Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Loch Ewe to Tolsta, Isle of Lewis – Scotland Tour 2013 – Living in a Hiace camper Van


Today it was time to set off on my way again, northwards, towards Ullapool, then across the sea to the Outer Hebrides, and my destination of the Isle of Lewis.. I got everything arranged for the trip, and loaded my kayak and bike onto the van again ready to move on..


The camp before I left Loch Ewe

I bid farewell to my friends there, and thanked them for their friendship and all the great times over the last number of days, then set out on the road north, through Poolewe and onwards. The first place I stopped to take a look at on the way was Gruinard bay. It was again a lovely sunny day and the beaches looked stunning and the sea was calm. I looked down on it from above, before driving onwards past the location, craning my neck to catch a glimpse without stopping – I had a good drive ahead of me.


Gruinard Bay

After rounding Loch Broom, I eventually arrived at the port of Ullapool. It was a small seaside port town with a few shops selling necessities and curiosities, cafes, and pubs, and a fish n chips place where I had a good meal before visiting the ferry terminal to get my ticket to Stornoway on Lewis. As it turned out, the ferry was fully booked for the day, so I was given a standby ticket with a good chance of getting onboard just the same.

I went onto another of those highland hardware shops that sells absolutely everything, and bought a few more spinners in the fishing tackle section – they had a good selection on offer and I was able to replace some I'd lost at a reasonable cost. Then I was straight down to the harbour to wait for the departure of the ferry, and see if I'd get on or not. I was waved on, not long after the rest of the waiting ferry traffic had boarded, and parked in among big trucks and touring motor bikes from Germany and Italy. I went straight up to the open rear deck to be ready to watch as we left port..



It was a really enjoyable crossing and really exciting to be heading off to unexplored (for me) new lands in a remote kingdom far out to sea. Leaving Ullapool, we sailed past the Summer Isles, a collection of small islands on the north coast of the loch.. I watched as a large gull soared above the stern of the ship, then skilfully came to land upon the flagpole as the Scottish flag danced in the sea breeze.. Later I sat near the bow behind huge glass windows at the bow, and baked in the greenhouse like heat in my t-shirt, munching a steak pie I'd brought onboard for tea.



Arriving in Stornoway around 8:30pm, I was already feeling tired from the day, the heat, and the travels behind me, so I immediately hit the road in a north easterly direction, towards a destination I had picked out on the map eariler – Tolsta. It was a t the end of the road (as far as I knew), and there were beaches visible on the map. Stornoway appeared like a busy port and a thriving town, with many wealthy looking homes as I drove northwards, then out into the country there were many small villages giving the impression that Lewis was quite densely populated.

On reaching Tolsta, and beyond, things became a lot more isolated, and I began driving through more rugged coastal scenery. Eventually I came upon the beaches beyond the headland which I could glimpse when I dared take my eye off the narrow and winding single track road. I spotted a couple of good places to camp, but I wanted to see how far the road would go, and how it would end; would it peter out, or would it end abruptly, or something else entirely?

What I found was that the tarmac road eventually ended, then turned into an old cobbled road surface beyond a huge bridge over a gorge. I continued up the cobbled road for some distance, but as it was climbing again, I decided that I'd rather return to the beach and camp by the sea. I later found out that this old cobbled road was part of an unfinished project started by Lord Leverhulme when he was making improvements to the infrastructure of the Isle of Lewis in the 1920's.


Lord Leverhulme's road

I found an excellent location to camp in a small car park right by Tolsta Bay (there is even a amall toilet block and bins) and although pretty tired by now immediately went for a walk through the dunes and onto the beach. There was no one else there and the beach looked at least ½ mile long with huge dunes along most of its length, and waves crashing in..



I sat on the dunes for a while – around 11pm daylight was beginning to fade, and took in the remote silence of the place I had found myself this evening. Found myself, may be the perfect phrase, as something I've learned from this trip is that wherever you find yourself is the centre of the universe, well beyond the usual ideas of security, familiarity and home..

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If you're looking for a good map of Western Scotland and the Western Isles, the one I recommend is the 'Road 2' - this map used to be produced by OS, but they stopped doing it. You can buy it here for £4.99:

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