Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

A spot of island hopping Part 6: exploring South Uist

8th October 2008

Friday, August 15th:

After the wonderful weather that I met on Harris and enjoyed from there to South Uist, the skies on the Friday of my week-long visit were to have more of a milky consistency. That isn’t to say that the day was a bad one, even if I did get a few light rain showers in the middle of the day. Compared to what other parts of the U.K. had been experiencing, these were minor perturbations and I more than well aware how lucky I was.

My explorations for the day took on something of the feel of a piece of reconnaissance. The hill country around Beinn Mor and Hecla was where I wanted to explore and that did happen, though not necessarily in the way that I had planned. An idea in my mind was to ascend the slopes of Maola Breac and perhaps to continue to the summit of Beinn Mor. However, a spot of confusion induced by the bus driver meant that I got off near Loch Druidibeag National Nature Reserve instead. Naturally, that resulted in a change of plan and, having seen the way in which the hills had sheathed themselves with cloud, it might have been just as well to stay low anyway. Speaking of lower altitudes, I didn’t limit my explorations to hillier locales since I got to sample South Uist’s machair, one of Scotland’s National Scenic Areas, too. That might have led me to stopping over at Dalabrog (English: Daliburgh) when I otherwise might not have done. May might be the best month for a visit, but the flora can be colourful in August too, as I discovered.

Machair near Dalabrog, South Uist, Scotland

What was equally worthwhile were the sights that I saw as I picked up the road for Loch Sgioport after leaving the bus at Groigearraidh. The hills were well in view as I skirted the shores of Loch Druidibeag. The hills were brooding under their cloudy cloak, but the sun was lighting up what was round about me. As I sped along the road, I was making my way through countryside that was getting increasingly rough, hummocky and lochan-studded. The rocky buttresses of Hecla came ever closer while passing Beinn Tarbert revealed views to the north; I believe that I was making out Eaval in the distance.

As is my wont, I eventually made my escape from tarmac tramping to pick up a good track that was signed for Hecla. It’s best not to leave initial appearances fool you, though, because the maintained track only goes as far as old shielings at Caolas Mor. After that, it’s very much a case of carefully navigating through the country until steeper inclines are reached. Keeping by the coast helps because my wanderings revealed how tricky it would be to find your way using a more direct approach. You might have a right to roam, but the slow progress over tussocks soon convinces you that there are easier places to walk. Seeing it with a grey and damp aspect, like I did, very much reinforces that impression; this was where I got the least clement weather of the day.

Loch Druidibeag with Hecla and Beinn Mor, Stadhlaigearraidh, South Uist, Scotland

In fact, it was while I was wandering over those tussocks that the day was at its most leaden in appearance and dampest in feel, but things were set to improve. In fact, the hills were to be uncloaked, allowing for a spot of photographic activity. After my fill of rough country walking, I returned to the road again and followed it to its end, a very dilapidated pier, before retracing my steps through countryside that looked better than before. The route followed on my return wasn’t completely faithful to the outbound one: I followed an inviting track into the nature reserve. Soon, that became a peaty path that commanded concentration unless one was intent on blundering over heathery hummocks in a manner inconsistent with the retention of one’s dignity. It was still off-road walking and with good views over Loch Druidibeag too, all while I was being taken to Stahlaigearraidh (English: Stilligarry) without incident. From there, it was back to Lochboisdale with an evening stop in Dalabrog on the way.

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