of the day after that, from the stunning clear turquoise sea at Seilebost through tiny rocky bays at Horgabost and Borve, to Scarista which is overlooked by a golf course. Thankfully the hills were a little kinder around there, although there was quite a big climb as the road changed direction south towards Leverburgh.

InletIt had turned into a sunny day and I rode north onto Berneray, which was so lovely and peaceful, the sun was out, nobody was around and seals were basking on the rocks.

I made my way to Baile for the Gatliff hostel, following the tiny "Hostel" signs until the road turned into a field of sheep and I wondered whether I'd come to the right place. Several stone buildings stood in various states of repair and disrepair, with builders working on some of them. The builders said I should just pitch up and wait for the warden to come round later.

I found a nice flat spot by the shore, full of sheep who soon scattered when it became apparent I was there to stay. The nearest building was a derelict stone cottage with a grass roof but no roof-goats.

It was a couple of miles ride back down the road to the nearest phone box as I couldn't get a mobile signal (Apparently not all networks are created equal, and on the Outer Hebrides most of them are greater than mine) I'd had quite a lovely day so for once was able to sound a bit more jolly on the phone to dgym.

But where are the roof goats? There were two others guests at the hostel. I was quite excited to see Mike's trike as it was exactly like dgym's and you don't see those too often. Mike was a Hebridean resident, living on Lewis and quite regularly cycling up and down the islands.

71-year-old Dave was not on a bike but a cycling enthusiast nonetheless. He had cycled in 84 out of the 86 counties, and firmly believed that riding a bicycle is the most fun that can possibly be had. He told us about a 1950's Claude Butler at home in need of repair. It sounded like a lovely bike and I told him he really should take it to a bike shop to get it fixed up.

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