The Get Out Adventures team are just back in Edinburgh after spending the last week on the Isle of Barra; this was our first trip to the Outer Hebrides, and it certainly will not be our last. The entire island is surrounded by crystal clear emerald water & unspoilt white sand beaches that wouldn’t go amiss on a postcard for the Caribbean.
During our trip we explored all of the main beaches and completed two of the must do walks, amongst others. One of the famous walks we did was the Vatersay Coastal Circuit. It includes several beautiful beaches, an abandoned croft, and views towards Sandray in the South and the climbing destination island, Pabbay. Mingulay was hiding behind Pabbay so sadly we couldn’t see it.
The second of the must-do walks was an ascent up the highest peak on Barra - Sheabhal (383m). The rugged hill overlooks Castlebay taking in views of Kisimul Castle and majority of the coastline around the island. Luckily for us, the visibility was so good that we were also rewarded with views of South Uist and The Isle of Skye in the distance.
We sampled some of the rock climbing on the island by bouldering on a developed boulder that overlooks the Airport beach and an undeveloped outcrop by the sea beside our holiday home. Due to the unsettled weather of heavy rain then golden sunshine most days we decided to hold off on the bigger routes on the western sea cliffs of the island for another visit.
The sea kayaking was utterly fantastic and relaxing. We could launch from our literal doorstep on a high tide after a gentle 15 metre walk with the boats and tour around the airport beach bay during high tides. We spent several days rock hopping along enjoying the sounds, scenery and sea life, which sadly only consisted of seaweed and oystercatchers for us, despite our neighbours having several sightings of otters in the bay outside our house! There were a number of great bays and inlets around the coast for us to investigate in the boats also. The only things missing were some natural arches and caves!
After our daily kayaking trips it was swim time for Tom, who is a keen open water swimmer. We practiced with different techniques to find out what worked best for a swimmer when following the kayak as Tom is soon to be safety boating for the St Kilda Swim 2014. 9 open water swimmers are planning to swim from the Isle of Harris to St Kilda on 28th June along with 3 supporting sea kayakers for charity…it’s never been attempted before!
One evening during low tide we ventured out onto the beach for a spot of cockle searching and managed to harvest enough for lunch the next day. TOP TIP: once you’ve collected enough, rinse them well then place them all in a large tub of fresh water with a generous palm full of salt and some fine oats and leave them overnight for them to filter through and clean themselves. The next day, boil in a pan until they’ve all opened, season and enjoy! Very yummy indeed.
While on any island it is also worth visiting the local fishing docks and finding out if you can buy fresh from them. We did from Barratlantic and came home with the freshest and tastiest Scallops, Langoustines, Prawn tails, Monkfish and Haddock. Utterly delicious. It was interesting to find out that the majority of their catch gets exported to France and Spain as the market in the UK is not that large!
All in all, a brilliant trip and definitely recommended!