My first full day on North Uist and I spent it travelling around the island and getting my bearings. It’s not a huge place, so after a day spent driving and walking, I’m already familiar with the geography.
One of the main reasons I like to come to places like this is for the remoteness and lack of the hustle and bustle of my usual working week in the centre of Manchester. However, today was exceptionally quiet. There were very few people about and I didn’t come across many cars – maybe it’s always like this; I’ll have to wait and see tomorrow!
I spent the morning at RSPB Balranald, out on the western coast of the island. It has contrasting landscapes with wide, open and flat pasture, sandy beaches and rocky shorelines. The weather out there changed by the minute; to-ing and fro-ing between rain and bright sunshine, the strong wind blew clouds over so quickly that it was difficult to keep up! The rain didn’t spoil my visit, however, and I think the weather is all part of the experience and certainly made it memorable.
I’m a bit early in the year for some of the highlights at the reserve such as rasping corncrakes and the wildflowers of the Machir but I did get some good views of the local wildlife and passing migrants. There were flocks of golden plover moving from field to field, a couple of great skuas flew along the coast and a small group of barnacle geese lifted and headed north as I rounded of the shoreline.
After walking along the white sand beaches of the reserve, I headed off on more wanderings around the island and came across the chambered cairn and standing stones at Beinn Langais. I walked up to the cairn, then to the top of the hill and round, back via the standing stones, with the weather just as changeable as it was in the morning. From the top of the hill, despite the cloud, there were great views across much of the island and down to the south towards Benbecula and South Uist; on a clear days the sights much be amazing.
For the last part of the day, I travelled across the minor road that almost splits the island in half (well, more like one third to two thirds) and then headed up to Berneray to what the landscapes were like in the north. I wasn’t disappointed as the beaches, hills and small lochs were just as photogenic as they were elsewhere during the day.
Today has certainly whetted my appetite for more wanderings around the island. After a guided wildlife tour tomorrow, I’ve got a few ideas of where to visit next. I certainly want to visit the islands to the south but there’s so much more to do on North Uist that I may not get around to going to Harris and Lewis at all – perhaps that’s another trip up here already in the planning!