Tales from Barra Part IV – Vatersay

Friday, 24th November 2006
Last day on Barra and able to confirm that the ferry would be running to timetable and I’d need to be down the pier by half-past four to get aboard. A beautiful morning and my last chance to get down the Vatersay, so I grabbed some oatcakes for the pocket and the camera for my hand and walked off down the road.
Even in Castlebay there are remains of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century blackhouses and one has been incorporated into a modern house as an extension. I climbed the road through Nask and came up to the modern war memorial with stunning views back across to Castlebay and Heavel rising up behind the town. The road curved west across the southern coast of Barra and the causeway to Vatersay came into sight. I passed the site of one of the most extensive archaeological investigations at Allt Chrisal and which is going to be made more accessible and interpreted for the visitor in due course.

There is a slipway at Vatersay against the new causeway and there are a number of creel boats based here, contributing to the seafood economy of the island. There are also the walker’s bane; dogs which decide they’ve got nothing better to do than to come walking along with you for half a mile or more. I crossed over to the next deep bay running in from the east and decided to climb Theiseabhal Mor (the highest point on Vatersay at 190m) and bag the trigpoint. Quite a slog up greasy slopes, but the view from the top was well worth it, with the last of the chain of the Hebrides stretching out to the south and the twin sandy beaches of Vatersay below, somewhat indistinct beneath the high tides.

Walked back to the hostel, lunched and then to the school for the internet access and some emailing and blogging. Then a cup of coffee in the cafe opposite, packing and sitting in the hostel until the ferry sailed into the bay and aboard. The return crossing was reasonable comfortable, but it’s a long, long five-and-a-half hour sail in the darkness back to Oban. We arrived about ten minutes early and I was first off, back to the car in five minutes and home on the dot of the pips at eleven o’clock.
I shall return to Barra and the Outer Hebrides. There’s lots more to do on Barra that demands a longer day and better weather – exploring the coves and beaches, walking the hills and finding the Heritage Centre open, for example.

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