After a surprisingly refreshing night’s sleep at Glasgow airport’s Holiday Inn Express, and a complimentary all you can eat Scottish breakfast, we headed on over to the airport terminal to catch the FlyBe/Logan Air flight out to the island of Barra – one of the Outer Hebrides.
Why Barra you might ask? Well travel insurance to go abroad isn’t so easy to come by when one of you is on chemo (Rich), but as we’re both quietly determined and adventurous, we still want our holidays to be as exciting as possible. When Rich discovered that the flight to Barra is the only scheduled one in the world to land on a beach, we decided that we had to go. You can reach the island by ferry, but that seemed far too easy and sensible, when we had the option of arriving on a twin otter plane, at the end of October, in high winds…
The flight was full, albeit with about 15 people including the pilots, and we had a birds eye view from our front row seats. This meant that I had to try not to worry about the post-stick notes one of the pilots was sticking on the windscreen. I also had to pretend that I wasn’t desperate for the loo as there wasn’t a toilet on board.
Despite the high winds the plane skimmed the waves and landed smoothly on the beach known as Traigh Mhòr, at the northern end of the island. We soon realised that what we thought was the bus stop was actually the baggage reclaim area, and that the bus awaited at the far end of the car park. Barra has an excellent bus service given the size of the island, and out of season you’ll likely find yourself being dropped off right outside your holiday accommodation, even if it involves a short detour for the driver. This saved us a 15 minute walk in the wind with our bags from the centre of Castlebay, and all for the bargain price of £3.40 between the two of us.
Our base for the week was this extremely well equipped and cosy apartment in the township of Bentangaval, on the outskirts of Castlebay. That it happened to have the best views in Castlebay was an added bonus. We quickly made ourselves at home and then walked down to the Co-op in the village to stock up on groceries. It would be an understatement to say that I was pleasantly suprised to find several shelves of gluten free products, but given that the whole island relies on this supermarket it makes perfect sense. Whilst there are a few other small grocery stores dotted around, and the Barra Atlantic factory provides a weekly fish van, islanders are limited as to where they can buy food without going to Oban on the mainland – at least 5 hours away on the ferry.
Before darkness descended we followed the Vatersay road up as far as the war memorial, to breathe in the amazing views. Barra really is very wild and remote, and we could hear only the sea and the wind. Not everyone’s cup of tea I know, but amber nectar as far as we’re concerned.
After dinner, from the living room window we watched the ferry majestically enter the harbour and dock for the next couple of days. With forecast winds of up to 80mph, she wouldn’t be able to go anywhere safely for a little while. Indeed by 10pm the rain had started to lash the windows and the wind to howl, and we were in our element. Welcome to Barra!