24 September 2012 at 8:00 am, by Annie Chen

We left Amsterdam on a KLM flight to Glasgow at 7am. That meant about 3 hours of sleep (due to some work emails that needed to go out before the holiday started), a taxi ride, a train ride, and a shuttle bus to the airplane. Those kind of trips where you don’t know where you will sleep that night are always full of eager, nervous anticipation. When we arrived in freezing, rainy Glasgow we had a big list of things to do while lugging around a couple huge duffle bags:

1. Drink really big, and hot coffees (Pret a Manger was the only place open)
2. Pick up last minute camping supplies  (Tico sport on Buchanan street) – dry bags, a watch, and anti-midge repellent. We still don’t REALLY know what a midge is, so I guess the spray worked.
3. Get Timo some bike shoes (Alpine bikes)
4. Pick up and load up our rental bikes (Gear bikes)At each of the above places we had the better customer service than I have had it the past year living in Amsterdam. The Scots in shops and restaurants and generally are just SO NICE in comparison. Another reason that the trip was a blast.

Once we had our bikes, we hightailed it to Queen St. station and loaded ourselves, our bikes, and 4 very yellow and very full panniers onto the 3 hour train for Oban.

Timo is PSYCHED about the planning I made! (Or maybe he’s just excited about the trip – hard to tell):

The train was running late so we were in danger of missing our ferry. Luckily, we were in Scotland, the friendliest place on earth, and the train conductor called his buddy on the ferry to hold it for us 5 minutes so we could jump off the train and hightail it to the dock. So unfortunately, we did not get to explore Oban at all – which is evidently a really great place. Anyway, safe on board the ferry, we finally got a chance to relax, breathe in the amazing fresh air, and watch the sailboats and tiny islands and castles go by.
Ferry coming in to Oban:

Us leaving Oban:

Vacation mode Timo:

Sailboats and castles on our way out:

The entire ferry journey to Castle Bay on Barra was 6 hours, so we had plenty of time to nap, read, stare out the window, and enjoy some Scottish specialties (a curry and a lamb burger, but more importantly, the local Oban brew):

At the ned of the ride we retrieved our bicycles from the bottom of the ship and got all ready to go. Can you see how bright eyed and bushy tailed we look? I don’t think we knew how much it could rain that night…

But this is the kind of view that makes the entire day of travelling  all worth it: Castle Bay on the Southernmost populated island of the Outer Hebrides, Barra.

We had a plan to camp near a hostel for the night, but because of the ruckus Barra music fest, that option was not available. So in order to avoid the loud music and loud locals, we cycled in the other direction, hopped a fence or two, and found a great place to camp. First, had to use our trusty orange shovel to remove the sheep poop from the general vicinity. Not as gross as it sounds, promise. But if you don’t like sheep/sheep poop – do not go to this place.

We finally got set up. Pretty nice digs, right? The grass is all machair -  it’s like a super soft bouncy carpet full of little flowers – sometimes so many that it looks purple. Makes for perfect camping or lounging on breaks from the biking:

So, it turned out to be a rainy night, but we survived warm and dry in the tent. A day of a lot of different types of travel, but finally making it to the islands felt great. We certainly had an adventure in-store!


  • Leesie

    Okay – so I am not a big camper, but what is that little outcrop on the tent?  That low shelf-y thing?  What do you do with that?  It looks too low to sleep in…  I’m confused and feeling claustrophobic just looking at it!  x