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Friday 8 September 2023

September in Scotland (Part 1)

Our two week holiday starts locally in Alvaston with Parkrun. Well it does for L. Despite making my comeback last week the Lad and I support then we collect my Dad and head north. It’s a decent drive up and we arrive in Arrochar in good time. We are again staying at the Claymore Hotel along with the coach parties of overweight chain smoking tourists. The set menu delivers a decent Spag Bol but the bar has no beer, not even the Loch Lomond cans of last time, and the wine is awful. I’m almost jealous of L’s fizzy water. We decamp to the nearby Village Inn for some decent hand pulled Loch Lomond Pale Ale. 

L's PT has done her a programme to take on holiday which means we have a set of dumbbells in the car and on Sunday morning we make use of these doing a weights workout in the hotel room before breakfast. Which is then followed by a not terribly healthy cooked breakfast.

After which we drive to stop number two at Morar. On the way we stop at a cafe in Arisaig called Sound Bites where my Dad has a mid-afternoon snack of Apple Crumble with custard. We don’t join him. We have vowed not to join in these indulgent mid-afternoon treats and save ourselves for dinner. This turns out to be a very decent meal at the Morar Hotel which features for me, and what becomes a reoccurring theme, Scallops and Black Pudding. They also have most of the Skye beers in bottles.

We don’t have breakfast at the hotel and catch a relatively early ferry over to Lochboisdale on South Uist during which we have the classic Cal Mac breakfast. The Lad stays in the car for the duration of the three and half hour journey but it’s last time he does so.

On arrival we drive onto Eriskay, from where the ferry goes to Barra, to get the Lad some beach but it’s not a Dad friendly beach, so my Dad stays in the car. Then we drive up through Benbecula to the Lochmaddy Hotel at the top of North Uist, a place that’s been on the to do list for some time.

L and I do an early evening 5k on the local roads, I mean road. Then we have a decent Sunday Roast on a Monday e.g. Beef in Red Wine along with more Scallops and Stornoway Black Pudding. There are no beers to speak of, so it’s on to the whisky. 

Breakfast is Eggs BĂ©arnaise with yet more BP. Then as we’re not moving on today we head to Clachan Sands beach which is Dad friendly. He gets his chair out on the beach while I take the Lad for a run along the beach which has mixed results as we both seem to be playing to different rules.

Then L swims and I almost join her but I have a land locked dog and an errant father to keep an eye on, who at one point absconds into the dunes for a comfort break. Afterwards we have coffee at the Berneray Bistro café and then a cliff top stop where my Dad lusts after a 900cc Triumph motorbike a chap from Barnsley has.

Back at the hotel we do another weights workout and share a hot bath. A rare treat that we can’t do at home. L is also checking out Scottish gyms although I’m not sure they have such things here on the Hebrides. Folk probably just toss cabers.

After sharing a bottle of red with the evening meal, the lad rounds a pleasant day off by vomiting up his tea. He is promptly banned from finishing my Dad’s chips, which my Dad is ordering every night but rarely eating, and temporarily from beaches.

The next morning we head to the Berneray ferry terminal to get the ferry to Leverburgh on Harris which is my favourite Hebridean island. We drive along the half marathon route that we did back in 2012 and stop to use the toilets at the campsite we stayed on. Despite being my favourite island, Harris has nowhere dog friendly to stay that has vacancies not does its capital Tarbet have any cafes open that we can stop at. While the distillery, which is launching its first malt in three weeks’ time, has only three outdoor benches. All are occupied. So we continue driving to Lewis where based on past experience we believe cafes also do not exist.

After this longish drive we arrive at our Airbnb in Stornoway. There is a handy shop across the road from where we buy two pre-prepared curries to cook for tea. Then we go for a walk up to Stornoway Castle.

In the morning we return to Stornoway Castle this time for a 5k run and then have breakfast at Stornoway Golf Club. After which we set off to find Baltic Books for L and have a look around Stornoway which I still think is a bit of a dump. Beer wise the highlight used to be the Hebridean Brewery but that went bust in 2019. The only other bar that sells real ale and is still going appears to be The Crown Hotel but that is only selling Landlord and Deuchars. We go there for a coffee as we await the ferry to Ullapool. After his first ferry trip in the car, the Lad is now getting up on deck for each one.

Ullapool also isn’t good for beer. The Ferry Boat Inn has a hand written paper pump clip saying ‘6X’ but the bar staff don’t know what it is. I assume it’s Wadsworth 6X from Wiltshire so not really what I’m looking for. The Argyll Hotel has nothing at all. The Arch Inn saves me which has Cairngorm Stag on. I have a couple while L indulges in a Gin and Tonic. The Caledonian Hotel where we’re staying has Skye Red on keg which is better than nothing and the best Whiskey of the holiday in a 12 year old Glenmorangie called Lasanta that is matured in sherry casks. Very nice. Food is also good with the first Cullen Skink of the trip.

On Friday we have breakfast at the Bothy by the campsite we once stayed on then take a short walk along the sea front. Then we drive across the width of Scotland to Invergordon near Inverness for the only reason you’d drive across the width of Scotland. For parkrun of course and not purely for the excellent gelato some chap is serving from his van.

The Ship Inn where we’re staying has Cairngorm Wild Cat in bottles, Cairngorm Stag’s big brother, plus the local Dalmore whiskey. My Dad, seemingly intent on fattening me up, orders mac and cheese with chips and sticky toffee pudding to follow with no chance of finishing either. He then offers the leftovers to the Lad and I.

(Friday 8th September)

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