2019 Western Isles Motorhome Trip
A month of so back we had a rescue dog join our family - Ludo, a lively 5-year old Labrador/Golden retriever cross. We'd done an initial trial weekend away with him the motorhome and he liked it, so with a week off in April we gave some thought to where we'd go with him for his first proper motorhome trip.
A decade or so back we'd toured the Outer Hebrides and, remembering all the lovely quiet beaches, decided that'd be a good place to take him. Last time we used the longer crossings from Oban to Barra, then returning from Stornaway to Ullapool however as we weren't sure how Ludo would cope on ferries we decided to use shorter routes so instead planned the trip around the crossings from Uig on Skye. Caledonian MacBrayne have a reputation for being dog friendly and the ferries we were going to use had inside seating areas where you could take the dogs, so with the main crossings only being around 2 hours in length we expected that to be ok.
As is often the case for us on these trips the only thing we had booked initially was the ferry, and would decide as we went where we'd overnight. Given it was quite early in the season we weren't expecting the islands to be too busy so weren't anticipating any issues - even though the first weekend of our trip was also the Easter holiday weekend.
As we're not always the best at getting up and away in the morning we packed the motorhome so we could leave on the Thursday evening (Friday being the first day of the holiday period) and would then drive partway. We'd initially been thinking about over-nighting at the The House of Bruar but decided to push on a bit further and ended up using the car-park at the Laggan Wolftrax mountain biking area. According to the app we use (Park4Night) it's permitted to overnight there if you purchase a parking ticket. There was one other motorhome in the car-park with us, who appeared to be mountain bikers planning to get an early start.
We made an early start in the morning ourselves, enjoying a quiet drive along the lovely A86 towards Fort William, before taking the A82 and then the A87 towards Skye. On the way we stopped to have a look at Eilean Donan Castle.
We then headed up further along towards Skye, stopping at a viewpoint where we could see the bridge:
We then headed up to Portree, which is the biggest town on Skye, to have a walk around - visiting some of the shops as well as a little market that was on in one of the church halls.
As we were going to be in Uig very early for our ferry we phoned Cal Mac to see if there was an earlier boat but it turned out the 18:30 one we were booked on was the next one anyway. Instead we took a drive round the northern peninsula on Skye, stopping to visit Flora MacDonald's grave which is right beside the interesting Skye Museum of Island Life. We'd visited that before so didn't go in this time, instead taking Ludo for a walk and paying our respects at Flora's grave.
Driving back down towards Portree we passed an area where the series Outlander is filmed and the car parks (and roadside verges) there were packed, so it's definitely bringing tourists onto the island.
Returning to Uig we got the motorhome on the boat and walked Ludo up the steep stairs (which he didn't like) to the area where you're allowed to sit with your dogs. There were quite a few other folks with dogs there and all of them, including Ludo, were well behaved so it was relaxing journey over calm seas.
Arriving into Lochmaddy on North Uist we decided to head to the Clachan Sands camping area, where you pay £10 per night into an honest box to park on the Machair and right beside a nice white sand beach. There isn't much in the way of facilities, just a water tap, but who needs them with views like this:
There were a few other motorhomes enjoying the location but it was very peaceful and a lovely spot to spend the night.
In the morning we did a bit of exploring of the beach before wandering down through the Uists and Benbecula and eventually onto Eriskay, as the ferry terminal there has showers that you can pay to use (£2 if I recall correctly), as well as a place where you can dispose of motorhome toilet waste. We used the facilities then chilled for a bit (it was quiet as it was between ferries) before heading to a wild camping spot we'd used on a previous trip that's on the seafront up the coast a bit from Lochboisdale. Ludo really enjoyed a couple of long walks along the beach there, which was empty other than the occasional local dog walker.
The next morning the weather was a bit wild so we took Ludo for a walk along the machair before heading back north, as we were due to catch the ferry to Harris the next day. We wandered our way up through South Uist and Benbecula before visiting the RSPB nature reserve at Balranald, which has a small campsite next to it. We decided to head up to Berneray though, as it's a lovely little island (accessed by a causeway) with some lovely white sand beaches.
As you can see in the photo above, Ludo isn't keen on my leaving the motorhome without him - even if, as was the case here, I was just nipping out to take some photos!
On Berneray people wild camp (in tents, caravans and motorhomes) just behind the beaches. We stopped there for some of the day, walking the dog in the dunes behind the beach, but decided to head to the ferry terminal as there is another waste dump point and water tap there (no showers though, although there are toilets). We decided to overnight there as there is a good spot beside the terminal building and we were on an early ferry to Harris, and you can also connect to CalMac's free WiFi.
The next morning the weather was back to being great again (the previous day was the only bad weather day of the trip) and it was perfect conditions for the short but scenic ferry crossing to Harris. Due to lots of shallow sandbanks and sunken rocks the ferry takes a pretty convoluted path, twisting and turning to stay in the deeper channel. On short crossings like this you can either leave the dog in the motorhome or, as we did, take it up to a small dog-friendly seating area. Ludo wasn't desperately keen on the steep open stairs (there is a lift as well though) but was fine once we got up there.
We decided to skip through Harris quickly and head up to Lewis as we'd be coming back down to take the ferry back to Uig at the end of the week and would spend more time on Harris then.
There were various stops to enjoy the scenery though!
On the way north we passed the community forest area at Ardvourlie and decided to stop there to give Ludo a walk. What a find that is - there are various routes (on both sides of the road) including some on wooden walkways. We did a walk out to the remains of an old township on Loch Seaforth this time but would re-visit on our way back to do the walks on the other side of the road as well, as they're very nice.
We then headed up to Stornaway for a supermarket shop. We've been to the town before so after filling up the cupboards and fridge we headed a short way north of the town to North Tolsta and the fabulous beach at Traigh Mhòr. We'd overnighted there on our last visit and it's one of my favourite beaches anywhere and I knew Ludo would love it. There were quite a few cars (and a few camper vans) in the campsite so we decided to park at the roadside above the beach, where there is a little area with a picnic table. It's further away from the toilets but we didn't need those anyway, and the views were better from up there.
We then had a couple of walks along the deserted beach including one right along to the very end, which must be a couple of miles away. Ludo loved it, although the seabirds weren't as pleased as he chased most of them off!
The next morning we walked Ludo along to the famous "Bridge to Nowhere". There is another car-park there used by motorhomes that looks like a good option if Traigh Mhòr is busy or you have a larger motorhome and the Traigh Mhòr car-park is too tight.
We then headed across Lewis and then up to the lighthouse at the very north tip of the Island, at Port of Ness.
There were lots of seabirds to photographs as well as a few seals in the sea below, although it was a bit nerve wracking having Ludo so close to the cliffs. Definitely had to keep him on the lead!
We then headed back south to visit the standing stones at Callanish. These really are interesting and in a lovely spot, especially on a nice day like this one was. We were a little unfortunate with the timing as we arrived at the same time as a bus trip, so a little work was required to get photos without people in the background!
After Callanish we moved onto Ardroil as there is a little campsite there, beside yet another lovely beach, we'd used on our last visit. It has more facilities now than it did on our last visit - everything except an electric hook up in fact - so well worth the £15 price as we could use the showers, get water and drop our grey and black waste.
After setting up (which in our case just means parking and turning the gas on!) we took Ludo out onto the beach.
Ardroil is where the Lewis Chessmen were found, and there is a memorial for that near the campsite which we visited on our morning walk.
Ludo wasn't keen on us reading the notice boards though - probably wanted to get back onto the beach.
Closeby there is also an old cemetery which contains several war-graves, including some which seemed confusing as they had dates on of 01/01/2019 - after the end of WW1. Turns out these were from the Iolaire disaster, when more than 200 people returning home from the war were drowned when the ship they were coming home in hit rocks and was sunk. Incredibly sad.
After leaving Ardroil we headed back into Harris, stopping at the Ardvourlie community woodlands to walk Ludo again. This time we took a route that headed up a small hill, with some lovely views from the top.
We then headed down to Luskentyre as we intended overnighting at one of the locations that the West Harris Trust have created for motorhomes to use. They have some with facilities but we decided to use one of the £5 per night locations (paid via the internet) right beside the fabulous beach at Luskentyre.
We had a lovely evening walk along the beach as the sun was setting and the tide heading out.
After a quiet night we took a drive through Tarbert then onto the small island of Scalpay before heading back to park near Urgha to climb the path the postman used to use to get to Rhenigidale before a road was built to it. This is a lovely walk, with great views near the top.
After the walk Ludo was pretty knackered so had a nap in the motorhome, although not in his usual sleeping spot under the table.