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Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)


Postby John Doh » Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:36 pm

Date walked: 19/07/2016

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Beware: This is not really a walk report but rather a boat trip report with a short walk included.

For our second week in the Hebrides, we had booked a trip with a tour operator based in Miavaig, Lewis. The trip is called "Island Trip" and it is an afternoon boat trip on a RIB in Loch Roag. The advertisement says that you are going to land on either Pabay Mor or Little Bernera. Fair enough!

After our trip to the Shiants (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=65278) on Thursday of our first week, the weather had been more or less foul with only the odd hour of sunshine. The day of our island trip, however, turned out to be the sunniest day of our entire holiday and one of the best and warmest days I have experienced in Scotland since our faboulous St Kilda trip (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=35178) three years ago. Miavaig pier:

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We set out around 1pm with a RIB full of tourists, some of which obviously not experienced island goers. But then, on a day like this, it did not matter.

The first part of the trip took us out into West Loch Roag around Pabay Mor. The first stop (without landing) was in a shallow, tidal bay between Shiaram Mor and Shiaram Beag, two tiny islands between Valtos on Lewis and Pabay Mor.

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We then drove up the ragged south west coast of Pabay Mor, dipping with the RIB into a colorful sea cave.

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Here's a video of the cave where you see the colors even better:

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMVsqO5AoEK7xTA0PpokVUr8_lS15PXRMqgKe0Y

We then turned around the north part of this archipelago made of Pabay Mor and Pabay Beag and entered the small mouth between the two islands on the east and entered the lagoon in between them. According to Haswell-Smith, this is reputed to have been the haunt of pirates. There were no pirates there but a few daytrippers picknicking on the beautiful beaches.

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After this, we turned north and, to my delight, went out to the islands at the entrance of Loch Roag, Floday, Bearasay and Old Hill. I have longed to see the Old Hill from near ever since our first visit to the Hebrides, when we stayed at the Gallan Head Hotel (now sadly closed), from where you have breathtaking views to some cliffs as well as Bearasay and the Old Hill. Approaching the Old Hill (to the left) and Bearasay (to the right).

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We first approached the fine, but nameless, sea stack in front of Bearasay. It has some birds on it and reminded me a lot of the St Kilda sea stacks, albeit on a much smaller scale. The stack from two different angles:

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We then approached the Old Hill from the south and turned to its exposed west side, where the atlantic storms hit it. Here, we found another colorful sea cave. The birds on the rocks were mainly kittywakes and shags. I played around with the sunrays descending from above - not sure if the result is convincing :roll:

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We then turned around the Old Hill on the other side and, viewing it from the south east, you understand why Haswell-Smith would compare it to a giant loaf of bread.

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We were idling for a few minutes there in front of the Old Hill to watch dolphins and, we were lucky. It is hard to take pictures of the beasts and here is my best shot, a bit troubled but you "get the picture".

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We then went south past Floday where quite a few gannets were out hunting. I am not sure whether there is a proper Gannetry on Floday or if they were coming from St Kilda.

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It was now time for landing on Little Bernera where we would be given 1.5 hours to explore. We first went all around the east coast of the island and down to the Temple Sand opposite Great Bernera. However, there was already a party of tourists on that beach so the skipper decided we would land at Traigh Mhor instead. I still took a few snaps of the ruined "Temple", which is dedicated to St Donan.

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Traigh Mhor is a stunning beach, especially on a day like this. Would you believe that you are in Scotland?

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We had 90 minutes on the island and I wanted to use this time to get to the highest hill of the island. Unfortunately, I had not done my homework and so I did not know which one it was and there were quite a few craigs of nearly similar height. I had to pick one. It was Greaval that I chose. Here it is:

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It did not take us long to climb it and the views were fantastic. Towards Traigh Mhor:

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But I was beginning to get sceptical as looking north, the hills there seemed at least as high as Greaval...

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I looked it up later that day and, of course, I had chosen the wrong hill. The highest point on Little Bernera is acutally Tordal, in the north, where I am looking at on the above picture, at a staggering 41 meters. :roll:

Still the views were great and a pick nick was held on Greaval. Looking south over the Kyles of Little Bernera to Great Bernera. The road on the picture below leads to Bosta Beach and its Iron Age house, which we visited on another day - on a Saturday, to be exact, just to find out the house is only open on weekdays :roll:

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We could also see St Donan's Chapel below us.

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The remains on this stone on top of Greaval are not the rests of our pick nick but of the Gull's crab supper. I suppose they let the crabs fall onto the stone in order to open the shell.

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The weather was so warm that I took off my shirt and let the sun kiss my pale skin. I made pictures of this but am not going to post them as this might infringe some forum policies :wink:

The 90 minutes were almost over so we had to return to the beach all too soon. What a beach!

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I even found a mermaid. Wait, it was my wife testing the water. You guessed it - it was freezing :lol:

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We were already back on the boat when I spotted a sheep with birds on its back (below in the middle). I have never seen this before but perhaps this is normal? :crazy:

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Anyway, instead of returning directly, the skipper gave us another go at dolphin watching. That was an exellent idea as we soon spotted a few porpoises and I managed to take a good clear shot:

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Soon, we were back at Miavaig after around 3.5 hours of islands, caves, beaches, lagoons, birds, dolphins and a strange sheep with birds on it.

The weather was too fine to return home directly so drove the short way to the Uig Sands, another awesome beach on this remote west coast of Lewis. Uig Sands, nomen est omen.

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Unfortunately, the beach was overcrowded for Hebridean standards :lol:

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Therefore, we decided to head up to Aird Uig where the Gallan Head Hotel used to accommodate us on two occasions, for the sake of nostalgia. Here is the view that first made me want to explore the Old Hill in 2010, in front of the now defunct hotel.

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With surprise we took note of a sign indicating that there was a cafe 1 mile ahead. Surprised, because on our previous visits, the area behind the settlement of Aird Uig was a fenced off RAF base. This base is now closed and the headland proper of Gallan Head is open to visitors. We drove out there as far as possible, but no cafe in sight. It is a strange place with the most beautiful views but bleak surroundings littered by old army stuff. Another "Bridge to Nowhere" on Lewis, this one on Gallan Head :?

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The end of the track above the army buildings.

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Views, on the second photo are the Flannans.

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Once convinced there was no cafe up there we drove back down the track to a cattle gate. Here, we realised that the last house after the gate was the "cafe". It is a self service cottage where you have quite a lot of cakes and other food, along with coffee and teamaking facilities met at your disposal by a Gallan Head Committee, hoping to transform this in a proper cafe and to make something out of the now not so hospitable Gallan Head. Hopefully something comes out of this, as it is a magical place at the end of the world. They even kept the old sign warning people not to enter the grounds:

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It was now time to get back to our cottage at Scarista, Harris. It was the first and only evening in a forthnight where we could actually sit outside the cottage in shirtsleeves and have a celebratory drink on this stunning day.

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Can't beat a Hebridean sunset, can you?

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John Doh
 
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Re: Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Postby malky_c » Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:11 pm

Brilliant - love West Lewis. Some interesting boat adventures you seem to have had. This was an absolutely phenomenal day to be out amongst the islands - I passed through briefly on the way down to Barra from Stornoway in the afternoon, and had some great stops along the way :)
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Re: Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Postby John Doh » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:28 pm

malky_c wrote:Brilliant - love West Lewis. Some interesting boat adventures you seem to have had. This was an absolutely phenomenal day to be out amongst the islands - I passed through briefly on the way down to Barra from Stornoway in the afternoon, and had some great stops along the way :)


Thanks Malky. Aye, some brilliant boat trips we had.

The day was phenomenal. I just discovered your own report on that same day. :clap:
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Re: Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Postby inca » Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:40 pm

One of my favourite places so really enjoyed your report and photos John. Thanks for posting.

Had an annual trip to Lewis planned for this week. Had heard good things about Little Bernera and had a trip planned there for Monday, with St Kilda on Wednesday. Best laid plans and and all that ....a 10 hour day in the car and we didn't get further than the mainland :roll: High winds = sailing cancelled. Still, there's always 2017.
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Re: Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Postby John Doh » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:22 pm

inca wrote:One of my favourite places so really enjoyed your report and photos John. Thanks for posting.

Had an annual trip to Lewis planned for this week. Had heard good things about Little Bernera and had a trip planned there for Monday, with St Kilda on Wednesday. Best laid plans and and all that ....a 10 hour day in the car and we didn't get further than the mainland :roll: High winds = sailing cancelled. Still, there's always 2017.


Thank you inca. Sorry to hear your trip was cancelled. Matter of fact we were lucky to get to Stornoway on 9 July as there was a lot of fog and the pilot could not see anything so circled in the air for an hour. Just when he told us he was going to try once more and then go back to Glasgow, the cloud lifted a bit so we could land safely...

Anyway I hope you will make it to L. Bernera someday. Seatrek are running fairly regular trips in the summer so I am confident that you will get there eventually - and to St Kilda too.
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Re: Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Postby tigerburnie » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:13 am

That's a nice trip, we did that last year, did you see any Sea Eagles?
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Re: Little Bernera (and some other islands in Loch Roag)

Postby John Doh » Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:28 pm

tigerburnie wrote:That's a nice trip, we did that last year, did you see any Sea Eagles?


Not on this trip but on the one to the Shiants: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=65278 (the last picture).

:thumbup:
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