04 St Kilda to Balintore Other

Stuck in Map 18

Harris seen from Lochmaddy

Sometimes even the best laid plans will come unstuck! I was up at the crack of dawn and arrived at Lochmaddy pier about 6.30am on a pleasant morning, only to be told that the boat would not be sailing. Oh no! Returning to my bnb I spent an hour working out that I was basically trapped in the Outer Hebrides. I could get south to Mallaig, via South Uist, but not back from there to Skye today. Or I could get north via Harris to Stornoway; but not on to Ullapool until tomorrow. And my car is parked in Uig. Since I could feasibly set out for Harris much later if needed, and use the long evening for cycling, I decided the best policy was to go back to bed and await further news from Calmac about the chances of sailing from Lochmaddy this afternoon. They promised an update by 2pm. My kind airbnb host, Natalie, allowed me to hang around, so I did!

I had some flexibility; tonight I was due to stay with fellow travellers (and Scottish country dancers) Geoff and Marianne, whom I met leaving Orkney. But they live a 3 hour drive from Uig in the extremities of Wester Ross. I might need to find an alternative place to stay tonight. But where? One way or another I felt confident I should be able to catch up with my itinerary by tomorrow night, even if it meant doing things a little differently. In the meantime, there wasn’t too much to do except wait and help myself to a second breakfast.


At about 2pm, Calmac put back their update until 2.30pm, and then to 3pm. I decided a third breakfast would be pushing things too far, so I packed up and relocated to the local Arts centre cum cafe cum post office cum gallery. It was within sight of the ferry, which felt reassuring, After stringing out a bowl of very good soup and a cheese scone for as long as I could, it seemed time to decamp to the Calmac booking office and waiting room. It was full of anxious looking passengers who were… well… waiting. Waiting for news, for any sniff of an update. It came around 4pm and the news was good. We had special dispensation to make a single voyage to Uig! 

Leaving at last!

It was a long process getting all of the vehicles from both the morning and afternoon bookings loaded; but I think we all made it. Bicycles are never turned away, so I was safe. The wind was now up and the crossing was a little bumpy; but nothing too bad. On board, I got chatting to two other cyclists, a couple from Perth who had been riding in the Hebrides in the best week of weather for some time. As keeps happening to me, when I shared my challenge, I found they had something even more surprising and impressive to share back. They had each managed to either run, walk, cycle or canoe at least five self-propelled kilometres every day for the past nine years! And they looked good on it. This was what they termed their base-level fitness. They mentioned more adventurous endeavours like uphill marathons in the Alps; but that level of exercise is unsustainable. Moving every day, however, is possible for most people. I was impressed by their approach to life, and we seemed to have connected over the concept of a personal challenge. It turned out that enough people had shown enough interest that their challenge has turned into a book, and I intend to read it. You can, too: it’s called “Find Time for Exercise” by Mike Dales. I’m confident there is inspiration for anyone in its pages. The likes of Mark Beaumont have been consulted in its creation. Give it a go.

I’m glad I went back to bed this morning. Sitting around not doing much can be exhausting. With 3 hours of driving to come after the 2 hour ferry trip, and generous people to catch up with after that, I need all the sleep I can get. Tomorrow I should be back on my bike and I have extra miles to catch up on. It will be good to get moving again; but I’m expecting a long day. I wonder whether this ferry will be moving again any time soon. I hope so. I’m banking on it in again in another 5 days, all other things being equal. But today was a lesson in how quickly the dominoes could topple if one gets knocked over!