Buaidh No Bas

The weather took a turn for the better after the rain of Monday. Tuesday turned out to be a beautiful day to fly from Glasgow to Barra, the island of Clan McNeill. To see pictures of Barra and its neighbor Vatersay, you might think they are tropical locations. White sandy beaches, deep blue and aqua water, and seafood galore! I took a tiny plane over the vast ocean putting all my trust in pilots whom I’d never met. I was slightly reassured when I realized my assigned seat was in the emergency exit row. At least I could call first dibs on bailing out if the winds got a little frisky.

Thankfully, the winds were kind and we had a very nice flight…well as nice as you can get in a plane that carries about 12 people and doesn’t go over 10,000 feet. But the low altitude enabled me to see almost all of the islands along the way. Breathtaking! Especially when you think about all that the original settlers of these islands had to go through to get here. The McNeills came over on a boat and decided Barra was the place to settle. Even on a clear, sunny day, the seas were not calm. I can’t event imagine coming over on an ancient ship during stormy weather. In Gaelic, the motto of the McNeills is ‘Buaidh no Bas’ which translates to Victory or Death! While there’s no comparison between flying to Barra on a modern air plane and landing on Barra in a boat, I couldn’t help but feel a little like shouting “Buaidh no BAS!” Braveheart-style as we came in for an uncertain landing.

Victory was ours as we landed on the beach runway…as in, ON the beach…splashing through water and tide pools left from the last high tide. But this was the softest landing I’ve EVER had! Suddenly this beach airport thing didn’t seem so bad.

The wind nearly knocked me down as I made my way from the beach runway to the inside of the airport – a tiny building with a small ticket counter and a wee cafe. Finally found the posted bus times but the lady that runs the cafe said that it’s not reliable. “The buus come wahn it come” she said. “Don count an it!” Hmmmm ok. It was lunchtime so I sat down and enjoyed a heaping bowl of her potato leek soup. As I sat, ate, and looked out onto the beautiful beaches of Barra, I couldn’t help but think this cafe owner and the bus owner were in cahoots. Just as I finished my soup the bus arrived and I was on my way down to the bottom of the island to the area called Castlebay.

The bus ride was far more terrifying than the plane ride. The island has one road that rings around the outer edge of it. The road is just one lane and has spots about every 25 yards for you to pull off and let another car by. With all the twists and turns of tiny road, I’m not sure what you do if you meet a car between the pull offs. The bus driver barreled around on of those curves with confidence so just held on for the ride, glad my Dramamine was still working.

Finally checked in to the Craigard Hotel and was given a room with a perfect view! The Kisimul Castle (the stronghold of the McNeills) was right outside my bedroom window. I couldn’t believe it! I wandered around the island a bit today and even got a little sunburned (only on my face, of course…too cold for much else to be exposed). I sampled the Hebridean Toffee (so good) and enjoyed the deck of my hotel in the amazing sun!

Then, I did it again… I took a nap! Granted this time, my face was pointed to the sun pouring in my room instead of having a nap that hid me from the rains in Glasgow. But it was glorious! I’m glad to have three nights here in Barra so I feel like I have plenty of time to do and see everything I want. Fitting in a nap is easy.

Maybe I should always allow time in my schedule for such luxuries as a nap. How might my week (and my attitude) look if napping was part of my detailed plan all along???

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