My journey starts in Inverness, where I stayed for a few days to ride in the 66-mile cycle sportive – “The Etape Loch Ness.”
My friend arrived with the lovely VW campervan called Tammie Norrie from Camperceildh Campers in Aberdeen and drove to Inverness to pick me up for our onward journey the following morning.
We did lots of planning in advance, booking the ferries first, then campsites for the first two nights and the last night. We left the other two nights as flexible.
After a good night’s sleep and packing my clothes, kit, drinks, and snacks into the campervan, we began our adventure early. Our route took us along the banks of Loch Ness, past Urquhart Castle, through Fort Augustus, and along the south shore of Loch Lochy. On a spectacularly sunny day, the drive to Oban allowed us to enjoy some of the most incredible views in Scotland. Our timeline meant it was a leisurely drive enabling us to catch the 1 pm ferry to Castlebay and begin our Western Isles trip from Barra in the south to Lewis in the north.
We stopped to stretch our legs at the Commando Memorial, a monument to the second world war at Spean Bridge. Although I had driven past this many times, this was the first time I had time to stop there since the Garden of Remembrance was added. There’s something very special about this place. I’m not sure how long it’s been there, but it is where many families have added tributes to loved ones who belonged to contemporary Commando units and who have sadly died in more recent conflicts.
As we arrived into Oban, we heard that the ferry arriving into Oban was delayed slightly due to fog. We still went straight to the Terminal, and while waiting in the ferry queue, we had brunch in the campervan. After a short delay, we were soon on our way to Barra and the mystical Castlebay. Our journey on the ferry took 5-hours. At the beginning of the sail, we had some fog, but then it cleared, and we could see our destination in the distance. We were fortunate enough to see dolphins, rainbows, a fog bow, seals, and many seabirds. It turned out to be a cracking day for a sail with spectacular views.
Having done this journey to and from beautiful Barra several times before, it was a pleasure to pass the time on the ferry watching from a seat on the observation deck and wandering outside to take photos and some videos of the amazingly flat calm seas. After a while, we ventured into the onboard restaurant for a bite of lunch – the toasties were all we needed, followed by some delicious Arran ice cream.
As the ferry approached Castlebay, there was just enough time to get a fantastic view of Kismul Castle before the announcement for drivers and passengers to return to their vehicles. We were soon docked and rolled ashore, and then it was a short drive to our campsite for the night, arriving just in time to catch the sunset and before the midges came out!.
We were met by Alan on our arrival at Borve campsite, who showed us to our pitch reserved for us – with our name on it. Borve is a lovely site with spectacular views to the West. The facilities are excellent and include a kitchen and laundry, toilets, showers, fresh water and electric hookup. There is also a notice board with helpful info about things to see and do on the Island.
From our pitch, we watched the sun go down with a wee G&T and then it was time to cook dinner and relax in the campervan for the rest of the evening while finalising our plans for the following day. It had been a long but very rewarding day to begin our Western Isles tour with.
Look out for Day 2!