25 March 2013

Planning our Outer Hebrides Tour

Easter seems to have snuck up on us (might have something to do with the fact that the weather is still behaving as if it's January!) and with it our first tour of the year, to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. We always knew it would be less than ideal weatherwise so early in the year, but the current circumstances go beyond anything we had planned.

Yes it is late March! (source)
London received a dusting of snow yesterday, but further north there were blizzard conditions and pretty much the entirety of the UK has been going below freezing every night this week, with no sign of it letting up any time soon. The entire Isle of Arran in the Inner Hebrides--which we are fortunately not going to visit--has been without power for about 24 hours. Fortunately temperatures in the Outer Hebrides are always slightly warmer due to the gulf stream, but at the moment it doesn't look like we'll get highs above 8C (46F) at any point during our trip.

The tour must go on, however, so we will be packing several layers and hoping for the best--and of course writing down the locations of hostels in case it truly does go pear-shaped!

We've planned a rough route and given some thought to likely stopping points. The main questions remaining are whether we'll make it from Glasgow (where our train will leave us) to Oban in one and a half days to make the Friday ferry or catch the Saturday one instead, and whether we'll leave the Outer Hebrides via the Tarbert-Uig ferry and take in a bit of Skye, or continue a bit further north and catch the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapoo. Either way we'll be headed to Inverness, from where we'll have a direct train back to London (taking virtually the whole day!).

Our packing list is complete (though not packed!) and we are making last minute adjustments to my new Long Haul Trucker.  I've also bought some new Neoprene overshoes in hopes of solving the cold feet conundrum.

Callanish standing stones (source)
We are really looking forward to seeing the stunning scenery that the Outer Hebrides have to offer, and some of the cultural sites like the standing stones at Callanish. We're unforunately likely to miss the Stornoway Piping Competition by one day but we're hoping we'll catch some Easter festivities--we'll mostly likely still be in the Catholic part of the islands on Easter sunday.

Assuming we don't blow away and/or freeze to death we'll be back on Sunday 7 April. Hopefully with both character and leg muscles built!

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