For Eilidh Carr, walking is integral to life in the Outer Hebrides, and local Slow Ways promise an island adventure
When I was invited by Slow Ways to be a Story Contributor in 2022 it was an exciting opportunity to challenge myself and write outside my comfort zone. The mission of encouraging people into the outdoors to follow a network of walking routes across the county appealed to me greatly. These routes join up villages, towns and cities to one another and can be walked in any order and by anyone. Having grown up on an island I could relate to this need for connection.
Fresh air and freedom
For as long as I can remember, I have loved being outdoors, either at the beach or for walks on hills and coastlines and in more recent years, sea swimming and paddle boarding in the beautiful turquoise waters around the Inner and Outer Hebrides. This works well with my small self-converted van that allows me to wander to new islands and beautiful locations in parts of Scotland I have yet to discover.
Growing up on a small Scottish island around two miles wide and three miles long, I never took it for granted. As a child, I would go off to play outdoors for hours, losing track of time and only coming back home when I was either hungry or the evening sun was setting. The beaches and hills were our playground. I am glad I was surrounded by nature from such a young age.
Being outside gave me fresh air, freedom and a chance to explore; now 25 years on, as an adult, there is an even bigger world out there to visit, both close and far from home.
An outdoor classroom
Walking offers a real sense of freedom and provides a chance to learn about wildlife, history and culture along the way. As I wander along the coast I often see unfamiliar birds or wildlife, leading to more research when I get home. I’m always learning from walking and pass this knowledge onto others I meet on my walks. Even on the most familiar walking routes, I often meet new people; it is lovely to stop and chat.
Being out in the fresh air gives me time to explore my interest in wildlife and landscape photography, including drone photography. Flying my drone in new locations and seeing the landscape from a new vantage point is an incredible experience.
Come rain or shine
In March, I took a day trip over to the Isle of Iona, a small island off the Ross of Mull with a population of around 170. Travelling as a foot passenger on the ferry, I had my packed lunch and extra layers of clothes tucked away in my rucksack, my walking boots on and the whole island to explore in the hours ahead. My lunch was spent huddled between rocks on a beach for shelter, eating my sandwich while a hailstone shower passed horizontally, bouncing off my sandwich and jacket. My afternoon was spent walking the single track road back towards the ferry in blue skies and glorious sunshine. Memories of wandering around Iona and my hailstone sandwich will last forever.
I like to walk on my own. It allows me time to think after a busy day at work, time to chill out and time to be myself
Some days I like nothing more than a little wander along the beach to look for shells, sticking to familiar routes and locations. Other times I like to plan walks, spending time researching new locations or places recommended to me by others. Unknown routes take more planning as I often have to consult Ordnance Survey maps, guide books, tide charts, weather forecasts and so on: some areas are only accessible at low tides.
I like to walk on my own. It allows me time to think after a busy day at work, time to chill out and time to be myself.
Local Slow Ways routes
Here on the Hebrides, Slow Ways routes twist and turn through all types of landscapes and terrain. Some routes include long stretches on beautiful Hebridean beaches, others cross moorland or head up hills to the islands’ highest points.
One route on Benbecula has a little bit of everything. Walking from Iochdar to Carinish, the route twists and turns over 18 miles following sections of coastline, road, beach and moor up Rueval, the highest point on Benbecula. From here it offers 360-degree views out across Benbecula and over to North and South Uist.
There is something quite spectacular about being the only person on the beach being blown around in gale force winds
Uist and Barra are accessed by ferry and plane from mainland Scotland all year round. Although the summer months can be busier, the beaches and walking routes never feel overcrowded. The 130-mile-long chain of islands that make up the Outer Hebrides are great to visit all year round. There is something quite spectacular about being the only person on the beach being blown around in gale force winds.
From Glasgow Airport, Loganair flies to both the Isle of Barra and Uist in under an hour. In Barra, the small twin otter plane lands on the world famous beach runway, settling on the sand at low tide. Calmac ferries sail from Uig, Skye to Lochmaddy with a crossing time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.
As I sit with my cup of tea looking out across Bays loch and over to the hills of South Harris, I look forward to researching and picking a Slow Ways route close to home (or more routes further afield for the future). I wonder where Slow Ways will take me next…
Eilidh brings together her passion for photography and adventure in order to share with others around the world her stories and photographs from land, sea and sky.
Living and working on the west coast of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides allows Carr to combine her photography, both drone work and camera, with her love of fresh air, sea and exploring places old and new. When she’s not travelling in her converted van, you’ll find Eilidh working in her award-winning island gift shop, Coralbox. This small independent business is where her dream of becoming her own boss first started.
As a solo traveller, she takes great pleasure in sharing her escapades and snippers of daily island life through her online social media and photography.