Although I made this trip in my company Vauxhall Combo van, I was viewing it as possible bike tour for my Fiona, myself and possibly open up the Isle to many others who are interested in touring Scotland, God’s country.
The Isle of Barra
Sunday morning I was up at 08.00 to get ready for my trip to Barra. Although work related, it was still going to be quite an adventure! Breakfast and goodbyes said, I headed off from Lossiemouth at 10.00 to pick up my manager J.T. We set off up Speyside to Aviemore then down my favourite bike road, Newtonmore to Spean Bridge. From there to Fort Bill, a very touristy route with lovely views and nice twisty roads just made for a bike. Fort William to Oban is also a nice route with brilliant views of mountains, castle ruins and sea lochs. You could pick a number of different routes to Oban, the A82 southbound from Inverness or head north from Loch Lomond.
Once in Oban, which I think is a beautiful town, you simply follow the ferry signs to the port. The ferry terminal is very modern and clean, the staff very helpful and my only gripe was paying 20p to use the toilets! (Ok, I’m Scottish, you expect a moan about money!) The ferry trip itself was quite pleasant, the food onboard was adequate and I would advise a good book with you as it’s just short of a five hours sailing.
We arrived on the island as dark came down and headed to our lodgings for the next couple of days, Gearadhmor B & B, ran by Ann and Archie Maclean. Bikers are welcome with secure, covered parking available. Archie and Ann are very hospitable and always finished the night with a good dram!
The Island is quite small, approximately 10 miles around but the roads are small, single track and very twisty so would take a few hours to circumnavigate including photo stops. I stopped a few times to take in the breathtaking beauty of the landscape and beaches. One stop was to see the wreckage of a plane crash from 1944, amazing to see the remains in a stream with a stone memorial beside them. Another was the aerodrome, coming from the home town of an RAF base I expected a bit more than a shingle beach! The plane lands on the shingle after a tractor with a cultivator levels it following the tide!
While on the island we dined at the Castle bay hotel, a luxurious establishment with a view to die for. The castle in the bay was sold to the National trust for a mere pound several years ago due to upkeep and is a prominent feature of Castlebay, with daily boat trips out to it.
As with all trips to Scotland, weather is the key, we were blessed with some good weather the first day we were there and I can only hope you have the same! There are several variations of ferry trips up the western isles of Scotland and I can only advise you to have a look at the link to Calmacs ferry site. Our return journey was by South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, to Skye then back to the mainland. Unfortunately there are no actual campsites on the island, but rough camping is permitted, ok if you’re tough, like Steve T and Raymo but I prefer a few luxuries myself and would recommend local B&B.
Finally my verdict? If you plan on touring Scotland try to fit in a visit to Barra, it’s an experience and even more so, an adventure!
View from the Castlebay hotel.
Aircraft wreckage from 1944 Catolina.
Barra aerodrome, the runway's under the water until low tide!
A war memorial looks over the bay.