It’s a wonderfully sunny morning today and the trip to Castlebay down the east coast brings out the photographer in me once more. It’s impossible to drive past these vibrant scenes without attempting to record them in some way. Looking at these photos in the depths of a dull miserable winter’s day will help to remind us that it’s possible to see colours like these occurring naturally together in the British Isles. The lack of pollution in these remote isles means that the atmosphere is crystal clear and the air is as pure as it’s possible to be in a modern world.
Down in Castlebay, there are a couple of vintage Macbraynes coaches…
…and an expectant group of passengers waiting to board the second one.
Eventually it chugged off and perhaps not doing too much for the unpolluted air I mentioned! Very nostalgic though.
It now being well into the afternoon and no lunch we paid a visit to the Hebridean Toffee shop and café in the harbour. Toffee is perhaps a misnomer as they make a version of the Scotch Tablet – a highly sugary confection which is soft but crisp at the same time. Peter hated it but unfortunately I loved it so found myself eating his complimentary piece as well as my own! We had scones, jam and cream out on the little wooden deck beside the shop.
Sitting there, we realised that there was some sort of self-guided walk along the harbour – a Herring Walk to be precise.
Barrels were placed at intervals, with shiny metal plates engraved with the story of the long gone herring industry on Barra.
In 1869 a fish merchant called James Methuen developed Castlebay’s natural harbout into one of the most productive herring fishing ports in Scotland. At its peak over 600 boats would fish from the island. At the height of the industry in 1892, there were 1,824 fishermen;856 women working as Herring Girls, cleaning and gutting the fish before putting them into the barrels with salt for preservation; 66 Coopers making the barrels; 40 Curers and 27 General Labourers, making a total of 2,813 employed.
The First World War in 1914 meant that men were taken away from their jobs as fishermen and the women went to work in munitions factories. The introduction of indiscriminate trawl fishing meant that the seabed was irrevocably damaged and the herring industry eventually died. The effect on the local population must have been devastating. There is still fishing from the island but mostly crab and shellfish.
From Castlebay we drove over the causeway once more to the island of Vatersay to see what we could see.
The Shelduck family were in evidence as usual…
…and it was amusing to watch as the ducklings were learning the skills of being a duck from their mother, from searching for tasty tidbits in the water…
…to the art of preening.
We spotted a lone Whimbrel fly in and land briefly before flying off again…
…and on our way back to the campsite, stopped to allow this Greylag family to cross the road.
Best sighting of the day was on the beach at Traigh Mhor where we saw a large group of Whimbrel on the sand, before they flew off as one.
Our colourful day ended, appropriately enough, with another fantastic sunset.
Fabulous colours, scenery and wildlife. – still very jealous. Would you like a scone with your cream and possibly a bigger cup?
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To reiterate the wise words of my father, there are amazing colours, scenery and wildlife.
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