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Fluorescent Sheep, Singing Seals and Red Kites - Isle of Barra and Strathpeffer 2012

15th September 2012

Up at 5am to set off for 2 weeks' holiday to Isle of Barra and then the East coast of Scotland for the second week in Strathpeffer.  Ferry leaves Oban at 3.40pm and arrives at 8.40pm.

Fantastic journey along the length of Loch Lomond - will never be able to hear Wild Heaven by REM without recalling the loch.

Journey to Oban took 5 hours instead of the recommended 6.  This meant that we actually had time to look around Oban and get some shopping in before getting on the ferry.  There is a supermarket on Barra, but everything has to be shipped in, so the prices are a bit more than on the mainland.

Were greeted by the local High School Pipe Band on our arrival!

Fantastic shop in Oban which sells 'smellies' - shower gel and lotions, candles and soap etc - Purdies of Argyll.  I tried some 'Lady of the Loch' lotion and it lasted through three hand washes on the Ferry!  Decided to get some Christmas presents on the way back.

Our boat was the 'Clansman'.  Once we were through the Sound of Mull, the sea was quite choppy.  We were aware of at least two passengers who were sea-sick.

The Clansman

Got off the ferry in  darkness.  Drove past the cottage - although I could remember lots of the route and I did know when we had driven past it!

Ate at 10.30pm - and then went to bed!

Sunday, 16th September 2012

Awake at 5.15am - saw the day break and dawn over the east of the island.

Once it was properly light, we went for a walk.  Walked to Northbay (Bagh a Tuath).  Managed to see a seal, several herons and greylag geese (some on the water that surrounds Southbank Cottage).

South Bank Cottage

Back for 10.00am - after being caught in a shower of rain.  Had a fried breakfast. 

No sign of the Golden Eagles that my daughter an I saw flying over the cottage 10 years ago when we stayed here.  There's still time though!

Drove around to Borve Beach - it was very stormy.  But it was Paul's first glimpse of the pure white sand (the sea was a little too rough to see the turquoise seas).

We ate (Roast beef) and then headed out for an evening walk.  Saw a seal in the natural harbour of the island near the cottage.

Fantastic sunset - minus the seal.  The whole sky was red and reflected in the sea.

The back of the cottage looked equally spectacular in the fading light.  The geese on the water are wild, not tame geese.

We couldn't get any photographs of the stars - but they were spectacular - the constellation of Orion was absolutely filled with stars.  At home, we can see the four stars that define him and the three stars which make up his belt and that's it.  Here, his sword and many more stars were visible.  The Seven Sisters were equally observable - wow!!!

Monday 17th Sept 2012

When we got up this morning, we were stunned to find that 'our' heron was actually fishing from the back of the cottage!

Drove into Castlebay and then walked over the causeway to Vatersay.  We didn't walk as far as the isthmus beaches, tough.  (Due to new walkking boots not being quite broken in!)  Got caught in quite a heavy shower - so took refuge in a bus stop and ate our lunch.  What we thought was a fin on the water of the sound between Vatersay and Barra actually turned out to be a seal's head - well, we are getting on and our eyesight isn't what it once was :D and we didn;t have our glasses with us.  Then it suddenly dawned on us that there was a whole colony of them!  To make things even better, we rea;ised that what we actually thought was the sound of the wind whistling through the bus shelter was actually the seals singing - to the fluorescent sheep that were grazing near them - fantastic!

On the drive back, we drove round the west sided of the island and headed up to the beach where the planes take off from - the only airport in the world where planes land and take off from a beach...

Tuesday 18th September 2012

Weather still showery with one or two being quite heavy.

Went to Eoligarry - got there just as the tide was going out at 9.30am.  Saw a wide range of birds: oystercatchers; curlews; dunlins and a lone Brent goose:

The sand is so white and the sea so turquoise!

Saw gannets divi ng for fish, too (but only through the binoculars).  In all the years that I have seen them on television, I have never noticed that they have black wing tips!

Unfortunately, we also came across the body of a dead seal.  It's teeth were quite dark, so we are assuming that it was quite old.  It was quite a sad site.

Live seals here too, but too far away to get a good photo.  Anyway, they weren't singing - hence my theory that they only sing to fluorescent sheep ;)

Wed 19th September 2012

Drove to Vatersay by car today.  Walked on both sides of the isthmus of the island - another dead seal on the Atlantic ocean side of the isthmus :(

Cattle being penned and crushed before being let out onto part of the ar4a that we'd just been walking on.  I was quite glad as there were actually 2 bulls amongst them!  The photo below also shows the way that the land has been terraced by the weather!

Again, a wide variety of birds on the shore - plovers (including golden plovers); sanderlings and 'sea ducks' aka sea-gulls :D.

We now know where the singign seals are: they are at the foot of Traigh a Ghoirtein at the foot of Ben na Sguit.  We stopped further up a track here - startling a buzzard,several plovers and a curlew!

Found a perfect house to do up...it looks isolated, but was actually on the edge of the other main dwellings in the village of Vatersay itself...

Paul saw his first Golden Eagle here!  (As I've been before, I've seen two.)  Magnificent - they soar so high up, though, that it's impossible to get a good photo of them.

Thursday 20th September 2012

Our last full day on Barra, and my camera has run out of batteries.

Headed back to Eoligarry Beach.  Walked along to Traigh Mohr (the airport beach).  On the way back found small pieces of white coral and also saw Lapwings on the edge of the  sea.  I love the way that they display batlike flying. 

Gloriously sunny afternoon.  Another Golden Eagle - Paul's  now equalled my record of 2! (But my two were a pair in the spring of 2002 - ten years ago - and they were flying and circling above the cottage).

I feel very sad to be leaving - it made me quiet.  I stood outside the cottage looking at the outline of the inner hebrides that can be seen when the weather is fine.  I don't want to leave here.

Friday 21st September 2012

Up at 5am - we need to be at the ferry for 6am.

Orion clearly visible once more.  Last scout around for wildlife - none to report!

Ferry starting out at Castlebay and then heading for Lochboisedale (South Uist) befor heading for Oban. 

Breakfast on Ferry (the Lord of the Isles on this voyage).  Saw the cottage from a completely different angle on the return journey.  Glad that it was windy - it meant that it looked like the wind was making my eyes water rather than me shedding tears to be leaving somewhere that my roots lie.

Went into Purdies' shop in Oban to get my neice and nephew (Stacey and Colin) a first anniversary present.  Ended up buying some Christmas presents!

Spent night at a bed and breakfast in Fort William. The Bed & Breakfast was fantastic - especially the decor which fitted perfectly with the Vicotrian period that the house was built in.

Must admit to being a little disappointed in Fort William's town centre - very little of  note restaurant-wise.  Ended up eating at the Alexandria (a Best Western Hotel).  Paul had Cullen Skink and then a seafood platter.  I had tomato and basil soup and sea bass. 

Managed to get the camera sorted out, too!

Second half of the holiday will be published soon!
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