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North Uist's Beinn Mhor and a little family of otters

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 5:14 pm
by Anne C
After a few great days on North Uist, we were headed for Harris via the Berneray ferry, but before that, I was keen to re-visit two small hills on the island’s beautiful north end. Shapely Beinn Mhor and Beinn Bhreac are well seen in the photo below, taken from near our tent at Lingeigh.

ImageThe tent by Anne C, on Flickr

Breakfast first though, which was just lots of tea and some tinned grapefruit to keep the scurvy at bay :) then we got packed up and everything loaded into the car. I'm always sad to leave Lingeigh with its beautiful machair and views to Harris.

ImageLingeigh by Anne C, on Flickr

It was a 10 min drive to Loch an Sticir, where we were able to park just off the B893. The loch has the fine remains of an ancient Dun, with a meandering set of stepping stones to reach it but we didn’t have time today.

ImageLoch an Sticir by Anne C, on Flickr

At the far end of the loch, a section of the Hebridean Way is signposted and makes for a handy route across the moorland. Our plan was to head off this path quite soon and make for Beinn Bhreac first(on the left) then drop down and back up neighbouring and slightly higher Beinn Mhor(190m) before circling back to the car. It’s a short walk of less than 5km with only 265m of ascent all in, perfect on a lovely sunny morning and before we caught the lunchtime ferry and I said goodbye to this island of my heart. :(

ImageStart of the walk by Anne C, on Flickr

A two minute walk along the road from the car brought us to the start of the track (well, a muddy deer track at best perhaps :) ) and after following it for 10 mins, we left it and headed up the lower slopes of the Speckled Hill, picking the best ground. Pleasant slopes and we were on the summit in less than 30 mins after starting out. Yet despite this and Beinn Bhreac’s lowly height at a mere 148m, the view was stunning.

ImageHarris and Berneray by Anne C, on Flickr

To the east lay North and South Lee and Eaval, rising up out of the loch-dotted low-lying moorland that is Uibhist a Tuath. Skye’s Macleod’s Tables were just visible beyond but hazy today.

ImageTowards North/South Lee and Eaval by Anne C, on Flickr

To the north, lay Harris’s shapely hills beyond the deserted islands and myriad skerries of the Sound of Harris. No wonder the ferry has to make a huge circuit of the Sound, taking an hour, to avoid the shallow seas and rocks and reach Leverburgh safely. The beautiful beaches at Northton and Scarista were well seen, as were the endless sands of Berneray.

ImageHarris and Berneray by Anne C, on Flickr

South lay North Uist’s west coast – dazzling , pristine strands that we’d wandered along during the past few days: Lingeigh itself, Hornish, Traigh Iar , Udal and Vallay, the sea a study in emerald, turquoise and aquamarine.

ImageFrom Beinn Bhreac by Anne C, on Flickr

A very difficult summit to leave on such a day, just glorious and for such little effort!

But Beinn Mhor beckoned and we had a ferry to catch eventually, so off we set, dropping down past some slabs and picking the easiest ground to the little col between the two hills. It's quite slabby on its south side, Beinn Bhreac (hence the name) but there's always an easy way through.

ImageTowards Lingeigh and Griminish by Anne C, on Flickr

It was at this point that I noticed a large bird sweeping up from behind Beinn Mhor, soaring above us before heading across the far slopes of Beinn Bhreac. A golden eagle! ( It can be awkward to tell them from sea eagles, unless its an adult sea eagle with the distinctive white tail, but zooming into the photo later, I could see its golden head.)

ImageGolden eagle by Anne C, on Flickr

We were just congratulating ourselves on our luck when a second bird appeared, coming from the same direction as the first. :shock: They flew high together for some seconds before disappearing in the direction of Berneray. I always feel it adds to the magic of a walk, when some of our ‘star’ wildlife make an appearance like that. I must say, the Outer Hebrides have given us so many eagles sightings on walks, they are very ‘common’ though I could never get tired of seeing them; it’s always a real thrill.

We were down off our first top of the day in 5 mins and soon re-joined the Hebridean Way path which wound up Beinn Mhor almost to the top.

ImageBeinn Bhreac behind by Anne C, on Flickr

This one felt a bit more of a slog albeit very short one – 20 mins at most. Ridiculous to be pecking a bit :crazy: but I definitely needed some chocolate at the top of this one.

ImagePort na Long, Berneray and Pabbay by Anne C, on Flickr

The view was 360 degrees of low hills, endless lochans, beaches washed by opalescent seas – very similar to what we had just viewed 25 mins before, but who could tire of that? Some crisps and a KitKat washed down with sparkling water and we sat for a good half hour just admiring it all. But the ferry called and I like being ultra-early (for that read ridiculously early) for these. It was a case of retracing our steps down the Hebridean Way path, which skirts the actual summit. A wee wren chattered away at us angrily as we passed an old stone wall, overgrown with heather. I love how they scold as you pass, so tiny but sounding so belligerent.

ImageEarly heather by Anne C, on Flickr

In just over 2 hours since leaving the car, we were back. An easy circuit and a great one if time is short, giving amazing views on two quite wild - feeling hills in a very beautiful part of North Uist. But our encounters with wildlife weren’t over for the day just yet – as we drove towards the Causeway, on the left hand side, I spied a wee brown head, then another and another, swimming quickly through the water, close to shore. Otters! :shock:

Chris pulled over as best he could and we got out of the car, as carefully and quietly as possible, wondering if they would come on to the rocks below. They did! It was a female and two cubs. The youngsters scampered onto the seaweed, crying constantly - a very high pitched squealing and mewing.

ImageOtters near Otternish by Anne C, on Flickr

Then the mother came ashore with a large butterfish or some such juicy morsel and the cubs focused on feeding, quietening down immediately. The mother headed off to hunt again and we watched the cubs for 5 mins or so before they began rolling themselves on the seaweed and scarpering around. I made a bit of a mess of getting decent photos, mostly all quite blurry but the one above is a bit clearer. That’s the best view I’ve ever had of otters on North Uist and having been back to North Uist in October, we looked out for them again here (as ever expecting to see exactly the same scene in exactly the same place :crazy: ) but no joy. Appropriately enough, this area is called Otternish – Otter Point! :D

A memorable end to our July trip to this beautiful island. There always seems to be a surprise in store when walking in the Hebrides; just when I think - ‘oh well, that was great’ – something else really magical unfolds. We had more of that on Harris too, on another day and another hill. Happy days in the Hebrides indeed!

Re: North Uist's Beinn Mhor and a little family of otters

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 9:19 pm
by Sunset tripper
Great pics, cheers. :D

Re: North Uist's Beinn Mhor and a little family of otters

PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2020 8:55 pm
by Anne C
Thanks Sunset tripper :)