There is something magical about going on holiday to a Scottish island. Maybe its in the blood (Viking blood?). My mum certainly had all her summer holidays on Bute as a girl. Doon the watter. We, on the other hand, have gone a bit further…..
Over the years, as the kids have been growing up, we have been to Mull, Barra, Tiree, Skye, Islay,Harris and Lewis. Each holiday starts with a drive out west (to Oban, Kennacraig or Uig) then dive into the bowels of the Calmac ferry, whilst the car satnav wifie wails “caution…ferry!”
You then squeeze out the car and clamber up the steep metal stairs. Kuro hates these. She waits for ages as we cajole then threaten and then finally she shoots up them like a rat up a drainpipe. We then find comfy seats in the dog friendly area and I head up on deck to watch the pier recede as we head out into the Minch (North Uist,Harris or Lewis journeys anyway). 30 minutes later I return, windswept but happy, down to the lounge deck and shout “whos wantin a Calmac curry?!”
After the traditional Calmac curry (Calmacaroni optional), its back up on deck to watch for dolphins and to look for our destination. When we first arrived in Harris, we thought we’d landed on the moon ! It was so rocky. As the boat docks, you head down to the dimly lit car deck, squeeze into your car and wait. Eventually the ramp is lowered, light floods in and you drive out blinking into the dazzling sunlight/drizzle*(delete as appropriate).
And it really is like being abroad. Maybe its the gaelic road signs, the sheep walking up the main street or the narrow roads with passing places but you definitely know you are not on the mainland.
And then you get out the car. The breeze is constant. Its exhilarating. You remark on this to your partner but they can’t hear you. “What?” they shout at you and you just laugh. And the air, the air tastes of salt.
The first beach you come to its ‘stop the car , stop the car!’. We tumble out, laughing, pulling on our jackets. The dogs shoot past us as we run/stumble across the machair towards the white sands. Its magic. The Atlantic crashing on the beach and you stupidly get caught by a wave, because you are a naive mainlander. Now your feet are soaking but who cares.
Back to the car, dogs trailing sand into the back seat and then the final drive to the holiday house. When the kids were tiny, they would sit on my lap and ‘drive’ the final mile to the house.
Our first family island holiday was Calgary Bay in Mull in 1999 to a remote croft. It was lovely but Mull was too busy and the locals were often eccentric Englishmen. One shopkeeper lectured me that milk was not a luxury after I bought two pints.
So, onto Barra in August 2001. Again a remote croft and the corncrake chorus at night was amazing. The locals were so friendly. They are all McNeils I think or so it seemed. Beautiful empty beaches and paddling in the turquoise sea on Vatersay, followed by crab sandwiches and chips in the Castlebay Hotel are great memories.
Anyway thats my memories of island holidays and soon we are off to a new destination. North Uist in August and the Calmac ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy. Hopefully we can get the dogs on the beach, fly a kite, eat lobster and scallop pizza (yes it is a thing) and get shellfish off the boats at the pier. Cannae wait!
PS Apologies for omitting the following islands but Tiree was very flat and very windy, Skye is now too busy and Islay is bad for your liver.