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Barra: Great for a visit with freakishly good weather - but I lack the spiritual fortitude needed for full-time residence. Muldoanich was hardest of access - up steep rocks and steeper grass for 30-40m to a more level area. Good stuff once you avoid the backflip into the sea. Haswell-Smith is wrong about no habitation; there's a two-room ruin which the boatman told us used to be a jail. Mild rain was seen off by welcome hot tea on the way to Sandray. Here a walk through from one bay to another was contrived. Brilliant walking in strong sun and a welcome wind shadow. Easy angle rock plates made for pleasant going, and good sunbathing, looking over a clump of four ruins not on OS31. No clumpy/straggly grass due to the normal harsh climate, but a real wealth of orchids and other flora - bit like Knoydart. The boatman picked us up from the far side of the island - but I found myself wishing I'd gone for the camp and driftwood barbie option.
Highpoint of the best day's walking I can remember for ages was Pabbay though. More of the same great platey rock to walk on, great views N and S, a shag parliament on the way into the landing bay, a confluence of eroded dykes, and above all the burial mound and rune stone in the settlement.
The second day down the chain felt more rushed and so less satisfactory - all a product of our boatman's immutable 10:30 start. Mingulay needs much more than the scant 13/4 hours available. Sandwiches shared with puffins at five feet away was magic though. Ace cliffs and stacks, ace Berneray view, but no time to poke around the village. Great place, must go back one day.
Berneray was also far from the dull lump on OS31. An easy track lands you at the ghostly deserted lighthouse buildings - fine outside but crumbling internally. The gannet's eye view down on bird city is awesome. Along the cliffs, past a small shrine to past keepers, is the summit, marked by an unusual trig point; just a beer mat size brass plate with a 1968 inscription.
Can't wait to get back to the outer isles again next year - probably Harris for Parc, the Shiants, Seaforth Island, Scarp etc. Much more fun than hoovering up Grampians.
The main Barra hills, Vatersay, Eriskay and a couple of South Uists weren't in the same league as the smaller islands to the south. There's something extra in the harder to get at places.
Best of the rest:
Ben Laga (18A): You would never guess the towers, shape and interest of the last third from the pastoral approach.
Devil's Beeftub - Hart Fell - White Coomb - Grey Mare's Tail (28B): Splendid route with exciting scenery from start to finish.
Great Gable (34B): Too good to exclude, despite being a cliché. Ace day taking in Kirk Fell and Pillar.
Blake Fell (34B): Excellent lesser known Lakeland afternoon loop.
And on the other boot:
Hill of Nigg (15B): So poor it had to move summit this year in order to snag a few extra visits.
Grange Fell (28B): Hazard country - electric fences, marauding bovines, and an overgrown proto-forest.
Dunkery Beacon (41): Eyesore cairn, up an eyesore track, on a pimple which could only matter in southern England.
Butser Hill (42): Symptomatic of the whole park-on-the-summit madness of Region 42.
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