Britain 09 - Day 21


Friday, and a quick drive through part of Scotland from Lockerbie to Oban. From here we took the Calmac Ferry to the Isle of Barra and the start of our Island Hopscotch tour. The day dawned with heavy overcast sky and occasional showers, which got heavier and the showers more frequent as we drove north past Loch Lomond. We did not have time to see much of Oban, although we walked part of the main street looking for a shop that would sell us a new camera battery. We then headed straight to the ferry terminal, to sit in a queue of cars for over an hour. The ferry was late, due to delays caused by heavy seas - just how heavy we were to find out later. Our ferry, the Clansman, came in, closely followed by the Isle of Mull and we were soon driving on board and on our way out to Barra.

Loch Lomond

Amongst the gloom we stopped at Loch Lomond. The photos best record the heavy cloud and misty mountains.

Loch Lomond
What we should have seen at Loch Lomond....
Loch Lomond
and what we did see at Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond
More of the loch
Loch Lomond
Part of the shoreline
Loch Lomondk
A fleeting view of the old bridge at Connel
Loch Lomond
Passing under the Connel Bridge near Oban


Oban gives the appearance of a dark, brooding port, huddled at the head of the firth, and beneath a part-circle of cliffs. The buildings are mostly made from dark stone, which gives the town an even darker appearance when beneath a heavy sky. We waited in the ferry queue, dashing out for coffee between passing showers. Finally, we were able to board, driving in through the raised bow of the ferry, reminescent of entering the mouth of a large whale.

Eigg, the smallest of the Calmac ferries....
Relief supplies of coffee are on their way
The Clansman - our ferry - arrives
The Isle of Mull arrives out of the gloom
Loading through the open bow of The Clansman
Going onboard
Our little Golf stowed amongst the large lorries
Dropping the bow....
...into place to face the seas.

Ferry from Oban to Castlebay on Barra

Once on the ferry we climbed up to the main deck and settled into the forward lounge that has nice comfortable seating and a clear view of the seas ahead. Somewhat to our surprise there were not many people on the ferry, so we had plenty of space in the lounge. We headed out towards the Sound of Mull, past the lighthouse on Eilean Musdile, thenthe islands of Mull and Morven, and the town of Tobermore with itswhiskey distillery. The seas became heavier and the ferry began to roll and pitch. Other people on the ferry remarked how rough the crossing was, but to my experience it was a calm crossing compared to many that I have had on the Cook Strait ferry crossings in New Zealand.

Eventually we reached the Isle of Barra and berthed at Castlebay, long after dark. Fortunately the Craigard Hotel was close to the wharf, and we were soon inside and checked into our rooms. But I had just put our bags down when the lights went out, not just in the hotel, but across the whole island, and most of the outer Hebrides islands as well. In the dark I found my bag and retrieved a torch, kept for just such situations and we lighted our way downstairs to the candle-lit dining room. But the problem did not stop there. Although the cookers ran on gas, they needed power for the fans etc, so all they could offer us was deep fried fish and chips before the fryers cooled down too much. After a quick look at the menu we realised that the smoked salmon salad was just to our liking and it did not need cooking. This was consumed by candlelight along with a couple of bottles of wine. Just after midnight the power was restored.

Island Hopscotch

We had chosen the Calmac Hopscotch tour from south to north, starting on Barra, then crossing to South and North Uist, then Harris and Lewis as shown on this map. The ferry trips were: Oban to Castlebay on Barra - Ardmohr to Eriskay - Leverburgh to Berneray - Stornoway to Ullapool.

The trip would take us to ten islands:

  • Vatersay
  • Barra
  • Eriskay
  • South Uist
  • Benbecula
  • Ronay
  • North Uist
  • Berneray
  • Lewis
  • Harris

The Western Isles and our route from Barra to Lewis

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Last updated: 16/06/2017