One of the items on my bucket list of things-to-do has been to visit the Outer Hebrides and the town of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, and I can now cross this visit off the list.
On 28th May, Jan and I met up with Derek and Barbara on his new-to-him Kawasaki ZZR1400, which he had only just had lowered the previous day so he could touch the ground properly.
We made a leisurely though damp journey up the M6, which included a rolling roadblock by the Police before Carlisle due to a potential bridge jumper over the motorway, and onwards up the M74 to Lockerbie, where we stopped for lunch at one of Derek’s regular truck-stops before he retired.
The weather could have been a bit better at this point but, hey-ho, we were on our holidays.
Just after we set off the rain decided to make its presence felt, just in time for us to grind to a halt on the M74 due to a serious accident on the Southbound lane. A nice 20 minutes soak later and we were able to move off again to our first stop for the night at Glasgow.
Our Glasgow hotel was close to the centre – or so we thought – as it was advertised as walking distance away. We eventually made it to Sauchiehall Street but only after we witnessed one of those moments when we wished we had a camera – A Glasgow double-decker going through a large 6 inch deep puddle with Derek stood on the pavement nearby.
After a meal on Sauchiehall Street we decided to head back to the hotel for which I suggested a taxi, but as the others decided we weren’t that far away we walked. Just as it started to rain – very heavily!! We all got soaked.
Next day after a poor breakfast at the hotel – (trip advisor mutter mutter) we set off towards Loch Lomond and our trip to the Isle of Skye.
Weather at this time was showers. The journey through to Skye was the nice sweeping Scottish roads, with one highlight for us.
We came across the usual roadworks which had huge queues due to using the convoy escort system.
We had been stationary for a few minutes when a young stag decided to come up the side of a hill into our view – about 50 yards away – then trotted parallel to the queue looking for a gap in the cars to allow him to cross the road.
By this time the wind and the rain were getting quite strong and persistent, so with some trepidation we approached the Skye Bridge only to cross without any wind effecting us at all.
Eventually we arrived in Portree and parked up in the Town Square car park.
Our accommodation for the night was the Isles Inn and when I first saw it I thought it was a tiny little pub.
It was a 12 bedroom hotel with restaurant and live music most night and without a doubt the busiest building on the Isle of Skye.
The restaurant side always had a queue of people waiting for free tables and the pub side was always standing room only with quite a job working your way through to go to the rooms or the loos.
Following a great night, a good sleep and a great breakfast we had a walk around Portree, before making to Uig for the Cal Mac ferry to Tarbert, which was due to sail at 2pm.
After loading, the crew did a super job of securing the bike down for the journey, which went off without any issue on a calm crossing.
On our arrival at Tarbert, we set off on the A859 road up over the hills in the showers and wind, to Stornoway.
I was able to take a good look at the landscape of the Isles of Harris and Lewis, and could see the barren and stark beauty of the land. The absence of trees from most of the land was very noticeable.
The weather could have helped by being better than it was but we couldn’t change that.
Stornoway weekend night life consists of going out to eat and all the eating houses get booked up well in advance, but we fell lucky in that one of the better hotels was able to find a small table for us following another party leaving early.
After an excellent nights sleep and a first class Scottish breakfast, we set off to look around the island.
I followed the sat-nav which took us along a single track road with passing places and grass growing down the centre of the road. This road was signposted as the A858 road
We stopped at the Neolithic Stone Circle at Callanish to admire the handy work of the ancient people who lived there so many thousands of years ago.
The weather had by this time died down and it was quite nice if a bit cool.
We followed with a visit to Arnol and the famous example of a blackhouse as lived in until the 1950s in the Isles of Harris and Lewis.
We then rode all the way to the lighthouse at the northern most point of the island – called Butt of Lewis.
I was chatting to a person taking lots of photos there and he was visiting from Chester. We go all that way and meet a near neighbour!
We retraced our path somewhat and cut across towards Stornoway where the rain caught up with us making the last part of the trip very wet indeed.
Barbara then found a text message from Cal Mac putting our return ferry trip on amber alert – possibility of being cancelled – due to stormy wind conditions on the following day. They offered us space on the evening crossing but we weren’t ready to change plans so quickly.
The evening was spent wondering about alternatives, particularly accommodation. We managed to find a nice Chinese restaurant were we had a great meal.
We chatted to a couple on the next table who had traveled up from the Isle of Barra to Stornoway on their way to the Orkneys, so they could eat Chinese as Barra only had one Indian restaurant. (a trip requiring at least 2 ferries and 143 miles of ‘A’ roads).
On the Sunday morning, the wind was a bit blustery and we set off in the rain and wind for Tarbert.
The journey over the hills back to the ferry port was ‘interesting’, with Janet refusing to go back to Stornoway if the ferry was cancelled and being backed up by Derek who had not enjoyed the trip due to the weather (Our rooms were on standby at the guesthouse we had left).
We spent a few hours at Tarbert before it was confirmed the ferry was running okay as the predicted winds were much higher than the actual wind speed at the time.
We did, however, sample the four seasons in 1 hour that Scotland is famous for, having brilliant sunshine, showers, severe hailstones and biting chill winds.
The journey back was pleasant and we again stayed at the Isles Inn, which on Sunday was even busier than Thursday night.
As residents we took priority in the restaurant over people walking in off the street looking for a meal, which was a good thing as there were more people waiting than there were spaces all evening.
Monday proved to be another wet and windy day making the riding ‘interesting’ again as we made our way back to Fort William for lunch and Dunbarton for the evening stop-over at a Travelodge, which had a Carvery Pub close by (and good it was too! – we also had breakfast there the following morning).
The journey to Buckley from Dunbarton was another showery and windy ride which was otherwise uneventful.
We traveled 1300 miles in 7 days, most of which were wet and windy to some extent. We escaped the midges because it was so wet and windy and we know from previous experience of Scotland that the weather was unseasonably cold and wet.
I enjoyed the trip to the Hebrides and I would consider going back if the weather showed a chance of being better, but Jan says I would be going by myself!