OUR LADY OF THE ISLES – SOUTH UIST
The morning dawned a bit misty and grey, and with the internet working fairly well we just stayed up there till the day began to lighten a bit. We had passed the viewing point on the way up, but there were already a couple of cars parked in the small pull in leaving no room for Thebus, but early in the morning we had the place to ourselves. There is a viewing telescope but the eyepiece was far too high for me to see into, and the little platform round it was made for children so that would have meant me bending at the knees which I can't do either so I just took a few more shots with the camera on maximum zoom and hoped I had it pointed in the right direction.
The views out over the flat lands to the sea are wonderful, with the little croft houses scattered like a handful of rice grains flung far and wide over the green marshes and machair.
Once down and driving amongst the many lochs the light reflecting from the darkly rippled water was enchanting, and even more so when I saw the largest flock of swans I have seen in my life. In fact wouldn't have imagined there could have been so many in one group. The roads through this area were of course all single track and the many fishermen had often taken the odd available parking spot, so there were very few photo opportunities.
Then past a stunning wide bay with turquoise seas and white sand, unfortunately being Bank Holiday again a lot of the stopping places were taken, though Bank Holiday traffic here equates to early Sunday morning traffic on the Herefordshire B roads, in other words still exceptionally quiet.
I had seen the statue of Our Lady of the Isles mentioned on the tourist map and I suppose had dismissed it as not really worth seeking out, but I was most definitely wrong on that score. The statue is enormously tall, and very beautifully designed and executed, and although put up in the 1950's is still pristine, as it looks out in blessing over the wide salt marshes and bay beneath. Apparently back then, at the height of the cold war the UK government had designs on the whole area, with plans for closing it off as a testing ground and military base, and it was thanks in large part to a local Catholic Priest that this plan was not carried out, though a smaller and less intrusive base was built. The population on the southern part of the group of the islands forming the Outer Hebrides still holds to the old religion.
The day was drawing on, and I was wondering where we might pull in for the night when I spotted a sign for a Youth Hostel, at Tobha Mor and thinking there may be somewhere for us, or if not they might have a suggestion as to a stopping place we went on down. Once again it seemed very tight with little turning space. In retrospect, when I pulled out the next morning it seemed nowhere near as daunting, so I think many of my worries are based more on nervousness of the unknown – in other words – there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Arriving some kindly folk waved me on down to where there was plenty of space to park up by the little Church of Scotland Church, and apparently no-one minded as long as it was vacant for the Sunday Services. I had bought some wonderful salmon, cold smoked over a peat fire, from the Hebridean Smokery, so I had that with a nice fresh salad. And we spent a lovely night there, looking out over the Machair and a peaceable suckler herd with young calves at foot grazing nearby.