Today we leave Lewis from the port of Stornoway for Ullapool on the mainland.  Laxdale Holiday Park (if ever there was a misnomer it’s this one) has served its purpose and, judging by the number of motorhomes leaving, it’s plain that it is mostly used as a staging post.  The reception on our 3 dongle has been excellent and I was able to publish no fewer than three posts yesterday evening.

After a leisurely start, it was but a short journey into Stornoway itself but we realised that we couldn’t just park up at the pier and leave Bessie there while we had a look round.  Luckily, as so often is the case in Scotland, we found an excellent free parking place overlooking a tidal estuary, with Lews Castle grounds as a backdrop.

There were two juvenile Grey Herons paddling around, having impromptu baths and generally exploring the seaweed.  The light here was extraordinary and allowed for lots and lots of photographs.  Here are a few.

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DSC_0013DSC_0017Meanwhile, a little further along, where the river met the estuary in the form of a weir, a group of Mallards were enjoying the thrill of sliding down the face of the weir in the foaming water to rest up amongst the seaweed.

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DSC_0045And a Hooded Crow was luxuriating in a bubble bath of his own.

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Meanwhile one of the Herons was also having a wash and brush up while his/her brother/sister had found itself a tasty morsel

DSC_0042DSC_0048Tearing ourselves away from this unexpected entertainment, we drove back to the dock and were pleased to find we could now be booked in and take our place in the ferry lane.  This left us with about an hour to take a walk around the town before we had to return.

These are some of the views around the harbour area.

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Fishing boats with Lews Castle in the background

Modern sculpture of a herring girl

Modern sculpture of a herring girl

Yachts in the harbour

Yachts in the harbour

Lews Castle

Lews Castle

Old boat in the process of being broken up

Old boat in the process of being broken up

We bumped into the couple whom we had met at Uig sands the other day – they are booking to leave on tomorrow’s ferry.  We saw their motorhome parked by the harbour – I still think this sticker is hilarious and am almost tempted to get one.  Almost…

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Back at the dock the ferry the ‘Isle of Lewis’ had arrived and foot passengers were streaming down the gangplank.

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There is nothing like watching the CalMac staff as they discuss tactics of loading with their colleagues and on their walkie-talkies.  There were huge lorries, motorhomes and small cars – even a towed caravan (unusual in the islands) to be accommodated in the bowels of this huge boat and I guess every sailing is a logistical puzzle to be solved in the most efficient way.

All the incoming vehicles were eventually disgorged (including a fire engine) and we were one of the first motorhomes to be asked to drive on into that huge maw waiting to swallow us up.

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Once in place, we decided to go straight up to the restaurant and bag one of the tables.  As it turned out, this wasn’t strictly necessary as there was never more than a few tables occupied during the nearly three hour voyage.

A small corner of the cafeteria

A small corner of the cafeteria

This is the biggest CalMac ferry we have been on and it resembled more a cruise ship than a ferry.  As usual, the menu was varied and we chose the carrot and coriander soup which you could almost stand a spoon up in – delicious and homemade.  Then the steak and ‘local ale’ pie with chips followed by individual pots of lovely Mackies ice cream.

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Through the window Stornoway slipped into the distance and we settled down to an uneventful and smooth voyage.  Peter spotted some dolphins leaping (so difficult to photograph because you never know when and where they’re going to appear) and there were several Common Guillemots plus a Shag.

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DSC_0137Ullapool hove into view – wreathed in mist – and we sat in Bessie waiting for the mezzanine car deck in front of us to lower and tilt to disgorge its load of cars.

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Once they had driven off, the end flattened and the platform raised hydraulically, allowing us and the lorries beside us to disembark.

Bessie set tyres on the mainland for the first time in four weeks and, after taking a few photographs, we drove off northwards.

Ullapool

Ullapool

'Isle of Lewis'

‘Isle of Lewis’

DSC_0153We passed on into Sutherland and Ardvreck Castle appeared in the mist.

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The familiar twisting road high above the lochans appeared…

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Not long now before we would reach Clachtoll Beach campsite, our home for the next five nights…