“Skye? Not remote enough!” – a day trip to the Outer Hebrides

The previous post was all about dramatic hilltop vistas of a landscape torn apart by the forces of tectonics. I spent my next night just a handful miles away, and yet in a completely different world. After briefly popping into the village of Uig to fill up my empty bottles (and to go to the bathroom, in case you were wondering…), I left civilisation behind again in search of one of the several gorgeous waterfalls I had passed on my way down from the Trotternish Ridge.

I found my ideal spot in a “field” of cows and sheep – although on Skye, a field is more a vague chunk of undulating land enclosed by cliffs than the rectangular, hedgerowed affairs we know as fields down in southern England.

Waterfall on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

One cute little waterfall just upstream from my tent…

To my delight, I quickly found a campsite near not just one, but two waterfalls. The upper one made for a nice bit of white noise to fall asleep to, while the bottom one was rather more dramatic, its greater noise muted by its height. Trying to get good angles of it took some daring footwork in the dark at 4.30am! I was keen to showcase my tent for scale, as well – has it worked out? You tell me…

Waterfall on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

…and a much bigger one downstream. There was little point trying to include the sky in these photos as sunrise was right behind the waterfalls and made the sky far too bright.

Waterfall on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

An earlier shot. The sun was rising behind the waterfall, leaving this side in deep shadow. I pointed my headtorch at the waterfall for this 30-second exposure, but this rough-and-ready solution overexposed the foreground flowers…

Sunrise photography is hungry work, of course, and I was pleased to find that I had finished packing up my tent and backpack just as the rising sun started to light up the eastern sky. I’d had no idea just how nice a warm breakfast is after a night in a tent, and the combo of instant porridge and being in the middle of nowhere on a gorgeous island made for a great start to theday.

Breakfast by a waterfall on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Not quite your average Instagram food photo!

I wasn’t to spend much more time on Skye, however – at 9.30am I boarded the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. I had no specific plans for my day trip to the island, but I grew a little apprehensive as the sun rose into a brilliant blue sky: the midges would be out in force. Luckily, I got talking to Isaac and Susana, two friends from Spain who were driving around Scotland and who kindly offered to take me along for their day of exploring the island.

North Uist is spectacularly empty, even more so than Skye. It is a different emptiness – while the landscape is much less rugged than in Skye and generally flat, marshy and close to the water, this somehow adds to its feeling of being completely removed from the world. Far fewer tourists venture out here, and the cottages that pop up every now and again are welcome signs of habitation in a magnificent desolation rather than tendrils of a bigger chunk of civilisation nearby.

Cottage on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

A haven in the desolation. Not sure I could live there – not right now, at least.

We had only vague notions of what to expect from the Outer Hebrides, and what we found just a short drive later flew in the face of anything we could have imagined. With the sun now high in an ever more blue sky, we discovered that North Uist boasts some absolutely stunning white-sand beaches on its Atlantic coast. Next stop, Canada!

Beach on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Isaac and Susana.

Cottage on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Sand dunes flanking a crofter’s cottage. As strange combinations go…

We spent a good few hours marvelling at the Caribbean feel of the beach, and even went for a cheeky swim in the Atlantic. I never thought I’d actively worry about sunstroke when at nearly 60 degrees latitude at the northwestern extremity of Europe, but this is one of those unexpected turns of events that I love about travelling!

la foto 16_cropped

Dip in the Pool. A big, big pool.

Algae on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Algae in the intertidal zone.

Following my initial annoyance at myself for abandoning my initial plan of walking the whole Trotternish Ridge, I ended up having a far more varied holiday and got back into the gap-year hitchhiking vibe a little bit. I can’t wait to get out again!

Cullen Skink at Loch Alsh, Highlands, Scotland

A bit of Cullen Skink on the shores of Loch Alsh before getting on the train home. A piper was playing for a stag do party nearby – as Scottish an afternoon as I could ask for!

2 Comments

  • tallphil says:

    If you haven’t been to Iceland yet, you should head there.. You’d love it :)

    • Jon Fuhrmann says:

      I know. Figure I should probably get some outdoors experience (and a driver’s licence, potentially…) before heading out there, and then doing it properly. Maybe even pitch some article/photo essay ideas to magazines and try to get some sponsorship…who knows? Trying to think big :p

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