Colin Mercer review 20 Aug 2005
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
My holiday was in the Outer Hebrides – a wonderful, awe inspiring and educational 7 days. The scenery was magnificent but one the most memorable experience for me was sharing it with five others that were just as impressed with both the location and history of the area as I was.
We had an excellent guide in Cailhean Macleod – his knowledge and personal experience added to the holiday experience. His passion for the Outer Hebrides was infectious; he knew the area so well that if tides or wind were against us there was always an alternative location that he could take us to.
The white sand beaches, the rugged wind swept hills and views from the top as we climbed to the 680m summits, the standing stones of Callanish (2900BC).
Also the midges that lay in wait for the breeze to drop just enough so that they could swarm in on us (they seemed to know which tent had people inside as they hovered above the entrance – the tent was a packaged meal to them I am sure) and the clear calm, water were all highlights. Perhaps the midges were not a highlight! The day did not stop with pitching a tent – there were history lessons, geology and botanical excursions . . . it was a total blast!
We visited one location where in the 1934 an attempt was made to use a rocket to deliver mail to the outlying island Scarp, the rocket exploded spreading mail everywhere – on the day we were there two gentlemen were going to launch on old wooden boat by dragging it down the launch ramp, we assisted and one of the men was from the last family that lived on the island and left in 1970’s . . . it is moments like this that bring history to life. A few days later a BBC TV documentary discussed the “rocket mail” . . . I had been to that spot!
The good camping and kayaking equipment was the “icing on the cake” – we were well equipped and could have handled any eventuality although we were not tested as the weather was pleasant for the entire time.
This was not an “easy” holiday as it required energy and pushing ourselves (not because we had to, but because we wanted to). Excursions to climb another hill, or to explore an island like Killegray, to spend some time as beachcomber, get a close up look at an old historic dwelling, paddle into a sea cave, pit your paddling skills against the tidal flow of he Sound of Harris or to try an Eskimo roll in a sea kayak – whatever your challenge it was there to accomplish. The attached photographs give a fleeting glimpse of what it was like - when I view them memories come flooding back and I re-live the experience.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
I would suggest that during the UK holiday season that accommodation is arranged in Inverness in advance – I had traveled on a day train from London and on arrival at Inverness station enquired at “help” desk about places to stay I was told that nothing was available (perhaps it was my back pack that put the young lady off).
However I did get accommodation at the hotel immediately outside the station – and the hotel receptionist was very helpful. Traveling by train from London enabled me to see the countryside and experience local “culture”.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
The locals certainly benefited from us:
- Buying produce for the trip,
- Utilizing local accommodation between the hiking and sea kayaking sections
- Purchase of local souvenirs,
- The sessions where we tasted the local beverages . . . . my first experience of a single malt was at the Harris Hotel in Tarbert and it did not stop at a single of course.
I would recommend that future travelers try the “bacon rolls” at the café in Leverburgh. We left the area as we found it – no evidence of our presence would be found in the region today. Our footprints in the sand will have been washed away by the tide, the grass where we spent each night camping (only one night was spent at each location and future groups would camp in different areas) would have sprung back and rubbish was bought out for disposal in appropriate refuse or recycling facility. Regretting our departure would be the midges as they wait for the next moving meal.The many seals we saw have probably forgotten the coloured boats that drifted through their territory interrupting their very loud discussions that could be heard from many kilometers away.
4. Any other comments?
Suffice to say that I was very impressed and by the whole holiday - from the wilderness experience in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland to cycling in the Lake District. It was my first visit to the UK and I will be back for sure - there are many peaks to climb and other kayaking spots to explore.
The holiday exceeded my expectations and would be definitely a 5 star rating. Following the experience in the Outer Hebrides I toured the Lake District on a mountain bike for four days and the scenery was quite different – the contrast was extraordinary and at the same time just as picturesque.
In Windermere the people from both Country Lanes (arranged tour, supplied bike, maps and accommodation) and Fayrer Garden House Hotel assisted in making this an excellent break. Once again the visits to Holker Hall, Cartmel and other small villages along the cycle route gave me an understanding and “feel” of the history that has formed the UK.
Thank you for your help in identifying what was a wonderful 20 days – holidays are something we spend a year looking forward to and to have such a wide range of experiences, all exceeding expectations was a success. I look forward to my next excursion while continuing to visit the memories of this one.