Monday 13th September
We’re lucky in that the good weather is with us once more and after leaving the campsite, we find that we are in the middle of Balranald RSPB nature reserve.
It’s a mixture of croft land, freshwater lochs, sand dunes and sea. It’s an example of how beneficial low-intensity farming can be for wildlife. The rotational cropping of the machair (fertile low-lying grassy plain) creates flower-rich habitats that are beneficial to many insects, including rare bees. Birds that can be seen include corncrakes, lapwing, redshank, snipe, ringed plover and oystercatchers. There are also sea eagles, hen harriers and many other rare birds to be found across the whole of the Outer Hebrides.
We also notice a roadside warning sign saying ‘Caution – Otters Crossing’ as we approach a long stretch with lochs on either side.
We need to retrace our steps back to Lochmaddy, as we learn that the nearest shop is located there. On the way, we pass an immaculately restored, original crofter’s cottage complete with thatched roof that has been brought back to life and is now probably being rented out to holidaymakers.
As we arrive at Lochmaddy, another crofter’s cottage is in the process of being renovated with a gang of workers starting to put roof rafters in place. Even though there are many, old and empty buildings throughout these islands, it’s encouraging to see that some of them are being brought back into use.
There are many new builds too. Earlier, we passed another workforce building a wood-faced lodge to supplement four others built previously. Each looked out over a Loch and the surrounding countryside which is like a mixture of Pennine hills and Norfolk Broads rolled into one.
We stock up with supplies but also decide to nip across the road to their Community Centre which has a cafe and an exhibition gallery. The food is really good. But then, after spending 11 days in a campervan, you do begin to appreciate any type of luxury!
We take a look in the exhibition area and one room is of photographs showing the old Hebridean way of life, taken around the 1900s. The other room is about the hundreds of shipwrecks and how they have come to grief in various treacherous waters around the islands either through storm, war or bad navigation.
We get closer to our destination for today and next to a Co-op supermarket at Sollas, we stumble across a farmer about to bring his herd of cattle, including one frisky bull, out of a field and down the main road. It’s a sight worth waiting for, so we capture it on video.
We learn there was a mix up at the campsite we’d booked on for the night, meaning there were no longer any cancellations. However, just about half a mile further on, there is another white sandy beach, so we decided to stay overnight in a small parking area – it was a lovely spot for wild camping!