Week 98

North and South Uist

I thought last week would be the last long trip of this project. I had an idea to take some photos closer to home, but then at the last moment a trip to North and South Uist materialised out of nowhere. I would have precious little time on the islands, but knowing that I had yet to make a trip to the Hebrides I knew I had no choice but to go.

Once again then it is horribly early start, almost not worth going to bed, and as I force myself into wakefulness, I wonder again if it is all worth it. Several hours later I know it is, as I stand close to the prow of the ferry cutting through the grey blue waters of the north Atlantic ocean, herring gulls wheeling and screeching overhead. In the distance the low blur of land ahead gradually resolves itself into the solid outline of North Uist.

Lochmaddy is where we land and before long I am out in the landscape of water, mountain, causeway and machair. It is bleak and yet it seems fragile, almost like a temporary haven between sea and sky.

It is grey and the sun will not appear for me. I travel along quiet roads and photograph what I see. It is not a deserted island by any means and cars pass with more regularity than I had though they might. As night falls I plan my morning route over Benbecula to South Uist and then hurry under cover out of the coming dark.

The next day is as beautiful as could ever be hoped for and the beaches on the west coast of South Uist are beyond perfect. Long white sands stretch out to the north and the south and a glassy sea lies impassive and almost unmoving before me. I knew these beaches were special but to be here, in the silence and vastness, feels like a blessing

Later in the day the weather closes in and the rain comes and I don’t get too much more opportunity for photography before night falls. I am happy with what I have though and sitting in the dark, looking west over the inky ocean, past the lonely islands of St Kilda, towards Newfoundland I can feel the distance I have come, both physically in the here and now and also in terms of my project. Here, on this quiet beach, with the smell of woodsmoke, the whisper of the wind and the taste of malt whisky, I know I am a long long way from home.