One of our newest contributors, Yasmynn Lloyd, took a trip up north over the summer to the Outer Hebrides.
As a 4th year, I am more than accustomed to the Scottish weather. And I know as much as anyone that it isn’t exactly desirable. It’s not, shall we say, the main draw for people coming to uni here.
So when my parents announced at the start of the summer that our annual family holiday was neither going to be a fortnight all-inclusive in the Caribbean, nor a week in a luxury New York hotel and it wasn’t going to be a beach holiday in the Canaries or yachting in the South of France, I was devastated. It wasn’t even going to be camping in Cornwall or a caravan in Wales.
It was going to be 14 days in South Uist. Admittedly, this probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me since that is, in fact, our summer holiday every year.
For those of you less than clued up on your Scottish geography, the Outer Hebrides are a group of islands off the north west coast of Scotland. Last stop before Canada. South Uist is the second most southern of the group. Although it’s pretty far away, it’s not too difficult to get to. You can get a train from Queen Street to Oban, from where the ferry to South Uist costs about £20 (although it does take five hours, and on a windy day makes you regret getting the sausage casserole from the canteen). Or you can fly with FlyBe (to Benbecula, one of the central islands) from Glasgow Airport, which takes a much more palatable 55 minutes.
The buzzing metropolis of South Uist is called Daliburgh, and boasts an impressive two churches, 1 post office, 1 pub/hotel, 1 bunk house, and a Co-Op. The island itself is long and thin, and therefore has one main (single track) road, meaning that the bus service is pretty easy to figure out, although it isn’t that often. You can hire bikes or cars, though, which are an easier way of getting about. There are a few hotels dotted about the islands, and a couple of bunkhouses, but there are always cottages for rent; a quick Google comes up with literally tens of results, and since it’s not high season Ibiza, prices are more than reasonable.
As you can imagine for an island, the seafood is out of this world. It can be as short a time as half an hour between catching the fish and serving it up with chips and tartare sauce. Polochar Inn on the south end of the island does really good food; the fish and chips could put most to shame and you’d be shocked at the size of the scallops. But since this is a student magazine, you’re probably not too bothered about massive shellfish and more worried about the drinking establishments. There are a few pubs, including the Borrodale in Daliburgh, none are particularly cheap but neither are they overpriced, and they’re always warm, comfortable and full of red-faced whisky-drinking locals. Particularly during the summer months, village halls up and down the island hold ceilidhs pretty much weekly, and the pubs often have live music going on as well. It might not be Cheesy Pop, but you can’t fail to have a good time as the atmosphere is brilliant.
So you’ve sorted how you’re getting there, you’ve found somewhere to stay and you’ve managed to get some food and drinks. Well done. Now the small matter of filling your days up. For shopping, there’s the co-op, a hardware shop or the gift shop at the Kildonan Museum. Buchanan Galleries it is not, but you can get all the essentials, along with the obligatory magnet and postcard to send to your grandparents.
But the main reason we go back every single year is because it’s beautiful. Even if we get 13 days of torrential rain, that 1 day of glorious sunshine is enough to make the holiday. Sometimes it’s nice to sit in front of a fire with a brew and a board game, or our holiday entertainment of choice this year, box sets of The Walking Dead. Although, the 13th consecutive day of Monopoly with my sister can take its toll on my sanity. But when it’s dry, get your boots on and get outside. Walk east, to the hills; still lochs reflect the endless sky, and following sheep tracks through the heather takes you to places that feel like no-one has ever been before. Or you can go west, to the beach. Miles and miles of untouched beach; white sand, blue sea and rolling sand dunes; not a single person there. It’s a perfect place just to let loose; no-one can see you, and even if they did, no-one cares. Take a disposable barbecue down to the beach and stay until the sun sets at midnight. Unleash your inner child and build a sandcastle. Fly a kite. Sing. Race. Play football or cricket or tennis. Drink tea from a flask or beer from a crate. Even brave the Atlantic and dip your toes in the sea (then squeal and run back up the beach to put your socks and boots back on). But just stand, and look around you, and see beauty everywhere you look, and marvel that such a place exists.