Oban was a joy to explore on a sunny Sunday morning. The small town built on steep slopes sits in horseshoe bay which serves as a pivotal hub for ferries to islands of both the inner and outer Hebrides. A Coloseumesque 19th century folly sits above the town like a giant crown.
A glorious afternoon proved ideal for our four and three quarter hour ferry trip to Barra in the south of the Outer Hebrides, with dolphin spotting well rewarded. After a night in a delightful hostel, in the village of Castlebay, with views of said castle and the sea, we were well rested for the next stage of our journey.
Much of our route follows the Sustrans Hebridean Way, route 780, which starts in Vatersay, joined by causeway to Barra and ends some 150 miles later at the top of the Isle of Lewis. A few miles looking around Barra took in the airport, which uses a beach at low tide as the runway, before taking a 40 minute ferry ride to the tiny island of Eriskay.
The roads that service the mainly coastal populations are mostly single track with frequently passing places and are surprisingly well surfaced, with far fewer hills than anticipated. The terrain is a mix of rough grazing farmland and boulder strewn moors dotted with hundreds of small lochs shimmering sapphire blue in the autumn sun. Whilst there are a some beef cattle out grazing, including a herd of Highlands with their long horns and Boris Johnson haircuts, the majority of the four legged natives are either Scots Blackface or Cheviot sheep.
Island hopping continued up through South Uist, birth place of Flora MacDonald, to Benbecula, joined to each other and Eriskay by causeways over the sea. Comparing notes with a father and son and a young couple from Suffolk, also riding the route, who we criss-cross along the way add a certain shared camaraderie.
Our host for the night, on a south Benbecula sheep farm, tells us we are very fortunate to have good weather, the forecast is good for Tuesday too, as it has been a particularly wet summer this year. Even the rain coming in from the west looks like it will pass over these Western Isles overnight so we are keeping our fingers crossed.