I was all packed and ready to go the night before when I received a text message from CalMac to say that the ferry was going to be delayed due to bad weather and that they would message again in the morning with an estimated time of departure. There had been a terrible storm over the weekend apparently and many of the sailings to the outer isles had been delayed. Could I have picked the worst possible week of the year to cycle the Outer Hebrides I asked myself, or was the storm about to pass and the weather to settle for the next few days? It made me think of the Clint Eastwood film where he points a six barreled gun with only one bullet to someone’s head and asked, “Do you feel lucky?”
I hardly slept at all that night, not sure if it was because I was excited or just wondering if God would be kind after all and send us the sunshine! We left Edinburgh sharp in case the ferry sailed on time, but shortly after we received a message to say it would at 4.30pm. By the time we got to Oban we had a couple of hours to kill. Oban is one of the few places where I ever miss, or think about, the Woolworth store. I’ve spent one too many rainy afternoons in Oban where we have dived into Woolworths to avoid being soaked and purchased something completely unnecessary to take back to the accommodation and never read.
The ferry eventually sailed at 5.30 after what felt like an eternity waiting in the car at the terminal. It was still lashing with rain at this point and it really felt like I was on a trip, sitting in a steamed up car listening to the rain. The first couple of hours on the journey were fine but as we got further out into the Atlantic the swell got up and after a plate of CalMac’s finest Macaroni Cheese and chips, the meal of champions, I started to feel distinctly queasy. I felt reassured that I was not the only one as there was woman sitting nearby who looked very white about the gills and couldn’t sit for more than five minutes without going for a walk. I managed a bit of sleep however and before I knew it I could see the lights of Kisimul Castle and at 11pm, a bit bleary eyed, arrived at our Hostel.
As soon as we arrived at Dunard Hostel on Barra, I wanted to write about it straight away. It felt decidedly quirky with its multi colour décor and 70’s wood panelling up the stairs. It looked from the outside a bit dilapidated and the inside, well perhaps we could describe it as rustic. I didn’t really care about anything, I was so exhausted and just wanted to get to bed, I would have slept anywhere.
I had a really good nights sleep and I even slept through all the announcements and noise of the 7am ferry leaving from across the road. Then, I had a magical moment, I got up, looked out of the window and got my first glimpses of Castlebay on the beautiful isle of Barra. The sun was out, there wasn’t a breath of wind and the sea looked like a sheet of glass. A small medieval castle called Kisimul Castle stood right in the centre of the bay. It looked majestic. It was a special moment because I had no idea what was there. It had been completely dark when we arrived late the night before. I felt so excited and couldn’t wait to get on the bike that day to start my journey.