Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Its Barra Time!

Yet another Kisimul Castle photo!

Its Barra time. The same routine every year – Ferry from Oban, dinner at the Craigard, race, magnificent post race tea and prize giving, curry at the Kisimul curry place, celidh, castlebay bar, corn crake chasing, pass out, hangover, some entertainment on Sunday. The same but yet always different. You would think after the number of times I have been to Barra there would be nothing left to see, after all it is a fairly small hebridean island, but every visit throws up something new. 

This time it was the Sunday cycle ride out to the point at Borve where the ancient graveyard sits out on the promontory exposed to the gales and the waves lashing the shore during the worst that the hebridean winter can muster. After the struggle that was the very short cycle ride to get there - you only truly appreciate how hilly the Barrathon course is when you attempt to cycle it - it was pleasant to stroll amongst the grave stones in the sunshine on a not too windy day with the flowering machair stretching as far as the eye could see. There are archaeological features around here that stretch back to Viking times and even the name of the place, Borve, is Viking in origin but the majority of the gravestones were far more recent than that. 

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil....
In the little guide book that I found at our accommodation it hinted at the location of a new distillery on Barra and so I thought it might be a good idea to attempt to find it. The guide book however gave no clue as to where other than in the village of Borve, so a bit more cycling later we came to the conclusion that only the site had been earmarked as being for a distillery and no construction had yet taken place. A quick chat with a local man confirmed this and it wouldn’t be for the last time this holiday that I was hoping folk wouldn’t be wanting to kill me for having a “good idea”. 
I led them on a wild goose chase...
 After tea and cake at the Isles of Barra hotel everybody seemed to be happy enough and I was pleased that I had finally had the chance to visit this part of the island after having run or cycled past it so often.

The Machair
Bert had never been to Barra airport and so that was our entertainment for the afternoon and we were lucky enough to get there just in time to see a plane taking off from what must be one of the most unusual runways in the world. 

The Windsock
and its off
I hope he remembered to take off the lens cap...
I have recently established that the Barrathon has more climbing in it than either the Skye half marathon or the Harris half marathon (yup, its official) both of which are pretty hilly as far as road half marathons go. After my rapid disintegration between miles 5 and 7 in Skye, slow and steady was to be the order of the day and I went for a very conservative start. I was glad of this as the latter part of the race was into a headwind and also where the dreaded “hill” is located and so my slow start meant I had plenty of energy to attack the hill and resulted in a far more pleasant race experience than was the Skye half marathon although I was only a minute quicker in Barra.

Geoff won a prize
I think we all felt like that!

My Heb Half Nemesis...

Gillian looking focussed
There were mixed fortunes amongst us that day, Bert didn’t make it to the start line due to his broken foot so was on photographer duties. Predictably enough he positioned himself at the top of "The Hill" with his camera to capture the suffering. Simon and Dean Carr pulled up injured and Simon managed to jog to the finish but unfortunately Dean was unable to continue. Cath didn’t appear to have really enjoyed the race either suffering from a bit of a sugar low. In contrast Innes made it round and seemed to be pretty fresh at the finish and Geoff picked up a prize, Gillian carried on her winning ways and Robin seemed to be flying. To top off a great day HBT won the first team prize with Megan as a counter. My own lowly ambitions involved beating Eilis – purely on the basis that I really didn’t want to be beaten by yet another pregnant HBT runner!

The Celidh and the Castlebay Bar always help you to forget a bad race experience!

But some people just take things too far
Waaaay too far...

Instead of going back to Oban on the Monday a group of us headed north through the islands and so I thought they might appreciate a wee visit to “The Politician” en route, the pub on Eriskay, the island of Whisky Galore fame. They even have a few bottles of the treasured stuff which was salvaged from the ship along with other artifacts and they bring these out for viewing on request.

Whisky Galore
Robin suggested mile reps as a good warm down....
The famous whisky
After tea and cakes it was onwards through South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist before crossing the sound of Harris taking in the glorious scenery in  glorious weather……which unfortunately was not to last.
Harris beaches!

Clouds gathering ominously


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