A Travellerspoint blog

August 2018

Travel Tips - Barraigh

all seasons in one day 14 °C
View Barraigh on IainT's travel map.

Waiting

Waiting

Well then, what about my travel tips for Barra.

On my way to Glasgow Airport I stayed a night at the Novotel in Glasgow. The alternative would have been a very early start from home to get to the airport through the Glasgow rush hour traffic. It was excellent, as I’ve often found that chain to be. The cost was just £60 for the night (no breakfast).

Novotel Glasgow

Novotel Glasgow

I left my car at the NCP long term facility at Glasgow Airport. 8am on Friday to 3 pm on Sunday came in at £31. It is only 5 minutes by bus from the terminal, which is good. I waited over 15 minutes to be picked up, which is not good enough. The operator I used in Aberdeen last month was much better.

My flights were with Loganair from/to Glasgow (there is no alternative - except the ferry). They cost £154 return booked 3 months in advance. Loganair runs two flights per day in the summer except on Sunday when it is a single flight. With only 18 seats on each flight, as you can imagine, they sell out quickly.

On Approach, Barra

On Approach, Barra

That ticket (their FullFlexPlus) includes fast track security and lounge access, as well as a 15kg checked in bag. To be fair Barra Airport has neither a lounge nor security, but the Glasgow lounge offered me as much breakfast as I could eat and plenty comfort to enjoy it in.

Airport Lounge

Airport Lounge

I stayed my 2 nights at the Castlebay Hotel in … Castlebay. It was £149 per night (including breakfast) for a sea view double. I was on my own, but single rooms in places like that are often just cupboards.

I won’t dwell on why, but it is incredibly overpriced and mediocre at best. The sea view was great, however. The staff are friendly and doing their best, but need some management.

Bedroom View

Bedroom View

I ate a lunch and a dinner in the hotel. They were also mediocre and overpriced.

I used the service bus from the airport to the hotel when I arrived. £1.90 single for the 20 minute journey. It was ideal. The timetable is complex. It is best to ask someone local. The bus service doesn’t run on Sunday, so I took a taxi back to the airport for my flight home. £15.

I had tried to rent a car but the supply is limited and I was too late. I rented a bike instead - £26 for a day and a half from Barra Bike Hire. It was an excellent way to get around, but make sure you have the right wet weather gear (just in case).

My Transport

My Transport

The Calmac ferry from Ardmhòr to Eriskay cost me £6.10 return - no charge for the bike.

Ardmhòr Ferry Terminal

Ardmhòr Ferry Terminal

I found several good places for coffee (and cake, usually). The community cafe on Vatersay was one, and the Hebridean Toffee Company (in Castlebay) was another. The Airport Cafe is very popular, and I also had a coffee at Macroon’s Cafe - part of the Post Office in Castlebay.

Airport Cafe

Airport Cafe

I visited Kisimul Castle at Castlebay. It sits majestically in the middle of the harbour, and is the clan seat of Clan MacNeil. The entrance fee was £3.60 at my concession rate, and the fee includes the short boat trip there and back.

Castle Transport

Castle Transport

I used my bike to visit Vatersay off the south coast of Barra, and Eriskay to the north. The Eriskay trip meant I could cycle all the way around Barra on my way to and from the ferry. I was a great way to see it.

Posted by IainT 23:43 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland restaurants ferries island transport flights airlines barra calmac islandlife castlebay barraigh vatersay bhatarsaigh eiriosgaigh eriskay Comments (0)

Eiriosgaigh

sunny 15 °C
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Eiriosgaigh

Eiriosgaigh

My second day on Barra was another wonderful day.

Soon after breakfast - with a day of sunshine forecast - I set off to cycle to Eriskay/Eiriosgaigh. It is the next inhabited island (pop 190) as you go north from Barra. Getting there involves a 40 minute ferry trip as well as cycling to the other end of Barra.

MV Loch Àlainn

MV Loch Àlainn

It was fantastic . Not far from the ferry terminal on Eriskay I found the perfect picnic spot. It is the most I’ve enjoyed a supermarket sandwich in a along time. Leaving aside enjoying the food, it gave me 30 minutes to appreciate the scenery, the sunshine, the tranquility, the fresh air and the exercise.

My Picnic Spot

My Picnic Spot

I was on Eriskay for less than an hour. I thought about carrying on to see some more of the island after lunch, but my legs were starting to get tired, and so I just went back to catch the next ferry.

Eriskay Ferry Terminal

Eriskay Ferry Terminal

On my way north to the Barra/Eriskay ferry terminal at Ardmhòr I took the road which follows the east side of Barra and on the way back I took the road along the west coast. I am glad I chose to do it that way - the two coasts are different. The east is rockier and the west has more machair and beaches.

Tràigh Hamara, Barra

Tràigh Hamara, Barra

I reckon I cycled about 19 miles (30 km) - it was fun, but tough too. I had only one long, steep hill to deal with, but there’s no such thing as “flat” on Barra. The roads undulate constantly.

Oh, and guess who managed to forget to bring not only sunscreen, but insect repellent too.

Posted by IainT 11:57 Archived in Scotland Tagged beaches scotland ferries transport barra calmac islandlife barraigh eiriosgaigh eriskay Comments (0)

Barraigh

all seasons in one day 15 °C
View Barraigh on IainT's travel map.

Kisimul Castle (again)

Kisimul Castle (again)

I am on another weekend away. The last of the summer.

This time the destination is Barra/Barraigh. It is one of the islands in the Outer Hebrides archipelago - almost the most southerly of the inhabited ones. It is my first visit to the island.

Loganair Disembarking

Loganair Disembarking

Coming from the mainland you have a choice of how to get there. You can take a Calmac ferry service from Oban. It takes about 5 hours. Oban is 3 hours by car from where I live in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. Taking a train to Oban is also be possible, but it would take all day and involve 2 connections.

The alternative is a Loganair flight from Glasgow. 75 minutes in the air, and Glasgow Airport is about 75 minutes away by car - outside the rush hours. Loganair has 2 flights each day during the week, using 18 seat DHC6 Twin Otter planes.

Cosy

Cosy

I would love that ferry crossing, but for 2 nights on the island it is a lot of time in transit.

The other attraction of the Loganair option is that it is Barra. The planes use the beach for take off and landing.

Barra Airport Landing

Barra Airport Landing

My flight cost £154 return - more than my flight to Bergen last month. On the other hand, that ticket (their FullFlexPlus) includes fast track security and lounge access.

Ready to Disembark

Ready to Disembark

After arriving on the island the next stop was my hotel in Castlebay/Bàgh A’Chaisteil via the local bus. Castlebay is stunning, in a Western Isles kind of way.

Kisimul Castle

Kisimul Castle

I’d arranged to rent a bike for 2 days, so in the afternoon I cycled over to Vatersay./Bhatarsaigh. Vatersay is the island just south of Barra and the last inhabited one at the south end of the archipelago.

To my astonishment I didn’t get soaked - except with sweat. I reckon it was 5 miles (8km) each way - not that much distance but there’s an 11% gradient at one point along the way.

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

It was all worth it. Stunning (plus I got excellent coffee and home baked cake at the community cafe).

Posted by IainT 13:41 Archived in Scotland Tagged beaches scotland transport flights airlines barra bagh islandlife castlebay a’chaisteil barraigh vatersay bhatarsaigh Comments (0)

Travel Tips - Bergen

sunny 30 °C
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Wait in Lounge

Wait in Lounge

Ok then… how about the nuts and bolts of my weekend in Bergen in July.

I flew with Widerøe from Aberdeen. It cost £163 (€183) return, with hand luggage only at that price. For a 2 night trip in summer that was fine, but with winter layers it might have been a struggle. They use Dash 8 turboprop planes on the service, so the lockers are small, and so is the size of bag they allow.

The whole “Widerøe experience” was excellent, and really good value for money. The airline has few international routes, but operates many domestic services, particularly in the north of the country. It was founded in 1934 and operates 45 aircraft - so it is an established and substantial airline. It just is not a well known name outside Scandinavia.

I got off-airport parking for £21 (€24) from Aberdeen Airport Park & Depart. That was for early Friday until late on Sunday. Their shuttle bus service was great, and waiting time was a minute or two. Their site is just on the far side of the airport and is less than 5 minutes away.

I stayed the night before my outward flight in the Jury's Inn at Aberdeen Airport - £68 (€77) without breakfast. It too was a happy experience in all respects. I had a salad in the bar/restaurant in the evening and although it was good quality it was very overpriced. On the other hand, you have plenty of other options nearby for food.

Jury's Inn

Jury's Inn

In Bergen I stayed at the Magic Hotel in Solheimsviken. It is located 2km from the city centre, but only 5 minutes walk from the Bergen Light Rail stop at Danmarks plass. As a result, the city centre is an easy walk away or a short tram ride. One advantage it gave me is that the tram line serves the airport, so transit was cheap and easy.

Magic Entrance

Magic Entrance

The hotel was (almost) all positive. The cost was kr881.50 (£82.55/€88.15) per night, including a buffet breakfast. I had a single room, and whilst it was definitely small, the hotel has plenty of communal areas for relaxation if cabin fever sets in.

Magic Corridor

Magic Corridor

I ate dinner in the restaurant both evenings. The first time it was just convenience. The second time it was because the first dinner was so good. It was expensive by UK standards, of course.

You will find a discount mini market next door to the hotel, and it offers a cheaper alternative for food.

I used the tram a lot. For most of the day it runs every 10 minutes. I bought 24 hour tickets for kr95.00 (€9.50/£8.90) each, giving unlimited usage. I used the Skyss app on my phone, so it was easy - no messing with machines at the tram stops - and paperless.

Skyss App

Skyss App

The tickets cover all public transport within the Bergen zone except the NSB trains, but it includes the ferry service to Askøy.

Skyss Catamaran

Skyss Catamaran

You can also buy single tickets for kr37.00 (£3.46/€3.70). If you want to avoid grappling with the automatic ticket machines when you’ve just arrived at the airport, the deli next to the information desk at arrivals sells them over the counter. They have to be validated using a terminal on the tram.

Writing this reminded me how smoothly all the travel arrangements worked out. If you know anyone who is looking for a travel planner, please get in touch.

Posted by IainT 13:10 Archived in Norway Tagged bergen ferries transport flights norway aberdeen airlines Comments (0)

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