A Holiday in the Hebrides (22 June - 30 June 2001)

Friday 22 June 2001

Our holiday really started with the dropping off of Jixy the dog with his Granny. He was pleased to see her - so pleased he widdled down Estelle's arm. After a cup of coffee and copious instructions and reassurances, we were able to leave the dog and set off at about 1 p.m.

We followed the usual route, M60, M61, M6 A74 M74 - all the way up to Glasgow. Estelle had decided that if we could, the quickest way to get through would be to pass through Central Glasgow - her map reading (and intuition skills) helping us to get through quickly, and avoid the worst trouble on the M8 motorway through Glasgow. We headed out over the Erskine Bridge, past Loch Lomond, Inverary, Loch Awe and on to Oban - arriving at about 18.40.

The trip had been quite pleasant, with temperatures reaching 22 in Glasgow. We checked into the Sutherland Hotel, the same place we had stayed at with the kids 2 years before - a room right at the top (what a long way to carry bags!) - and we were sad enough to watch Emmerdale before we went out. We had to call Granny to check if Jixy was OK, though. We had a walk down the front, again reminded of how much we liked Oban, and stopped for a drink a the Oban Inn (2 actually).

After that, we went off to see if we could find a sea food restaurant that we liked the look of. We found it, and were able to get a table. The service was awful. But the food, chowder and 2 large chilli crabs for Estelle, and trio of smoked fish and John Dory with chive mash (and Caesar salad) for Steve was very good. A G&T, and a nice bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc went down well (as did the blue cheese and peanut brulee (for Estelle).

The views in the restaurant were wonderful - and it was really impressive being able to watch the sun setting. We managed to waddle back to the hotel - still pretty light at 10.45 - and went to sleep early.

Saturday 23 June 2001

Woke about 7.30, no dog to call us today. Quite bright outside. Had drinks, showers and phoned Granny for an update on the child before breakfast. Estelle had porridge followed by a splendid kipper. Steve had porridge followed by full breakfast, one egg, one bacon, one sausage and half a tomato. Back to the room for a tidy up and check out.

Walked down into Oban stopping to check the price of Oban malt at every outlet. Eventually managed to buy at the standard price but with 2 free glasses thrown in. Looked in all the outdoor shops. Estelle bought Steve a monocular for his wedding anniversary pressie and Steve bought Estelle some new sunglasses.

We walked around the harbour and could not resist the stall selling fresh seafood. Indulged in a prawn sandwich and a coffee for lunch which we ate sitting on the harbour wall. What would Jixy have made of the enormous gulls which surrounded us? Time for another wander round the shops and back to the car to sort out bags etc Forgot to mention we had also bought a little kettle and an extra gas cylinder for our picnics!

We filled up with petrol before setting off to the ferry terminal. Arrived about 1.30. Steve went to get some playing cards whilst Estelle waited in the car. The ferry arrived and we were efficiently boarded. Very nice and clean CalMac ferry. Spent the journey in the observation lounge so that we could admire the views but most of the way to Barra it was too misty to see anything. Had a couple of trips round the deck and round the ferry. Enjoyed a pleasant meal in the cafe, chicken curry and chips for Estelle and steak pie and chips for Steve, very nice. Went on deck to watch mooring up in Barra and some passengers left and some new passengers joined us. That was at 7.30pm and the sun had just come out. It was really quite sunny and we were due in Lochboisdale in about an hour.

We had a further walk round on deck having decided that we might as well carry our bags with us. With the sun still shining, we approached South Uist. This gave us time for a couple of photos, and then we got the instruction to return to our cars.

It did not take long before we were winding our way from Lochboisdale looking for Lochside Cottage where we were to stay for the night. We soon found it and were welcomed by Mrs Macdonald who showed us to our ground floor room, unfortunately with bathroom next door, but quite a pleasant room. She invited us into the lounge for tea and biscuits and to meet Trevor, the other guest, who came originally from Stockport but now owns a shop just outside Stranraer. Strange man, but pleasant enough. Mrs M told us she had lived here all her life and liked it very much. Her husband came from Benbecula, the land of the gods he said, and her children were in Vancouver and Las Palmas.

We decided to go for a walk whilst it was still light, 10pm. Quick call to check on Jixy pup and a stroll along the lane to the Borrodale Hotel admiring the scenery and a curlew along the way. We had a swift drink and listened to the singer greet us with his rendition of Danny Boy plus others. We walked back quite quickly, amazed that it was 11.30pm and Steve could still just about read his paper. At the front door, we were greeted by MrM and dog Curly. After a quick chat we went to bed and slept well until 7.30am

Sunday 24 June

Full breakfasts were very nicely prepared and served and a chat with Trevor before departing. Mrs M had suggested a visit to Eriskay so we decided to start our trip round South Uist there. We set off and noticed that few roads were in fact signposted so we more or less had to guess where to go, travelling down some roads more than once it has to be said.

The scenery was quite breathtaking, lots of little lochs, hills, meadows full of all sorts of wild flowers, quite a lot of sheep and even some cows. Heard a corn crake in a field which was impressive. Stopped at the site of the old ferry, some poor ferryman has lost his living as a result of the new causeway but it was impressive nevertheless. We drove over onto Eriskay which was like a huge bird sanctuary, birds of all sorts wading in the lochs ad skimming the water. The white beaches were amazing so we decided we just had to get down to one for a walk. We both paddled in the sea, picking up shells and looking at what appeared to be a mine. Only saw a couple of people, including Trevor who stopped for a chat.

Steve spotted a seal swimming just off the beach. It then sat on some rocks. We both had a closer look at it through the monocular and then noticed that it had a small pup with it. We were very pleased that Steve had the monocular so that we could see it quite clearly. Back to the car to make a coffee, which was enjoyed with a local collie dog that came to make friends.

As time was moving on, we decided to head back to South Uist along the causeway. We headed up the West Coast to look for Ormiclaite castle, but we were unable to find it! We did however find a nice cove where we stopped for lunch (salads etc from Barbakan). When we had stopped, there was almost no one to see. At the end of lunch, we must have seen 10 people! Rather than having a snooze, we went for a walk, along the machair/jetty with sea on one side and lochans on the other. Again, there were loads of birds wheeling about - sounding distressed about us walking there.

The time was about 3.30, so we decided to go back to the craft museum (mostly to use their loos). We got there - now the car park was nearly full - we admired some black and white photos of Uist The craft centre had about 5 ladies spinning wool in it. We though there was a notable lack of Gaelic accents amongst the spinners - seemed to be all posy incomers. We went on our way - and headed up towards Benbecula. The road went straight all the way to the causeway - a pleasant drive - including sunshine, brown Hebridean sheep, blue sky and lots of bird song.

We saw more varieties of birds today than we would normally see in a week.

As time was pressing us, we decided to look at only a couple of things on Benbecula - we stopped at Stinky Cove (properly called the place of the masts in Gaelic - but called stinky because of the rotting seaweed, we guessed. A nice walk to the jetty in the sun, and a 40-minute snooze on return to the car. Estelle snored a lot.

We set off northwards again, and went past a village called Balivanich - which had lots of council type houses (where most of the people support the military bases), we then crossed to Grimsay, and then on to North Uist. The roads on North Uist seemed both wider and faster, so we headed onwards. Around 6 pm we though it would be good to find a sleepingbase - and as we were at Lochmaddy we decided to stay at the hotel - a bit pricier than previous nights accommodation but it had a bar and restaurant and was open - most places were closed as it was Sunday and we had already been advised that B&B landladies don't like guests arriving or leaving on Sundays on the islands.

We got in, showered, and changed, and went for a couple of drinks in the bar. We ate our bar meal, scampi and chips for Estelle and chops and chips for Steve (lamb, of course). After that, we went for a healthy walk, down to the local harbour - admiring a diving support boat, and the raised jetty. The water while very clear looked cold so Estelle decided not to go for a paddle. We went down to the arts centre, shut till morning, and then followed a path to look at some large sculptures - one of a mackerel, and one of a salt cake?

Unfortunately the path we followed, petered out some 20 feet above the waves. We backtracked and made our way back to the hotel for coffee and Oban whisky in our room. We also did some washing up and updated our diary.

Before we'd had our meal, we had decided on our route for tomorrow. Over the meal we chatted further and decided we would keep to timings for the ferries, but would try and sort out somewhere on North Lewis for Monday and Harris for Tuesday - we'd like to see The Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Stornaway and then standing stones. Steve wants to see the pink beach... We'll see how we do tomorrow.

Monday 25 June 2001

Morning in the Lochmaddy hotel. We were both a bit tired, and could have gone back to sleep, when the alarm went off, but with the high room price, we decided to get our money's worth for breakfast. We went down, found a table and grabbed some OJ; the waitress came to check what we'd have. Estelle chose kippers, and I sort of waved airily at the menu and said "most of that". She said she put a variety on the plate. I had prunes and yoghurt, while Estelle started with Withabix. Coffee was freshly made, and my tea was OK (didn't like the milk, tho')

Two enormous kippers arrived for Estelle. I think rather surprising her. I got 2 poached eggs, two sausages, 2 rashers of bacon, black pudding, haggis pudding and fruit pudding and tomatoes. I was very disappointed not to get beans and mushrooms (not).

After brek, I had to go for a walk outside (I didn't think I'd make it up the stairs) and looked round a bit. I went back upstairs in time to pretend I was helping with packing. Teeth cleaned and luggage packed up we checked out. We went to book accommodation for tonight at the tourist office and bought postcards and some other stuff (t-towels). We wandered out - into the sharp breeze to watch the ferry coming in from Uig (on Skye); very fine manoeuvring to get it in - inched to the side then forward to drop the ramp - which articulated itself open very cleverly.

We then went to the museum and arts centre - which gets funding from all sorts of organisations. The Norse house and history part was quite interesting, but the 2 galleries - one showing pictures and one showing hand made paper sculptures wee a bit too lovey for words. These bits of effectively papier- mâché were going for £300-£750. Bizarre. We nipped to the loo so as to not waste the opportunity and then set off. The winding roads led us quickly to Otternish, from where the Leverburgh ferry leaves for Harris. Too quickly in fact, so we had time to go to Berneray Island (where HRH Prince Charles had a crofting holiday) We saw some interesting houses, and stopped at the top of the island to admire the turf thatched youth hostel. We had a thermos coffee there, and then drove back to the little terminal. There were quite a few cars there, and a couple of sizeable wagons, and we were both a bit nervous that we wouldn't get on, particularly when we saw how small the ferry was. There was nowhere to check in so we thought we'd have to wait and see. The ticket man was walking up and seeing I had tickets he came to us - then looked at the car and said "Ellwood?". We admitted it, and he told us to board straightaway - so we drove in front of about eight of the cars. We went up to the open upstairs observation/passenger deck and watched the loading conclude. We think they got them all on. They set off closing the ramp as they went.

We stood on top deck for a while as we sailed out admiring the view, but it was very very windy so we decided to go below deck. A very small passenger lounge indeed with only a coffee machine on offer, which we decided to ignore. Estelle snoozed a little whilst Steve read all the posters, signs, instructions, leaflets etc etc. After an hour or so, we started to moor at Leverburgh. We could see that Harris was quite mountainous compared to the Uists.

We disembarked and called at the little grocers for some provisions. We decided to head up along the West Coast to see some of the beaches and to find a site for our picnic lunch. The roads were mostly single track, narrow and windy as we climbed up and down the mountains. We could see miles of white sandy beaches but it was difficult to get down to them or find somewhere to park. We found a parking spot and Steve went to investigate, he managed to get down to the beach but Estelle bottled it so we drove on a little further to the next beach. There was a coach parked in the lay-by but all the passengers were making their way back up the rocks so we decided to give it a go. Armed with gas stove, pan, plastic bowls and soup, Steve made his way down the rocks followed by Estelle carrying travel rugs etc.

Steve cooked soup on the little gas ring in a little cove surrounded by rocks for shelter as it was very windy and was raining a little. We ate our chicken and tarragon soup with bread rolls and a bridie (pasty) Estelle washed the bowls, pan etc in a very deep rock pool and then decided to go for a paddle. The water was ffffreezing cold but very clear and the sands were so white. We the made our way back to the car as it was already 4pm.

We drove along the West Coast still admiring the mountains and white beaches. We drove to Ludervisk beach was really enormous and pinky in colour, it is inhabited by many sea birds due to the richness of the sand, soil and vegetation. Again we saw some crofters cottages and a couple of blackhouses.

On to Tarbert, Estelle spotted a couple of deer and possibly a golden eagle on the way. We decided not to stop in Tarbert as we will be going there on Wednesday to get the ferry to Uig. We followed the main road through the centre of Harris and then into Lewis and onto Stornaway. The land became flatter in Lewis but there were many lochs to look at on the way and we stopped for several photos of course.

We drove through Stornaway as we knew we were going back later and onto Barvas to find our B&B. The road was very straight as it went through open moorland, but again many pretty flowers to be seen We also noticed that houses in Stornaway and Barvas had gardens and some had flowers in them and lawns!

We arrived at Rock Villa and were greeted by another Mrs Macdonald, and a collie. We were shown to our room which is quite bright clean and pleasant but full of god stuff.

We had a coffee and a little nap before heading back into Stornaway, traffic lights and roundabouts and what seemed like lots of cars. We walked round the harbour and watched the CalMac come in from Ullapool. We strolled around the shopping centre and found a chippy. We each had cod and chips sitting on a bench (haddock was sold out) watched by an enormous hopeful gull.

We then had to make an emergency visit to a rather unpleasant pub as Estelle needed the loo. We left Stornaway feeling a little disappointed, it was not a particularly pleasant place. The drive back was very nice with the bright sunlight casting shadows and colours across the moors. We had an unexpected call from Granny to say that Jixy pup had been sick. Discussion of the symptoms suggest that he had eaten too many buttercups, grass, soil, crumbs, whatever and nothing to worry about, but Granny seemed quite upset. I think we reassured her not to worry.

Back to the room for washing up, coffee, whisky, shortbread and bed.

Tuesday 26 June 2001

A pleasant nights sleep (a couple of stiff whiskies must have helped)

We showered and then got down for our breakfast at 8.30. We had sausage, tomato, hash brown, black pudding toast and drink (OK, I had egg and bacon as well).

We set off for the Butt of Lewis - a pleasant drive, but I should have picked up one of the Gaelic/English translation papers - that would have helped to find our way a bit more easily.

The lighthouse itself was quite impressive - a decent scale brick built structure. At first, the cliffs looked nothing like as impressive as Cape Wrath, but on closer inspection the dramatic overhangs and clear water made the edge uninviting to approach.

Opposite the lighthouse was a small rocky island covered in lots of nesting birds. Looking through "my monocular" I was able to see the fledglings, and we both admired some cormorants. Estelle saw a seal pop his head up, and we had a good look at him. We saw another couple of seals after that. We walked round at the edge admiring the views, and thought the edge looked very menacing.

We then saw a memorial to someone who fell to his death in 1953. We stepped back a little. We noticed mist rolling in, and less than 10 minutes later, the whole promontory was covered in thick fog - very scary. We drove off through the fog and set off down the West Coast.

We stooped at Arnol to admire a "black house" - one of the traditional Western Isles buildings - 2 drystone wall surrounding an earth core - roofed in turf and thatch - they are a combined house, byre and barn - very smoky as a peat fire burned with no true fireplace and chimney. We then looked at one of the replacement houses (a white house) which were also small - but nicely restored. A chat with the curator left Steve feeling a bit aggrieved - being told that peat only took a few days to cut. [the book later vindicated Steve - suggesting it took at least a week].

We went out and then down the road, to see a Norse Mill and kiln - quite interesting after a walk over the moor - little sluices directing water to a paddle that turned a millstone.

Leaving this we set off to find somewhere to have lunch. Down a few highways and byways, and then we found a picnic site. We sat down and had a coffee while we cooked our chilli - yes, chilli. It reminded us of sitting eating sushi in NZ...

We set off to drive down the West Coast. While finding our way out to the main road, we bumped into the blackhouse village at Gearnin. This was actually inhabited until 1976 - and was excellent to walk round.

On the way down we stopped at the standing stones at Callanish. These were quite impressive set out in the shape of a Celtic cross but we did not think that they were as impressive as the Orkney circle as the stones there were much bigger and had an inner and outer circle. The information centre was quite impressive but still inconclusive in suggesting the real purpose of the stones. The views from the hill were truly amazing in every direction so several photographs here.

Back then to the main road to Tarbert. The scenery became much more mountainous as we approached Harris with lots of lochs and lochans. Turning down into Tarbert is quite beautiful with the sea on either side. Tarbert is another little fishing village which is quite quaint. The CalMac was in the terminal and we noted that the earlier ferry had been cancelled due to fog.

We looked for accommodation and spotted a little chippy for supper. We decided to drive through Tarbert onto Scalpay. The views from this road were amazing and we crossed the narrow bridge into the island looking down into the sea loch, Estelle spotted some seals. We decided that we could walk over the bridge later....

Estelle looked in the guidebook and identified a couple of suitable B&B. The first one we saw, New Haven looked ideal. We knocked on the door and were greeted by a teenage boy who asked if we wanted B&B, we said yes but that we had not booked. He told us to come in and after saying that we preferred en suite, he showed us to a lovely room with views over the hills.

He then went back to his phone call making his football practice arrangements. He then left and we were left in the house on our own. About 30 mins later Mrs Maclennan returned so Steve went out to let her know that we were here and that everything was OK. Arrangements were made for breakfast and we then watched Emmerdale and Eastenders! Estelle wrote postcards and Steve started diary.

We decided to drive into Tarbert, it was a lovely drive with the sun shining over the mountains and on the lochs. We parked at the harbour and had a stroll round the village. The open till late chip shop had closed (8.30pm) so we looked for somewhere to eat and drink. The only place appeared to be the Macleod Motel so we stopped for a drink but no food available. We decided to go back to the car for a car meal of tin chicken curry. However we started talking to another couple who were also touring the islands, they had done Mull, Iona Skye and a couple of others. They had just arrived on Harris so we talked for ages about what we had seen and what they had seen. They did not seem too impressed with Skye and recommended another place just off Mallaig called Knoydart, we shall investigate this.

We left the motel about 10.30 and drove back to our B&B on Scalpay. It was still light and the light across the lochs was amazing. We decided to leave walking over the bridge till morning. We were both hungry so had cheeses (Barbakan) and oatcakes in our room before showers and sleep. My darling husband decided that the TV programme on PSS and the internet was very very interesting so he was glued to that and ignored my suggestion that he could turn it off he did not even kiss wifey good night. [Disputed by said husband]

Wednesday 27 June

Up for breakfast at 8.30. Very nice little room with views over the hills. Steve had full cooked and Estelle had cereal and toast. Mrs Maclennan then told us she had to go to work (she is a nurse) and would be back at lunchtime. She said we could stay as long as we wanted as long as we closed the door after us. Such trust! Steve paid her before she left. Back to room, Steve to write postcards and Estelle wrote diary. Time to pack and then on our way - south coast of Harris to do before the ferry to Skye this afternoon

Back down to Tarbert to post Steve's cards for daily collection at 10.45. We stopped at the Scalpay Bridge to walk over it. It was quite scary, very high up and extremely windy, the wind howling through the metal sides was very loud and menacing. We walked to the middle and took some photos of the views from both sides as they were quite amazing. We agreed that falling from the bridge would only have one outcome as it was so high and the waters below were deep, icy cold and extremely fast flowing, the currents looked very strong and there were couple of eddies.

We caught up with the postman emptying one of the many remote post-boxes and he willingly took the cards. However we still had to go to the Post Office to post the card to Tom. Steve had just put the card in the box when the postman arrived.

We then set off down the golden road along the southwest coast of Harris. It is called this because it cost so much to build apparently. The road was mostly single track, very narrow and very winding. Sometimes going over the summits it was difficult to see where the road was going. We passed a few cars but not too many. There were some roadworks which caused a queue of about 5 cars to wait for a few minutes and we thought about how difficult it must be for them to progress with their work when they had to keep pulling into passing places to let cars pass.

The views along this road were truly stunning. Lots of craggy rock faces, mountains covered with heather not yet in bloom, lots of lochs and lochans and lots of views over the cliffs to the sea.

This is a big area for peat digging, we saw numerous peat trenches with the peat stacked by the side to dry, we still asked the question - how did they know which is their area to dig and which peat is theirs. We saw a couple of old folk digging with their peat cutters and spades.

We drove through some gates which said Amhuinsuidhe, which looks like a village on the map. It was someone's country estate with a small castle set on the lochside in its own grounds, with gardens full of rhododendrons in bloom and an impressive drive. Lots of signs saying private property, private road, no parking or stopping. They must have been really impressed when it was decided to build a public road through their estate.

After passing through the lodge gates, we drove on and saw lots of white beach in the distance. We decided that would be a good place to stop if we could get down to it. There was in fact a little car park, picnic benches and toilets which were urgently needed after the ride here.

We decided to go for a walk on the beach and spotted some really big jellyfish and several starfish which were dead. The sand was beautiful and white, just like crushed seashells so it was quite heavy. It was also very much like quick sand, your feet quickly sunk into it and when you moved your feet, it left bubbles behind in the sand.

We sat on the rocks and enjoyed a little sun, the wind had abated for a bit and Estelle actually took her fleece off for the first time and Steve sun-bathed!

We built sandcastles, just to prove that we could do so without the instruction of Philip and the help of Rowan. We thought about how Jixy will react to sea and sand in July. We can't wait to see that.

Time for a car lunch. Steve cooked (again) 2 tins of chicken curry which we had with bread rolls acquired from the breakfast table. and a coke. It was very tasty. Forget to mention the hens and cockerel which had come to investigate us on the beach, they then accompanied us whilst we had our lunch until an old lady appeared to feed them. Washing up completed, we set off back to Tarbert, along the same route. We managed to get a couple of photos of the estate whilst driving slowly through.

We arrived in Tarbert about 2.30, checked in and then went for a stroll round the shops and made some purchases in the gift shop. It was really quite warm and sunny then. The CalMac arrived and we were quickly boarded. We had a quick coffee and then went up on deck for a while, we spotted lots of birds but no seals, dolphins or whales. We sailed into thick fog and rain. After an hour and a half we arrived in Uig on Skye. It was wet and misty but our first thoughts were how green it was, and there were also lots of trees, a strong contrast from the scenery of the last few days. We decided to go straight to Portree the main town as this would form a central base. We also agreed to find accommodation for 2 nights. Lots of rain and lightening as we made our way through the green rolling hills.

Soon in Portree, we parked and had a walk round to find somewhere to stay. Once sorted, we unpacked, Steve found a lottery shop, essential since it is a double rollover, and a pub selling local beer.

We went to the Royal for a couple of local beers and then to the chippy which we had been to earlier to find accommodation. We enjoyed very nice fish and chips and Steve had black pudding too (battered of course!) We had a good chat with the owner who suggested lots of places for us to visit. We then wandered round Portree looking at the shops and along the harbour. It really is a very pretty clean fishing town, much better than Stornaway. Sorted out where to eat on our anniversary. Back to the Royal for one last drink at then off to bed.

Thursday 28 June

It's our first wedding anniversary today.

It is a dull and wet morning but quite warm and sticky. Breakfast was very nice served in a pleasant dining room. Back to the room and time to open our cards and pressies. Quick call to check up on Jixy, he didn't make his maiden walk yesterday, not to worry. Time for diary, tidy up and plan the day.

So, we tidied up and made our plans - we'd head North, try and see eagles, look at the Kilt Rock, and go up Storr.

Ah, first obstacle... a linen wagon backed into the drive, and blocked the carpark. We filled the Thermos and decided to walk round the shops. Estelle had seen a gift shop she fancied, so she went in to spend money on pressies, and admire stuff - we watched the shop staff dealing with American tourists with some amusement. Steve went to the chemist for nose spray, and the assistant clocked this, asking Estelle if he'd gone "Because he didn't want to pay, or didn't want to carry. Estelle claims she supported Steve here. Hmm.

Estelle went to buy some bread while Steve went to see if the van had moved - it hadn't - so off we went. We ogled an outdoor shop (where they offered us coffee) and then went into a batik shop where they offered us coffee (which Steve took - this might account for him buying an 18 inch long 4 inch across candle.

We had a further walk round, discussing the different approach in Portree [they seem welcoming, interested, and look as if they genuinely want to take your money - not miserable at all. Influence of the Wee Frees?]

We went back to the car, and found we were blocked in by another car. As Steve made a hash of getting out, a man came by and said "Are they keys no in that" When Estelle said they were, he just moved the car... and he backed his van out all the way. Steve drove out turned the wrong way - and had to come back through Portree. We waited for a traffic warden to wave us past a lorry, and we were on our way. North. Through mist - gradually lowering over the hills. We passed the Old man of Storr - and looked at the cloud wreathed top, and decided that this might be for another day.

Driving on, Estelle decided that she needed the loo. Just after we passed it. On a steep, single track descending road. No problem, as Steve found a space to turn round in. Yet another clean roadside toilet with no graffiti, hot water (and Steve is assured) loo roll. Turning the car round again we continued on for almost 15 yards, before Steve decided he'd like to take the Quarainc road. Yes, back the way again. Being watched by a bemused collie, the car turned round again as we headed away and up the hill roads. Very very steep, and incredibly windy. There were good views of glacier valleys - gradually filling with cloud - and you could see all the way back to the sea. Unfortunately, where we had decided to stop for a look had a strong smell [Estelle said of gents loos - although Steve wonders how she knows]. It was sheep droppings we think.

Anyway, we moved on and found a bend in the road overlooking the sea with a little dirt track - and 3 picnic tables. Not being ones to look gift horses in the mouth, we decided to cook lunch here.[Steve cooked again - he has done all the cooking on this holiday, as well as all the driving. pauvre homme] We had coffee - biting cold wind blowing - and chicken in white sauce with our bread buns.

The non-food highlight was when Estelle decided to pull the table over and nearly chuck both of us on the ground. Steve saved the table, food and coffee - and all that was damaged was Estelle's dignity and a little scald on her hand.

We enjoyed lunch and moved on. Despite the weather being miserable there were still some fine views. We approached Uig. As we stopped above the township, watching the ferry dock, wed thought how many journeys we'd made on ferries - and how we'd enjoyed the holiday.

Just then Steve saw a brief movement - what's that bird he said. "It's an eagle." We watched closely and as it banked, the flash of light on its feathers revealed it to be a golden eagle. We only saw it briefly - but we did see it. So, that only left otter as our missing target species. (And we've got an otter faced dog)

As we had driven down the Uig road, we decided to double back going across the top of Skye. Lots of nice scenery (though few nice beaches and we didn't rate Staffin Bay - although the weather can't have helped.) Estelle stopped at the most outlandish looking public loo - looked like a concrete blockhouse, and I'm not convinced it was a loo - as she couldn't face going inside...)

We drove back down along the already travelled road to Portree. When we got back, we decided to go to our room for a kip. Shows what happens when you get old and married doesn't it? Steve slept for an hour and a half, Estelle about 20 minutes. Mind you, Steve has done all the driving and ALL the cooking. We woke, and watched Emmerdale and Eastenders as we got ready for our anniversary meal.

We arrived at the restaurant at 7.55 for our 8pm reservation. Steve asked the bar man if we could have a drink as we had a reservation for 8pm. Steve had an 80/- and Estelle a G&T whilst we stood at the bar. The staff seemed to ignore us. Steve then ordered G&T for us and we joined the man and 3 girls on the sofas. The 2 older girls it seemed were dental nurses and the man and his daughter were their customers from the south - how far south we did not find out. He always comes to the dentist on the pier as it is so good and occasionally takes the nurses out for a meal when he is staying in this hotel! Must have some money! They were all very chatty and interested in where we had been and what we were doing. The man made recommendations from the menu to Estelle whilst holding on to her arm! They were then moved to their table.

We started to get concerned when the only reserved table for 2 was then occupied by 2 ladies! At 8.45 Steve asked one of the waitresses if we could be shown to our table and place our order.

She said she would send our waiter. She had a chat to the waiter in the corner and came back asking if we had made a reservation, when, how and with whom as there did not appear to be a record of it. A few minutes later she came back, was very apologetic and showed us to a table. We ordered our meal and wine. The waiter came back and offered us a wee dram, free, since it was our anniversary, more as an apology we thought. Steve had Talisker and Estelle had Glenmorangie.

Again more apologies. Wine arrived and passed the Steve test, a very fine Fleurie. Steve had pigs' trotters, black pudding and truffles, very nicely served with asparagus , Estelle had Skye seafood soup, which was very tasty too. Steve had fillet of hare served with chestnuts grapes, potatoes dauphinoise and Estelle had scallops served with beetroot tagliatelle and shallots. We had to try dessert. Steve had the Scottish cheese board and Estelle had chocolate lavender tart and white chocolate ice cream. We finished with a couple of large espressos and again another apology from the manager.

We left for a stroll round the harbour about 10.30pm, still not quite dark and a clear blue and red sky - nice day tomorrow! Off to bed.

Friday 29 June.

Earlier start today, but the weather is awful. It has been pouring about half the night, so much for clear skies. We can't even see the hills across from the B&B as they are completely covered in cloud and mist. Quick breakfast and time to pack and diary. It is teeming down, not sure now how the day will pan out, not much prospect of a stroll round town and a ride through the Cuillin hills in this, as we won't be able to see a thing!

The ride to the south side of the island was disappointing as we could hardly see the hills at all. the rain was at times torrential, it was barely possible to see the road. We were also driving through cloud/sea mist. The only good thing was that we saw some good waterfalls cascading down the side of the mountains and the water was gushing in the little streams/rivers. It was just too wet and miserable to see anything or to get out of the car at the distillery or the castle.

We drove on down to Armadale, the CalMac terminal. We thought we might get the next ferry and that the weather might be better on the mainland. The ferry was due to leave at 12.50 so we had over and hour to kill. The rain slowed a little so we walked round the harbour, visited another gift shop and stopped for an expensive coffee and hot chocolate, which were not nice.

We watched the ferry arrive and we were allowed to board early. As it was only a short crossing we decided to board and have lunch. We both had cheeseburger and chips which was very nice and then stood on deck for the sailing which only lasted about 20 minutes.

We arrived in Mallaig, which also looked quite pretty but as it was still raining, we decided to start driving south. The plan was for Steve to drive for a while until we saw somewhere where we would like to stop or until Steve got tired. Famous last words! Naturally, we ended up driving all the way home. The desire to sleep in our own bed and to see Jixy pup as soon as possible may have had something to do with it.

We had a brief stop at Glencoe to admire the scenery, call in the visitor centre, have a cuppa etc. The scenery is quite awe-inspiring here. On to Glasgow, again we arrived in rush hour but managed to find our way through the city, without going on the Erskine Bridge this time. Only 102 miles to Carlisle. We stopped half way for a break and loo visit. We made our own coffee but bought a couple of pasties to keep us going. We even managed to buy a loaf of bread and some milk. Cheese on toast at home sounds like a good idea.

We arrived home just before 10pm. We unpacked, cup of tea, looked at post, sorted out washing etc and had cheese on toast followed by a long soak in the bath before retiring to bed. Our bed.

Saturday 30 June

After a good night's sleep, we sorted washing, did some more putting away and then off to get Jixy. Will he remember us? Granny sounded exasperated but delighted that we were on our way to pick him up at 10am rather than 8pm as originally anticipated.

Yes, he remembered us! He was ecstatic, and we were thrilled to see him but we think he has played his Granny up a bit! He was pleased to go in the car and we think he was delighted to be home. He ran round the house and garden like a lunatic.

We had an excellent holiday but he was worth while coming home to!

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