Our third day on the Uists and we woke to the sound of rain against our Lochmaddy window. This was becoming a bit of a pattern... and not a welcome one. Today the heaviest rain was forecast to be around the middle of the day, leaving a window of... well, lighter rain to have a nice, peaceful, damp walk to the seal viewing point off Flodaigh.
We'd arrived at the small parking area and were just getting out of the car when, to our mild horror, a tour bus arrived. Keen-looking faces peered through the steamed-up windows and the rustling of ponchos was already audible. Now, we've nothing against tour groups, but it wasn't how we'd imagined we'd be spending our morning! Cue the quickest putting on of boots in the history of humankind, and we were trotting down the track, trying to stay well ahead of the crowd.
A sign indicated where to leave the track, forking right onto a sodden path across waterlogged grass. Although clear enough to follow, the route passed through slightly overgrown ferns which were absolutely sopping wet after the recent rain. In our haste to beat the tour group we'd neglected to put waterproof trousers on (they were still in the car), so it didn't take long before our jeans were soaked through. Whoops! Soon the path comes close to the islet's southeast coast:
The first of two viewpoints is up to the left of the photo above. Reaching it involves fording a tiny burn - the volume of water in the burn wasn't an issue, but it's just about at the high tide mark. This resulted in a nightmarish combination of seaweed overlying patches of hidden, deep bog.
Somehow we managed to get across unscathed - and on the plus side, it would delay the approaching tour group. Onward to the viewpoint, where at first all seemed deserted: a beautiful spot, but devoid of wildlife apart from oystercatchers and the odd seagull.
After a couple of minutes scanning the islands and shorelines, we spotted some potentially seal-like blobs on the Benbeculan shoreline, several hundred metres distant. With the help of our camera zoom it was confirmed that there were indeed some seals present, including pups.
After a couple of minutes watching the seals, the tour group turned up. As it turned out, they were a very quiet group, mainly of a senior age, perhaps on a specialist wildlife tour. Shame on us! We were however able to point out the seals (not too smugly) after the tour guide appeared to be about to give up and call it a day.
There's a second viewpoint slightly further west. This involved crossing the burn of doom again, but instead we left the path and cut across the intertidal shore (it was lowish tide) on mud and rocks, which turned out to be a much better option. Back on dry ground:
A few more seals visible from the second viewpoint:
From here, an equally wet path led directly along a fenceline back to the outward track. So all in all, an interesting morning watching these fascinating mammals... and the seals were interesting too!
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