Friday, May 18, 2018
Today is moving day again. Our ultimate goal since leaving Northern Ireland has been to make it to the Outer Hebrides – a chain of islands west of the west coast of Scotland. They are all linked by either a causeway or by ferry and have intrigued me since I started planning this trip. You know how we love a good island…
The ferry to Barra doesn’t leave until afternoon so after breakfast at Raniven House (nothing special – continental, but ok) our plan is to mill around Oban a bit. We easily pack up and go.
Our first stop is the local Tesco (think “Fry’s Grocery” except in the UK) to search for a product that one of our friends has requested. Seems Dean has a hankerin’ for Bovril – a meat based “spread” that he can’t get in the US. We have actually seen the name in one of our favorite cookbooks. No problem.
We gas up and mess around the ferry area until it is time to get in line. The car is parked in line for the ferry and we have another hour to kill. We had passed a cool seafood shack on the way in and decided to give it a whirl.
The Green Seafood Hut is buzzing! This is obviously the place to be.
We had planned to just get a crab sandwich to take on the ferry, but were overtaken by the notice of seared scallops in butter sauce and the mussels in white wine.
I asked for the mussels, paid and was directed to the man furiously shaking skillets of huge fresh mussels cooking with onions and white wine. When it was my turn he dished out a heaping helping! Keep in mind that the price is 3.95gbp!
We sat at the picnic tables and devoured our seafood. Rich’s scallops were excellent and my mussels were some of the best I have had. (To read about the absolute BEST mussels – click HERE).
What a feast! We topped it off with a crab sandwich to take away for the long ferry ride. One more stop at the little coffee shop for a latte and we are ready to board the ferry.
The ferry trip to Barra is almost 5 hours long.
We blog, we snooze, we read, we watch a movie.
Soon enough we enter the Port of Castlebay on the Isle of Barra.
Our accommodations here are the only ones of our trip about which I have a slight concern. I started looking for a place on Barra way back in December, but this is a tiny island without too many places to stay. The ONLY thing available to us was the Dunard Hostel (and all that it implies…). Rich has stayed in hostels previously on bike trips and on the trip to Solvenia with Janel. He doesn’t mind. I am not convinced. I did manage to snag us a “family room” that is ours alone so at least we won’t have to share bunks!
To find the Dunard Hostel we only need to follow all the backpackers. To be perfectly fair, the proprietor greeted us warmly, showed us the kitchen (not bad) where we could put any belongings into labeled bins or the fridge (we have none), and told us our room was upstairs.
There is a cute “common room” and that makes me feel like all might be ok.
Our room is not bad, but the bed looks suspect. Not only can you feel every spring, but I am not certain of it’s cleanliness. We have freshly laundered bed linens to put on it ourselves (we must strip the bed in the morning and put the linens outside our door). I am afraid there will be no “turn-down” service tonight!
We drop our things (no locks on the doors – supposedly islands are made for trust…) and manage to meet and make conversation with a couple of very nice folks here. It turns out the Outer Hebrides are a mecca for walkers and cyclists. They like to hike/bike the entire chain of islands. The cyclists we talked to today said they just came from the north and had a head wind all day for 80 miles. Oh, and rain too. Not my idea of fun.
Since I knew the island was fully-booked, I made a dinner reservation several weeks ago at one of the very few places to eat here – the Craigard Hotel. we head out on foot and make a pit stop at the Castlebay Hotel Bar. There was an empty bottle of Barra Gin on the bar. It looked intriuging because it is made with seaweed. I asked for a Barra Gin and tonic. They are OUT of it. What? This is Barra – walk down to the distillery! I am hoping to try it somewhere along the way.
Another 2 minute walk gets us to the Craigard. When we enter and see how busy it is, I am immediately glad that I made a reservation. I really did not expect much of the restaurant and am completely and very pleasantly surprised and the quality of the food here! We both order from the “specials” board. I asked for the grilled Hake (fish), but the server told me the chef just got it in today and doesn’t like it – it is “off.” Ok. I will have the grilled Dover Sole. Rich opts for the Haddock Fish and Chips.
Wow. The Sole was a fantastic piece of fish that was seasoned perfectly. Rich’s huge portion of Haddock was one of his favorite fish and chips plates of the whole trip. When the manager came to check on us and I told him how much I enjoyed the Sole, he grabbed my hand and led me into the kitchen to tell the chef! The chef thanked me with a big grin on his face.
The short walk “home” is nice and we are thinking about a little explore of the island tomorrow before we must catch another ferry to head up to the next island.
I hope I can manage to sleep on the lumpy, bumpy bed. I hope the 4 boys in the next door bunk room will come in quietly…