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Wednesday 19th September 2018

We all slept in until late - must have needed the rest. Messed about fighting over the bathroom/shower and eventually had a good cooked breakfast about midday.

The views from are house really great - at least as good as the AirBnB photos. Weather's calmed down but there's still a lot of rain about - some bits of blue sky - then rain again - it changes quickly. Went for a walk down to the pier below the house - only 0.5 mile or so. Nice little pier, the rain started again and we got soaked on the way back home.

Got dried out a bit, had a snack and set out to explore the local area in the car. Went south to Orinsay and Lembragagh over superbly bleak moorland hills. Both were very nice with great views over the sea and islands, etc.

Back to Grabhair and we explored the short road on the opposite side of the loch from our house. Great views again out over the sea. Good views of our house too.

I fancied a go at fishing off the pier so we called it a day and went back home about 1730. Got a rod a bit sorted with an ancient fly and a weight, got my kayak drysuit on, and set off. It was blowing a strong gale and on/off raining down there but I had some fun. Caught 3x small pollack over 90 mins, and threw them back. On one cast, the end of the rod came off and I cast that in too! Thankfully, I got it back in. Eventually lost the fly and weight when a knot came undone, and called it a day. I was bloody freezing in all the rain and wind.

Got back to see that Dad had cooked dinner. Steak stew/casserole - and very nice it was too. Finished off with fruit and nuts and sat around chatting in the kitchen.

Mum and Dad went to bed and I checked my emails. Oh crap ! The house we booked on North Uist (in 6 days time!) has been cancelled !! No reason given - just apologies. I spent a couple of hours on AirBnB and found another decent-looking place - The Stone House on South Uist - and booked it straight away.

Did a bit of catch-up diary and called it a night.

20 miles today: 753 miles total

Thursday 20th September 2018

Got up and explained the story of the cancelled house. As much as I was looking forward to the North Uist house, we all like the look of the new one on South Uist, so no great loss.

Spent a while scouring the maps and deciding where to go. I want to visit the Fisherman's Cooperative - a tackle shop in Stornoway - so we're going north.

Went straight to Stornoway and I bought some flies, weights, swivels and some line. Drove out onto the Eye Peninsula that juts out east from the north side Stornoway. Drove out to Trumpan Head and walked around enjoying the views and the nice lighthouse. Mum remarked on the amount of barking noise coming from the lighthouse buildings but we didn't take much notice of it. In looking up the name of the head on Google Maps I've just discovered it's a Kennel/Cattery! Drove back down the main road taking a few sideroad detours to the coast, and back into Stornoway in search of tea. Found a nice cafe for tea and scones.

Back on the road and headed north up the east coast. Drove right to the end to The Bridge to Nowhere - built for the east coast road that never went any further. Saw some really great sandy beaches on the way up and stopped at a few on the way back for walks in the sun / pouring rain - Mum and I got soaked again at one beach. Lovely beaches though.

Got back to Stornoway around 1745 and decided that was enough for the day, so headed off on the 45 min journey home to Grabhair.

I quickly tied some of my new gear to a rod, put my drysuit on and dashed off to the pier. No wind at all this evening so it was flat calm and just a bit showery. Pulled a small pollack out on each of my first 3 casts. Caught about 15 over the course of 90 mins, but all were small and all were put back in. One of my damned knots came loose again and I lost some more gear.

Back home and Mum had cooked a lovely chicken casserole dinner. We devoured dinner, cleared up, and headed upstairs to the living room for tv and chocolate - and that was that.

100 miles today: 853 miles total

Friday 21st September 2018

Got going a little bit earlier - up, breakfasted and out a bit before 1100. Heading up to the northern tip of Lewis today. Sun shining brightly in very blue sky between fewer showers than we've seen until now. Turned left at the bottom of our little sideroad and took the longer route out via Carbost. Really great road through fantastic scenery of lochs and very rugged hills. We skipped a couple of little sidetracks that will have to be explored later.

Stopped in Stornoway for shopping and I nipped back into the tackle shop to stock up with more flies and weights to throw into the sea.

Headed out of Stornoway and took the road that crosses to the north-west coast. Yet another great road - and near deserted. The landscape is much flatter and softer here - miles and miles of empty moorland. Got to the coast road and headed north. Took a few detours towards the coast and saw some lovely beaches and spectacular surf - it's still mostly sunny, but it's quite windy out here on the Atlantic coast. Stopped for tea and cake in a very nice little tea/gift shop.

Continued on to near the point and had a walk on Eoropie Beach. Great surf rolling in all along the big beach and into other bays to the south - terrific amount of surf noise. Drove out to the lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis. Great seas again - crashing in around the islands / rocks just off the point. And more great seas looking south along the eastern coast. Stopped again at a very small bay just south of the lighthouse and walked down to the beach - really nice down there.

Drove into Ness and parked above the harbour for a while watching the gannets diving for fish and enjoying the spectacular views.

Decided it was time to head for home and took a fairly relaxed 90 minutes to get there just before 1800.

I wondered about going fishing again but there seems to be only tiddlers off the pier. I stayed in and cooked dinner - steaks and a mountain of veg - very nice too. Studied the maps for a while and we have a rough plan to ensure we see all the main parts of Lewis and Harris before we move on Tuesday. Went upstairs and watched a bit of TV before a fairly early night. I'm thinking about getting up early to see if I have any more luck catching some breakfast on the early high tide.

A really great day. Spectacular seas and surf on terrific beaches and cliffs, and the weather was great - far more sun than rain today.

145 miles today: 998 miles total

Saturday 22nd September 2018

I didn't sleep so well, and didn't get up early to go fishing. Had a cooked breakfast and got on the road about 1100. Weather's looking pretty good again - some showers but a decent amount of blue sky and sun too.

Headed out towards Stornoway and turned west towards Callanish. Very nice road through vast moorlands dotted with lochs. Stopped in Calanish to visit the Standing Stones. Not much is known about them except that they're around 5,000 years old and are presumed to have been used for ritual purposes. Quite interesting walk around, few photos and back on the road north.

Stopped at a funny little hotel/bar for tea and got served by 2x ladies who hadn't quite mastered teamwork. Both trying to take orders and deliver cutlery and mats, etc., not realising that the other had just done it. A bit of a hilarious farce. They got the last laugh though by charging us £18 for 3x teas and 3x scones/cake!

Kept going north and darting down most sideroads on the left that approached the coast. Found some lovely sandy bays with rocky boundaries and waves crashing in. It's quite windy again on the west side.

Stopped at Gearrannan/Gerenin Blackhouse Village. It's an abandoned village of the traditional black houses that have been restored and are now a sort of museum. Interesting place with good history information, and the usual spectacular sea views. Spent 30mins wandering in and out of a couple of houses - one with historical info and one with historical artefacts, ie. Harris Tweed loom, spinning wheels, peat fire, etc. Quick look around the gift shop and then got caught in a fairly heavy shower getting back to the car.

Drove on and visited Dail Beag beach where we had a walk in the lovely bay. Onto both sides of the the beach by Loch a'Bhaile - another terrific wide sandy beach with great rolling waves crashing in. And then we reached Barvas where we were yesterday - the end of the road for today. Had a quick look around for a shop as it seemed to be a fair sized village. Didn't find one. We've been surprised at the scarcity of village shops. I think we've only seen 2 or 3 grocery shops outside of Stornoway. We did manage to pick up some eggs from an honesty box outside a house.

We turned and drove back down the same road and spotted the Whalebone Arch we'd been half looking for on the way up. It didn't look like much - it seems to be in someone's front garden. We quickly looked at it from the car and drove on - not really sure what it was all about - was it real whalebone, etc. I've had a quick look and it's the jawbone from a very big whale that was harpooned but not killed - possibly in the south Atlantic - and eventually died off Lewis and washed up on the shore in 1920.

We got to Carloway and turned east on an interesting-looking single track road than ran through the wild moorlands. It was a great road with lots of great moorland/loch scenery. Back onto the main road at Breasclete and then the usual 30 min drive home - getting home about 1830.

I quickly jumped into my drysuit and went down to fish off the pier while Mum cooked dinner. Immediately pulled in 2x small fish on my first cast and then several more in quick succession. I was starting to think about calling it a day quite early as all I'm doing here is injuring small fish, and that doesn't sit too well . . . Then I pulled in a decent sized mackerel - not a monster, but big enough to eat - so he got the chop. Then after 15 mins and a few more tiddlers I caught a slightly bigger one, and he got the chop too. Kept trying for another but only brought in more tiddlers. Eventually, I messed up a cast and threw my flies and weight, etc. into the sea. Oh well, I'm getting better - did an hour's worth of decent casting this evening until that final blunder - and I caught some breakfast! Went down to the water to finish cleaning the fish. While cutting the tail off one, right at the water's edge in the shallows, a palm-sized crab scuttled in and tried to take the fish from me. I shooed it away and it came back for another go, grabbing the tail. When I cut the tail free he scuttled away with his prize. He earned it, plucky little fellow!

Walked back home in the rain - very comfy in my drysuit. Filleted the mackerel ready for breakfast - with some expert guidance and encouraging words from Dad. Feasted on pork chops cooked as a Roast Dinner - very nice too.

Another great day - great sites - great sights - and the weather was pretty good again too. And fishing success!

130 miles today: 1128 miles total

Sunday 23rd September 2018

Mackerel for breakfast, shared with Dad - lovely it was too. Took a few photos of the glorious views from the windows of our house. Out on the road around 1100. Weather looking about the same again - showery and sunny. Heading a bit north, then west, then south today - to visit Great Bernera Island and then further south to Breanais, etc. or until we run out of time/energy. Great roads again and we crossed the bridge to the island. Great roads and views across the island until we stopped at Bosta Beach. Had a quick walk down to the nice beach when the rain stopped. We could see bits of an Iron Age Village further on but it looked like a tricky walk so we skipped it - and the clouds are getting dark again. Got rained on walking back to the car but not too bad.

I'd been looking at the fuel gauge a bit warily and doing some sums. Not only are garages (and shops, etc.) very few and far between but they observe Sunday here, and almost everything is closed anyway. I've still got 180 miles in the tank but if we do another 100+ miles today we could be cutting it a bit too fine for these wilderness roads. Made the call to to go straight to Stornoway to the only open garage on the island (according to Google). A bit of a pain as we had to backtrack a bit - should have thought about fuel earlier. In fact, new rule - whenever we see fuel, we should fill up, regardless of how little we need. Got to Stornoway in 25 mins and filled up. I moved the car immediately after filling to let another waiting car get to the pump. Then we were browsing in the shop. I went to pay and there was confusion as the guy I let get to the pump had got to the till before me and accidentally paid for my £72 fuel instead of his £46 worth. In the end I paid for his fuel and gave him the £26 difference.

We were wondering about heading back west to continue with the planned route, though it seemed like it could become a long day. Decided to to take an unplanned shorter detour to the east side and then finish off the couple of local sidetracks near home that we didn't have time to do the other day. Took the east route to Grimshader, Ranish, Crosbost and Leurbost. Great roads and scenery again and some very remote/lost villages/hamlets.

Back to the main road and south on the way home. Stopped at our local inn (only 10 miles from home - and I think the next nearest is probably 30 miles away in Stornoway!). Had cups of tea, glass of wine and enquired about food times for possibly eating here tomorrow evening. Back on the road and took a dead end detour to Caros - spectacular. And then the detour to Marbhig and the road home back through Carbost. This really is a terrific road - quite possibly my favourite, and it's just around the corner. I'd love to cycle here - it would be fantastic.

Back home at a reasonable 1730-ish. No fishing this evening. Like several things, including hanging out washing, fishing is a bit frowned upon on a Sunday. I tied on some new flies and a new weight in case I feel energetic enough to head down to the pier early in the morning.

Knocked up some dinner - bangers 'n mash with extras - very good too. Watched a bit of TV. The news said that the Aurora is quite strong tonight, showing it right down further south than where we are. We have no view north (looking directly into a hillside) so have no chance of seeing anything from the house. The sky is fairly clear so I had a look on line. It didn't look promising and nobody was really up for a late drive so we left it. I've just checked again an hour later and it still doesn't look very likely. Wrote this nonsense and got off to bed at a reasonable time - well, would have - then decided to sort out the photos a bit.

122 miles today: 1250 miles total

Monday 24th September 2018

Got up early-ish and walked down to the pier about 0830 for a quick fish. Didn't get a single bite in about an hour. I did manage to maintain my perfect record of losing some gear on every session - lobbed another set of flies and a weight into the sea. Bloody knots . . . . . Regardless, I still had a great time compared to my average Monday morning experience! It's a lovely spot down there, and the sun was shining in a bright blue sky apart from one brief shower.

Back home for a quick shower and breakfast, and we set off about 1100 as usual. Original plan was to see North Harris today and South Harris tomorrow - as we'll be south anyway for the ferry. However, some of the best beaches are in South Harris and we might want to walk on them - and the weather looks terrible tomorrow. New plan is to do South Harris today while the weather is good. The bad weather tomorrow is threatening to disrupt our ferry plans again. 50+mph winds are forecast for a few hours right around our 1705 departure time. Another bit of great timing. I contacted our current host and confirmed we can stay here another night if our ferry is cancelled, so it won't be too bad whatever happens.

Followed the 11 mile road out of Grabhair and turned south at the main road for the first time. The scenery soon changed and we were driving through and over very steep hills on a very good road - mostly in pouring rain. We soon got to Tarbert and onto South Harris and the bluer skies reapperared. First destination was Laskentir Beach - an enormous area of soft, smooth sand. Had a bit of trouble getting there as a rather grumpy and lost-looking cow was walking very slowly down the single-track road. She didn't want to move very fast and stopped and turned to give us a stern talking to every time I got too close. Eventually got past her in a Passing Place. We parked up and walked down to the windy beach. It started raining while we were down there but it soon stopped again. Terrific beach.

Continued south down the west coast seeing other nice beaches along the way, including the other big one - Scarista Beach. We must have missed the turning for getting onto Scarista Beach but we had a goood view from the road. Stopped for a cup of tea and paninis/wrap at a nice burger van sort of thing on the way.

Drove into Leverburgh and grabbed a couple of essentials at a rare supermarket - they also had a fuel pump. We'll come here tomorrow for a good stock up / fill up on our way (hopefully) to the next house. Also had a quick look at tomorrow's ferry port - and watched a ferry sail out. It looks lovely and calm out there today . . . . .

Carried on east to Ranish and turned north to drive back up the east coast. The landscape changed quite abruptly again. It's almost unbelievably rugged - it barely looks like planet earth. Really great, and near-deserted, single-track road meandering up and down and left and right through the craziest landscape and with occasional tremendous views out over the sea, including bays, harbours, islands, etc. etc. Stopped at a just-closing cafe where a very kind/friendly and very chatty (and slightly mad) lady made us takeaway teas as she closed up.

And before we knew it, we were back in Tarbert and crossing back into North Harris on the way home.

We'd decided we would treat ourselves to a meal out and stopped at the Loch Erisort Inn as planned - got there about 1800. She grimaced as we said we wanted to eat but hadn't booked. But we asked yesterday and were clearly told that there was no need to book! And the restaurant area is completely empty! We 3 are 75% of the total customers here - there's just one bloke in the public bar! There's hardly a rush on! There was something about lots of bookings and maybe a shortage of kitchen staff but I didn't catch it all. They could squeeze us in, but not until 1945 - nearly 2 hours away. It all seemed a bit bonkers, but we agreed we'd wait and went into the bar for a drink. The other bloke left, so we are now the only customers . . . Then, great news at 1830 - we can go into the restaurant area - they can feed us now.

All had a very nice, and unusual, starter of sweetcured (raw) herring and salad. Seabass, Steak and Ale Pie, Lasagne for mains, and good puds too. The food was all very good - the service was nice, and very courteous, but comically disjointed - a bit like the tea and cakes saga in the Callinish hotel the other day. All good though, and not bad value either.

Drove home. Got a few bits a little bit sorted for departure tomorrow. Watched a bit of TV upstairs. Got off to bed at a reasonable time.

A great day again. Some more great sights and had a very nice tour around. Assuming we do get away tomorrow, we'll miss this house. It's been perfect. It's pretty rustic but in a charming sort of way. The heating is very efficient so it soon warms up and gets cosy. And the views from all windows are stunning.

140 miles today: 1390 miles total

Tuesday 25th September 2018

Strong winds and rain in the early hours, and still there in the morning. Checked the ferry status app at 0730. The 0700 ferry has been delayed for 75 mins due to the high winds - "Further review and update for other ferries after 0800". 0810: "All Harris <-> N. Uist ferries cancelled for the rest of the day". Oh crap.

Confirmed the news to current host and new host. Contacted the ferry and re-booked for 1110 tomorrow - need to collect tickets from Tarbert office on way to Leverburgh ferry. Unpacked some of the gear that was ready to go.

Decided we'd carry on with the general plan for the day to see North Harris, except we'll now end by returning here rather than catching the ferry. Got ourselves sorted and hit the road at our usual 1100. Headed for Tarbert over the hills/mountains in howling winds and driving rain - quite a trip. As we're going through Tarbert we decided to collect ferry tickets today. Had a bit of trouble finding the ticket office and then somewhere for some tea, involving about 5 loops of the one-way system! Got the tickets and found a nice place for tea. Did a quick little shop too for something to eat tonight.

Headed out east towards Scalpay island. Great little road out there - high up above the coastline - interesting bays below - wind howling - rain pouring - waves crashing in. Over the nice bridge onto Scalpay. Toured all the roads on the quaint little island and took a few photos, though the weather didn't let up for a second so we didn't venture out of the car much. Stopped for more tea and a cheese scone in a nice cafe/restaurant. And returned to Tarbert.

Straight through Tarbert and out along the west road. A terrific road about 8 miles long through a rough and rugged landscape - similar to what we saw yesterday, though not quite as stark. Mostly high up above the coastline again and looking down on a wild sea. I'd expected the sea to be even rougher this side as the wind is a south-westerly, but it was probably about the same as around Scalpay. There were a few bits where it was crashing in against the rocky coastline in spectacular fashion. Got all the way to the end and stopped and watched the wild sea in Hushinish bay for a while. Then turned around and drove back to Tarbert again over the same wild road - (as usual, there is little choice - there is only one road).

Now 1700, so time to head home back over the windy and rainy mountains. Another wild drive. Got home a bit before 1800.

As we're here for another night, I took the opportunity to head down to the pier again. The weather has been very windy and very rainy all day without a single break - and it's still the same now, What the hell - I'll be snug in my kayak drysuit (stroke of genius bringing that along for fishing - it's been extremely useful!). Set the gear up (it had been broken down for putting back in the car) and headed down about 1830. Weather was bloody terrible for an hour's fishing but I was warm and dry and perfectly happy. Caught a dozen littluns but nothing big enough for the pot. I was doing well though - casting a better and more consistent distance, and all gear intact. Then, right when I was about to pack up, the flies and weight threw themselves into the sea again. That was a bit annoying but I had fun down there again, and I think I'm improving.

Back up the hill and re-packed the gear ready for the car - in the howling gale and pouring rain . . . . Stepped inside to the warm and a lovely smell of dinner. Mum and Dad had cooked a huge mountain of veg to go with some spicey mince. Very nice dinner with nice big (huge) portions - just what the doctor ordered.

Sat in the kitchen and chatted a while, then set off to bed at a reasonable time. Early-ish start tomorrow - need to be packed, tidied and out of the house by about 0900 to catch the ferry. Had a little play on the guitar for 20 mins, wrote this, went to bed. It's still howling a gale out there, and it's still pissing down! It hasn't let up for a single second today. This damned weather had better sort itself out in the next few hours or we'll never get to our next home . . . .

90 miles today: 1480 miles total

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