Sunday on Barra

Quick notes for today, everyone. Not even remotely reread for typos. I I’m tired!

The wind is howling outside and the clouds have been hugging the hills around Castlebay for most of the afternoon and evening.

See that poor soul in the photo? He’s the only person outside in the whole town. Everyone else is here, at the Craigard Hotel pub. A rowdy music session has been going on for hours. But let me backtrack a bit…

Our day started with a lovely breakfast at the hotel. The usual full Scottish (sausage or ham or black pudding with baked tomatoes and mushrooms and beans and toast) plus a selection of fruit and yoghurt. We planned to split into two groups for the morning activities: half the group was going for a hike on the nearby isle of Vatersay, the other would go kayaking in the bay. In the early evening, Heather received an email from our kayaking guide entitled “oh dear” and with a picture of him in a cast. He had broken his leg (foot? ankle? anyway, it was in a cast and not going to be put in a kayak). So, we all went out to Vatersay for a hike on the machair.

The beach at Vatersay. And a bit of sun.

It was splendiferous. Cool air, ocean breezes, laughing conversation, crystal clear water you could see through to the rocks and seaweed below, a carpet of wildflowers waving in the wind, white sand beaches and a few high hills that gave us impressive views. I didn’t take many pics as I was intent on safely shepherding the group on not-well-marked trail. We spent a couple hours out there. Glorious.

After lunch we took a boat out to the middle of the bay to visit Kismul Castle. What? I’ve no pictures of Kismul Castle? The big rock that’s sitting in the middle of the bay with a castle on it? Well…. let me search through my pics. There must be one here somewhere.

Ah! There it is. Out in the middle of the bay. Kind of an afterthought when I was taking pictures of my hand knit socks. You can see where my priorities are…. A beautiful stone castle right smack in the middle of the bay, abandoned in the mid 12th century, only accessible by boat, here in this beautiful bay and I’m taking pictures of my socks. (Shakes head.) In my own defense, it is a pair of hiking socks for which I am writing a pattern and plan to call the pattern Hebridean Walking Socks. However, it’s still a —–

Wait, I interrupt this soliloquy on socks to bring you a much better definition of machair than the one I gave you earlier: it’s a fertile, well-drained grassland formed by sand blowing over the peat. Heather just found this information and I wanted to share it with you before I forgot.

(Whew! Got us off that sock thing.)

The interior of the castle is much less forbidding than I’d anticipated. You enter the castle by coming up the quay from the boat, climb some steep stairs, venture through an imposing doorway, then surprisingly find yourself in an intimately scaled courtyard.

It’s much like a couple of traditional Scottish cottages that were pushed close together and then someone built a huge, high stone wall around them. And called it a castle. And then placed it all on a rock in the middle of a bay. Crazy Scots.

By the time we finished our visit at the castle, the clouds had moved in with a vengeance. The was rain and fog and wind and all around “good SCOTTISH weather”. We adjourned to the hotel’s pub. So did about half the town. The band that played last night did an afternoon session. A three piece family band, they played an assortment of traditional and contemporary songs. They sang. So did all the people in the bar. There was much clapping, much drinking, loud conversation, a bit of dancing (mostly by young men, surprisingly). There was also a smattering of the Gaelic heard. Apparently it is a living language here in the Hebrides. It’s taught in the schools alongside English.

A few of us spent the remainder of the afternoon in the pub with those crazy Scots. I didn’t take many pictures here because I felt a wee bit self-conscious . But I did record this song, which you might vaguely recognize. I decided that filming Heather’s shoe was less obvious than being an obnoxious, phone-toting tourist, taking video of the over-enthusiastic locals. Unfortunately you cant hear anyone but the band singing, really. But they were.

We snuck off for some very good Indian food. On returning to the hotel, we found even MORE locals gathered in the pub, talking, singing, drinking and causing general mayhem. I had to call it a night though, and come jot a few notes for you people.

I just realized I haven’t told you about flying over to the Hebrides from the mainland. I’ll get to that. I really will.

Also, must insert a giant HAPPY FATHERS DAY for my dad. Sending you hugs and kisses from far away Scotland. ILY!!!

And, in a random note, I saw two birds today I’ve never seen before: a hooded crow and a black guillemot. I leave you with that exciting information. Must. Sleep.


  1. As usual so enjoy your postings…….keep on keeping on. Plus, just so you know, it rained in Santa Fe in the morning for a bit, in the afternoon for a bit and in the evening for a titch.
    We were so joyful here on Saturday.


  2. Love your writing, Suzie. Feels like we are right there with you. And your sock is Oh, So Divine!
    I half hoped to see a dashing Scotsman come dashing out of that castle. But singing in the pub, was the next best thing…


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