Saturday, September 13, 2014

OBAN TO BARRA

I stayed in Oban for a night after disembarking from Glen Tarsen at the end of the cruise. This gave me a chance to do laundry, replace a broken filter for my Nikon, and have some downtime. The Queen's Hotel on the sea front was one in a line of Edwardian hotels that catered to the gentry at the turn of the 19th century. today it is run by the Best Western chain, which in Europe has very good hotels. The room was clean and comfortable and the resto was excellent.

Awoke early today to start an adventure that has long been on my bucket-list. In order to accomplish it, I had to get to Glasgow airport. I took the train through the Highlands from Oban. It takes three and a half hours, but is worth it. The train meanders past misty lochs, round purple-washed mountains, and along the Clyde, stopping at stations along the route that don't seem to have any villages nearby.

Barra Airport on Cockle Strand
From Glasgow airport, I climbed into a Flybe Twin Otter and flew to Barra, the southernmost inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides. The sun streamed down as we roared into the sky and flew northwest for an hour. It landed at Barra Airport. And it's the airport that is so intriguing. It's a huge white sand beach called Cockle Strand in the north of the island. Yes, we landed on the hard-packed sand at low tide. A thrill of a lifetime for me.


From there, I picked up a rental car and drove the four miles south to Castle Bay to the hotel of the same name. It's been a hotel since 1880 and has a commanding view of the bay. Smack in the middle of the bay on a rock is Kismul Castle, the best preserved medieval castle in the Western Isles. It is the home of the MacNeil clan and was restored recently.

Barra sports palm trees and fuschia hedges in full bloom. I could barely drive for looking at the beaches, sand dunes, inlets, and sheep.

Dinner in the Castlebay Hotel was a delightful surprise. The menu and the food was superb -- all local fish, shellfish, meat, and vegetables. I chose scallops and they were 2 1/2 ins in diameter and over an inch thick.

Tomorrow is exploration day and I can't wait.

Thanks to McKinlay Kidd for arranging this customized tour of the Outer Hebrides for me.

The view from the Castlebay Hotel of
Kismul Castle with palm trees and
fuschias in the foreground


IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved