North Uist Folly Hunting
On advice from fellow campers we set off from North Uist's Balranald campsite for the beaches lying outside the RSPB nature reserve. We went across the crofters' fields which were studded with tiny wild violas and on to the dunes, which overlooked what I can only describe as beach perfection. The ideal combination of white sand, turquoise sea, rocks and dunes, complete with wheeling sea birds.
Down we went onto the beach for a gentle stroll and round a rocky outcrop came a man with three very fat black Scottie dogs, all consumed with the need to get up close and personal with Jinty, who of course was having none of it. They ran at full pelt, or waddle, and he barely broke into a trot, taking avoiding action which meant that they didn't get within 20 yards of him.
We just kept on walking, having left them far behind, and didn't see another soul, just glittering sea, soft white sand and rocks twinkling where the sun caught on crystals.
Eventually, at the end of the third sweeping bay the birds around the rocky outcrop became very agitated, swooping down on us a la Hitchcock's Birds. We were clearly too near to nesting sites, so turned back for a leisurely walk back, paddling as we went, getting back to the campsite in time for a late picnic lunch sitting by the Romahome.
I hereby declare this the best beach encountered so far on our Highland and Island Grand Tour. There, I've made a pronouncement and also elevated our trip to a Grand Tour. Ideas above my station maybe?
While Jinty was snoozing in the van and resting up his poorly paw after our morning walking on the beach (it's a dog's life I'll tell you). I hopped on the trusty unfolded folding bike and set off to see if I could find the folly which is pictured on the front of the OS map for this part of the world.
A lovely breezy, sunny afternoon, ideal for cycling. You only notice just how hilly these narrow roads are when you're trying to pedal uphill to the passing point when there's a car patiently waiting for you. I"m sure the car driver was surprised to see just how red my face was after all that exertion. Some people seem to be able to do all sorts of physical activity, even aerobics and running, and still keep looking cool and calm. Not me.
Anyway, up and down, past disinterested sheep and cows, with the heady scent of the massed arrays of birds foot trefoil in the fields wafting by me, and eventually the folly came into view, built on an island in a small loch. It was apparently built with the aim of providing work for local people.
I do like a folly, and a folly on an island would be an especially good spot in a folly spotters book. A folly on an island that's also on the cover of the OS map would I'm sure be worth at least double points. Can you tell I always had "I Spy" books when on holiday as a child?
A ruined cottage stood on the shore of the loch, typical of many ruins to be seen on the islands. What a perfect place for a holiday home. Some attention required though.
All set for the ride back to the campsite for tea and chocolate cake, which I shared with Jinty. He ate it lying down in the sun and pulled some corking faces when the buttercream icing got stuck to the roof of his mouth. A very uncouth whippet.