Having extracted the bicycles from the back of the motorhome, (not without difficulty as described in my previous post ) we set off on a mission to cycle round Barra.
The island is only about 8 miles long and 5 miles wide and it’s about 25 miles all the way round by road. It’s all good single track tarmac road with a reasonable surface and plenty of passing places. Bicycles and motorhomes shouldn’t have any problems on these roads. Of course, it’s always good manners as a visitor to give way and give priority to anyone who looks like they might be local, or going about their daily business.
What type of bike is best on Barra?
The road surface here is fine for either a road bike, hybrid or mountain bike. However, be warned… there are hills! And I mean long dragging hills. The kind of hills where you just need to look down at the floor and keep peddling, rather than looking ahead at the endless rise to what you hope is the summit… and inevitably turns out to be just another hump, before yet another long demoralising hill. (Unless of course you are that special kind of twisted type who enjoys the ‘challenge’ of riding your bike up a hill.) So whatever your steed, you’re going to need gears.
Of course, what goes up must eventually come down, so cycling round Barra, you will get your fair share of both. Did I mention that one of us has an electric bike?! You’ll be able to spot me, I’m the one who’s smiling at the tops of the hills!
We hadn’t accounted for the headwind either, which made cycling north to south even more interesting. We consoled ourselves with the thought that we might get blown home on the way back.
Just a couple of miles from Scurrival campsite where we started from is Traigh Mhor Bay, home to Barra Airport. Parking is free here and theres even a couple of spots nearby where motorhomes were wild camping, (far right in the photo below,) although it’s not allowed in the airport carpark itself.
When I say airport, banish thoughts of Heathrow, or even Leeds Bradford. The ‘terminal building’ is best described as modest, not much bigger than a very small village hall and the baggage reclaim is a bus shelter on the side. The runway, well it’s not really a runway, it’s actually the beach, with a wind sock to alert holiday makers when best not to take your bucket and spade onto the sand, for fear of being run over by a passing plane.
Despite its diminutive size, Barra Airport was voted the world’s most scenic in a global poll of pilots and travellers.
Plane Spotting at Barra Airport
Watching those little twin otter aeroplanes taking off and landing just feet from you on the beach is a must do activity for any visitor to Barra. While you wait, the airport cafe inside offers great food and a wonderful view of the beach / landing strip, giving you the perfect excuse for coffee and cake and to while away the time on this unhurried island. The bustling cafe, which also has free wifi, is run by Mick and Sharon, a friendly couple who came from Birmingham on holiday, caught the Barra bug and just never went home.
As with the rest of the Outer Hebrides, Barra hasn’t really caught on to cafe culture yet, (some might say that’s a good thing!) So this is a relatively rare place to pop in for a coffee and cake and literally watch the world come and go. Outside you can pick up a hire car or taxi too, but only if you book ahead.
It’s fun to watch tourists landing on the beach and as they step out of the little plane, they stand there for a moment, as if they’ve just landed on the moon, squinting and shielding their eyes from the sun and gazing around at this most bizarre and beautiful airport.
Can you go to Barra for the Day?
If this has inspired you to visit Barra and you only have one day in which to do it, there are regular flights from Glasgow, subject to tide! as it says on the Logan Air Website and it only takes an hour and a quarter. If you’re feeling flush, or rash or just fancy a special treat, I’ve just checked the prices and for about £150 you could get a return flight from Glasgow to Barra, have a coffee and cake and stand on this unique airstrip, before walking out onto the beach, climbing back onto the plane and heading back to Glasgow.
However, I can highly recommend taking the long route and making this part of your itinerary for your motorhome tour of the Outer Hebrides. You might even bag one of those motorhome wild camp spots, you can see in the photo above on the far left, then you can watch the action from the comfort of your own van.
And yes, the sky really is that blue and the sand really is that white! If you haven’t been there, put it on your list of places to visit now!