Monday, September 15, 2014

BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE AND WILD HORSES

Eriskay in front; South Uist in distance
The ferry from Barra sailing north deposits visitors on Eriskay, a delightful isle filled with romance — for example, the famous Love Lilt and the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed. He set foot on a beach here in the summer of 1745 on the west of Eriskay. I stood on the exact spot.

The isles from Barra north to North Uist are Catholic and statues and
The prince set foot on the sand just below the grass
shrines to the Virgin Mary are dotted along the highways here. I noticed the ticket office on the ferry had several crosses pinned to the walls. The churches are small but exquisite.

I ate a lousy lunch at the pub, MV Politician, memorializing the wreck of this ship that Compton MacKenzie wrote of in Whisky Galore. The movie of the same name was filmed here and on Barra. It took me just an hour to drive all the roads on Eriskay before crossing the causeway onto South Uist to the north.

Loch Druidibeag
South Uist is a long narrow island deeply indented with sea lochs on the east and is one long sand beach and dunes on the west. Inland is moorland rising up to small mountains in the centre of the isle. The Isle of Benbecula separates S. Uist from N. Uist and they are connected by causeways. Today it was very warm with little wind and good visibility.


I stopped at Kildonan Museum and was struck by the hard lives of those who eked out a living here before WW1. They survived by fishing and digging peat. Today they still fish but also farm sheep and some cattle. These roam freely and are often found in the middle of the roads.




I also took some detours from the main north-south road and saw thatched crofts, castle ruins, and many Mute Swans on the lochs. The history here dates back to Neolithic times and Christianity arrived very early. I tooks some photos of some ruined chapels that were built in the 13th century but probably were a Christian worship site much earlier.

A wild pony on N. Uist



My highlight on North Uist was a side trip to Lochs Druidibeag and Sgioport, down a long winding lane to the east coast. At the very end, beside the ruin of a croft were two wild ponies. They are small, like Shetlands, and were quite unfazed by my presence. On the way back to the main road, I stopped and photographed a herd of blonde ponies grazing beside the road and stepping delicately around the heather.

After seven hours of driving, I arrived at the Hamersay House in Lochmaddy on North Uist. This is a modern hotel with a bar and a recommended restaurant. However my duck breast was overdone, which was disappointing.

It was a long day of driving, but rewarding. I'm happy that I have three nights here and, hopefully, a rest before moving on to Harris and Lewis.

This tour of the Outer Hebrides was customized for us by McKinlay Kidd and saved us the bother of figuring out and booking ferries and hotels. They also gave us the places we should see on our travels here. So far, it has proved to be perfect.


IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved