Islands on the edge
Day Three involved riding down through North Uist and Benbecula, and this should have been the easiest part of the trip as it is not a particularly hilly route apart form a lump at the start of North Uist. We thought that we’d make use of the hour and a bit we had before the ferry to take a run down to a picturesque church at Roghdal which had been recommended to us by a club mate. The trip was in fact essential as we’d been told that it contained a rather risqué artwork. At this point there was a strongish breeze but enough sunshine and warmth to let us overlook this. The ride to the church was only 3 miles but it contained an enormous hill (15%). Because I had just breakfasted well, this section was about the slowest 1mile I have ever ridden. But the church was worth the effort although the naughty artwork took a bit of finding. We rode back at speed because a stiffer breeze had got up behind us, which meant that we got to the ferry terminal a lot earlier than we needed. I say “terminal” – it was really just a slipway with little facilities other than a waiting room which, mercifully, had a toilet. You’re picking up the idea that toilet stops were as frequent as coffee stops on this trip are you? And they weren’t always for my ageing bladder either it has to be said.
The ferry duly arrived and set off again across to Berneray. This journey involved us sailing towards large rocks only to turn away at the last moment just after we’d assumed we were going to perish in a heap of mangled metal and lycra. It was at this moment, however, that my travel companion told me that she doesn’t like boats. My open-mouthed stare of incredulity brought forth a further confession from her that she’d been seasick on the Colintraive ferry – a crossing of a mere five minutes. Now this is like owning up to being seasick on a pedalo at Largs boating pond and it did rather make one wonder why someone with such a pathological abhorrence of the briny would want to go on a tour of the Hebrides. When I asked the question, I got back the response that “Well, it takes my mind off the sheep.” So on we went, my ovine-abhorring Thalassophobic friend and I, and landed on the island of Berneray.
At this point the weather turned against us and our journey was severely hindered by a brutal headwind. So fierce was it that we must have had our heads down to the extent that we didn’t see a sign and took a wrong turning. This meant that we ended up in Lochmaddy although we didn’t know that’s where we were until we found a community café to stop in for a breather and a bite of lunch. I must pause to point out that this lack of knowledge was brought about mostly by the Islands’ curious policy of only putting name signs at one end of their villages, and with our unfailing ability to arrive, of course, at the end without the sign. After lunch, the brutal wind was complemented by constant rain – both of them coming at us horizontally. There is no photo-record of this section of the trip for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say that we battled on and eventually made it, somewhat drookit, to the overnight accommodation at the Anglers’ Retreat just into South Uist – although admittedly the last ten miles of the scheduled 50 for the day were courtesy of a very kindly Uistean bus driver called Duncan who took pity on us. Well on me really, as I stood by the roadside while Laura had yet again…erm.. gone to “investigate the hedges”.