My last ride ended in October 2016, that was a ride around the north coast of Scotland, then down the west coast after which I headed inland to Inverness. I’ve started previous rides from Inverness & covered The Highlands, Lowlands & East Coast of Scotland so this trip I’m heading for the West Coast, to the islands of The Outer Hebrides – getting there will be a bit of a long journey by train & ferry boat. I’m using my bike ‘Diana’ on the trip & she’ll also be travelling all the way with me.
As usual I’m starting the journey from home when I travel by train from Chelmsford departing in the afternoon to catch the 21:00hrs Caledonian Night Sleeper train from London Euston to Fort William, unlike last time I travelled on this train I’m not travelling 1st class. The main reason for this is the bargain price of £38 each way (London to Fort William) to travel in standard class, the train has a coach fitted out with recliner sleeping seats & I’ve booked an individual seat. The journey up to Fort William is around 12 hours, the only draw back is that there is a train change at Edinburgh (15mins stop over) at 04:00hrs when everyone has to de-train to board another service to Fort William.
On arrival at Fort William around 10:00hrs I’ve got a couple of hours wait until I board another train to head for the seaport of Mallaig, on arrival I’ve got to hang around for about 4 hours before catching the ferry boat ‘Lord of the Isles’ over to the island of South Uist, it’s a 3 & half hour crossing so we land around 21:00hrs at the port of Lochboisdale.
The Outer Hebrides (also known as The Western Isles) is an island chain separated from the Scottish west coast by the waters of the Minch, Little Minch & The Sea of the Hebrides. Scots Gaelic is the predominant language spoken on the islands, the group of islands is therefore known in Gaelic as Na h-Eileanan Sear (Islands of the Strangers). There are 15 inhabited islands & more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands, the most southerly point is Barra Head (on the island of Barra) & the most northerly is The Butt of Lewis (on the Island of Lewis) there are various important prehistoric structures spread amongst the islands. The islands became part of the Norse Kingdom of the Suoreyjar for over 400 years until it was transferred to Scotland in 1266 by The Treaty of Perth after which control of the islands fell to the Clan chiefs MacLeods, MacDonalds, Mckenzies & MacNeils. During the 19th century the Highland Clearances had a devastating effect on the communities & it’s only in recent years that population levels have ceased to decline. Most of todays commercial activity is based on crofting, fishing & weaving, sea transport is crucial to the islands with a variety of ferry services operating between the islands & the mainland of Scotland, in the past the stormy seas have claimed many ships. The archipelago is exposed to wind & tide & lighthouses are sited as an aid to navigation at locations from Barra Head in the south to Butt of Lewis in the north. There are numerous sites of wrecked ships & the Flannan Islands group are the location of a mystery in 1900 when all 3 lighthouse keepers disappeared without trace. In 1853 a three masted immigrant ship Annie Jane out of Liverpool bound for Montreal, Canada struck rocks off Vatersay during a violent storm & broke up with the loss of 450 people cast into the raging seas. In 1919 off the coast off the coast of Lewis the sinking of HMS Iolaire was one of the worst maritime disasters in the UK.
In the Census of 2011 the population of the island of South Uist was recorded as 1,754.
Update: I left him mid afternoon today & caught a train to London Liverpool Street after which I had a 30 minute ride to Euston Station, a surprisingly easy ride & I only took a wrong turning about three times. At Euston I had a couple of hours to kill before I could board my train to Fort William so I spent my time mooching around, drinking coffee in a couple of cafes & generally people watching, counting the number of tramps & beggars on the station concourse.
I boarded my train at 20:15hrs, an hour before departure. All but one of the coaches are ‘sleepers’ with standard & 1st class bunks available, the remains carriage is made up of about 40 recliner airline type seats, is reserved a single seat for myself however I was spoilt for choice on where to sit as there was only a total of 8 of us in this carriage. I’d chosen these seats as they were bargain price tickets, having booked well in advance & using my senior rail card its cost me £38 each way between Euston & Fort William.
The journey was fairly uneventful & we stopped at Stafford, Crewe & Preston as far as I recall.