This morning was a very early start, with alarms set for 6am. We were due to catch a ferry at 08.35, which doesn't sound like an unreasonable time for a ferry, but it was departing from a port called Leverburgh which is situated at the bottom of Harris. Our booking confirmation with the ferry company stipulated that the latest possible check-in time was 08.15 and it was a journey of 56 miles from where we were in Stornoway to the south of Harris, so I had calculated that we needed to check out of the apartment at 06.45.
In reality we ended up running around 10 minutes late but Tim managed to make up the time on the drive and we arrived at Leverburgh around 08.10. I was fairly annoyed when we got there to find that there were no staff members to check us in at all and we needn't have bothered getting there more than 5 minutes in advance to be loaded onto the ferry! It was a fairly small car ferry and the journey across to the island of Berneray only took one hour. We had to remain in our cars throughout the journey, which was happily a nice smooth one
I hadn't been planning for us to spend much time on Berneray. In fact, initially when I booked the ferry tickets I thought that Berneray was just the name of the port we were travelling to on the island of North Uist, as opposed to being a separate island in its own right. It was only when reading the Outer Hebrides guidebook over the past few days that I realised Berneray was an island, albeit connected to North Uist via a causeway. The entire island only has an area of around 10 square kilometres so it definitely isn't a big place but the guidebook had suggested that it had a very impressive beach, so we decided to investigate that before moving south to North Uist.
Following the instructions in the guidebook, we drove down a tiny road with a signpost towards a picnic spot. This led to a grassy area where we were able to park and follow a path through the sand dunes towards the beach.
The beach was marked on the map as "West Beach".
The sands stretch for approximately four miles, all the way down the west coast of Berneray.
As with Luskentyre beach yesterday, the expanse of golden sand and turquoise sea was incredible.
I think this beach was slightly better than Luskentyre though, because at 10am in the morning we had it all to ourselves
It was so beautiful that we couldn't resist going for a walk.
We must have walked several miles down the sands and then several miles back, because by the time we left the beach we both had over 10,000 steps on our FitBits.
It was one of those situations where you just want to get around the next corner. But corners on beaches can be quite deceptive
When we eventually did get to the corner, towards the northern edge of Berneray, we had a view back towards where we'd come from on the Isle of Harris.
It was a really lovely experience to have a beach like this to ourselves. And it even got so warm towards the end of the walk that I was able to take my fleece off
Once we'd finished exploring the west beach, we decided to have a quick drive around the rest of Berneray to see whether there were any other sights we might be missing. We found that there is an east beach too, although its not as big as the west beach and seemed to have more seaweed.
Otherwise, Berneray was mostly green and full of sheep
Tim had noticed that the island had a shop and bistro. The impression I'd got from the limited research I'd done was that there weren't a lot of places to eat on either North or South Uist, so we decided to take advantage of having found somewhere on Berneray and get some lunch. I was particularly impressed when we parked outside the shop and found this weather-forecasting stone
It turned out that the bistro had a lovely terrace and the weather was surprisingly warm enough for us to sit and eat outside.
By the time we'd finished lunch and were ready to leave Berneray it was around 1pm and we'd somehow managed to spend 3.5 hours on an island that's about 2 miles by 4
From Berneray we crossed to the island of North Uist via a causeway.
North Uist is a much bigger island and it has its own sandy beaches, which we'd probably have been more impressed by if we hadn't already had so much fun on the beach at Berneray.
Our main plan on North Uist was to stop at a nature reserve by a place called Balranald.
The guidebook had said that it was possible to park here and that there was a 3-mile marked nature trail.
We found the car park and started following little red arrows around the trail.
The path took us past more sandy beaches...
...through a grassy area with grazing cows...
...and then past an increasingly rocky coastline.
We passed small lochs...
...some of which had to be crossed...
...and enjoyed the views out to sea.
It was amazing, because one minute there was a bright blue sky like in the picture above and then the next minute a mist started to roll in and we could barely see the sea.
Luckily we could still see the red arrows marking the path.
The path led us up and down over sand dunes, before finally coming back in a loop to where we'd parked the car.
Once we got back in the car we drove down to the bottom of North Uist, crossed a causeway onto the small island of Benbecula, and then crossed a final causeway onto the island of South Uist.
We're staying in a small B&B on South Uist, not far from the port of Lochboisdale where we're departing by ferry tomorrow morning. The room is fine for one night and the host is a very friendly lady who booked us a table at a local restaurant so that we could get an evening meal.
Our reservation wasn't until 19.30 so we still had some time to explore.
It was a gorgeous sunny evening as we drove around the bottom of South Uist.
When looking at the map I realised that there was one more island we could drive across to on a causeway: Eriskay.
One final island was too tempting an opportunity to miss, so off we went across the causeway
Eriskay is another tiny island, of a similar size to Berneray.
It was really pretty though, and from here we had a few out across lots of little even smaller islands.
It was beautiful, especially with the sun starting to set.
Once we'd admired the views for a while it was time to drive back across Eriskay to South Uist.
We had no idea what the restaurant which had been booked for us was going to be like, but luckily it was fine. Tim had a Thai curry, I had a chilli con carne and we both had a beautiful dessert.
It was a nice end to what has been a fun but slightly tiring day in the Outer Hebrides