Some places we've been and some places we're going.

Archive for May 8, 2013


The first thing I noticed when I looked out the window this morning was a Lifeboat in the bay. It didn’t seem to be in a rush to go anywhere, it just pottered about, then I saw a motor launch. Alex saw the motor launch when it was swinging like a pendulum before it reached the water. Eventually after a few stops, starts and circles we were lucky to see the Lifeboat hitched up again and lifted back into its cradle. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride under those circumstances, in a dire situation I’m sure I’d be thrilled to be in it, swinging about or not. After the Lifeboat launch & return it was time for breakfast, enough food to keep us going for quite a while. Our host told us that Calmac always test out their Lifeboats in Barra Harbour, one week testing one side then testing the other the following Tuesday.

We found a Guide Book in our room and decided to follow it which was excellent, we found out about lots of little quirks as we circled the island. One story was about a house built on the gravesite of two sailors whose bodies were found washed up on the shore. The house was built in the 30s but was uninhabited for many years before it was demolished in 1999. That didn’t seem to be the end of it though because the mechanical digger working on the site broke down and sat for over a month on the pile of stones before finally work continued and a new house was built. None of us were sure we’d have enjoyed moving into the new house.

The type of sheep kept here lose their wool if it isn’t shorn and there are a lot about that look really daggy with strands hanging off and “bald patches” which just have short wool. One sheep looked as though it had stood far too long with its back to the wind! When I walked up to take a photo it was unperturbed but another sheep, with a lamb, saw me and came straight towards me looking at me intently and calling. Another lamb came up to her and then the three of them trailed me back to the car. If she was expecting food it was a disappointing time for her.

The Airport is truly unique, not for its buildings but it’s “runways”. Planes take off twice a day, the time varies depending on the tides because they take off and land on the beach. Unfortunately we had no idea when that was likely to be today and luck wasn’t on our side but we did see a van far out on the sand. We wouldn’t have had a clue why it was there but Lena said people go out to collect cockles.

Barra used to have a thriving Herring Industry and along the foreshore are Interpretive Boards showing where each processing station was. Big Mooring Rings can still be seen in places. “Herring Girls” worked at the stations, gutting, salting and storing the fish in barrels. Alex & Lena’s maternal grandmother worked as a Herring Girl, travelling from place to place following the Herring. After World War 1, the introduction of trawlers wrecked the Herring grounds and saw the end of the large scale Herring processing at Barra. As we went about the island today we saw Lobster Pots in big stacks, this kind of fishing doesn’t damage the seabed and seems to be quite lucrative for some, going by the fancy cars we’ve seen about.

Tomorrow will start early for us. The Ferry leaves for Lochboisdale on South Uist at 7:00. It’s only about an hour and a half journey this time.


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