Hot showers, clean clothes, and a warm breakfast made for an excellent (if slow) start to our day. Once Heidi was warmed up we continued our trek down the island, stopping whenever we saw something of interest. One of our first stops was at the Hebridean Jewelry workshop and cafe, where Holly hoped to find something special she could save for a future Flora birthday. (To be honest, the promise of reasonably good coffee is more than enough to warrant a stop for us.) We struck out on the jewelry front, despite a large selection of beautiful pieces, but the coffee was good and the kids enjoyed their snack. Next we swung by the Salar Smokehouse and added a fresh selection of smoked salmon to the larder. By now we’d crossed the invisible boundary between the Protestants in the north and the Roman Catholics on the southern islands, and we began to see frequent roadside shrines. We also started to see honest-to-goodness, not-just-for-the-tourists thatched cottages here and there.
We continued south to the village of Tobha Mòr (Howmore), to see the ruins there of several medieval chapels and the surrounding burial ground. The oldest of the four dates to the late 12th or early 13th century, though there’s evidence of a Christian presence on this spot hundreds of years earlier. The site was fascinating, and a bit eerie — especially in the blustery and overcast weather.
We holed up in the Kildonan Museum‘s cafe next. After a warm meal we toured the museum, which covers island life and the history of the local people in detail. One of my favorite displays included a beautiful tweed jacket hung proudly next to a loom. The jacket had been purchased in the 60s, from the woman who had raised the sheep, spun the wool, woven the tweed (on the very loom on display), and made the jacket. They even had pictures of her using the loom, though we weren’t able to document it as the museum frowned on photography.
Mobile phone coverage in the islands is quite limited, and we had hoped to find a pay phone so that we could reserve a spot on the ferry from South Uist back to Oban on the mainland for the following day. When Holly asked the woman at the front desk where we might find a phone, she happily offered to let us use the phone at her desk. She might not have been so generous if she’d known how long the call would take! The ferries we’d been on so far were at most half full, and we had assumed that it would be easy to book passage on a ferry — especially here at the remote southern tip of the Hebrides where fewer tourists tread. Not so. All ferries off the island were booked for the next day — both those from Lochboisdale to Oban (the route we’d planned), and from Lochmaddy back to Skye. (The latter would require us to drive all the way back up to the northern end of South Uist and then retrace our steps across Skye to get to new territory on the mainland.) In fact, all ferries to Oban were booked for the next two days. We booked a spot on the ferry to Skye for two days hence as a backup plan, and moved on.
After exploring a bit more, we stopped in Lochboisdale for some groceries and a short visit to an internet cafe to tidy up our digital lives a bit. We discovered a nice playground on the edge of town that gave Flora an opportunity to practice her pirate scowl. By the time the kids had worn themselves out it was getting pretty late in the day. Luckily, the Burnside “Filling Station & Chip Shop” was nearby. How could we resist deep fried haggis in addition to some more traditional fried fare? We took our goodies to the campsite down the road and enjoyed our feast. (And I really do mean “enjoyed”. The sausage-shaped haggis was quite yummy.)
Once again we found a spot on the coast for the night, where we were treated to yet another lovely late-night sunset. (There really is a blue dot somewhere on the map below.)