A day in the life - Outer Hebrides winter edition - Album on Imgur
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A day in the life - Outer Hebrides winter edition

by Dec 31

Original post: http://imgur.com/a/7BE7v The Outer Hebrides are a group of 15 inhabited and many more uninhabited islands that lie approximately 70 miles off the West coast of Scotland. The region has a population of 28,000. I live on the Isle of Barra, pop. 1,000.

At this time of year Hebrideans check the weather forecast A LOT, particularly the wind speed and the gusts. Everyone is either travelling to visit friends & family for the holidays or expecting people home to the islands to stay. The website we use the most is xcweather.co.uk.

If the windspeed is too high the ferry to the mainland and the plane can be cancelled. The ferry is cancelled much more frequently than the plane. The little twin otter plane is great - an hour and you're in Glasgow. The beach is the runway and is completely submerged at high tides. So the flight schedule is determined by the tide times.

Christmas Eve took a toll on my new plastic shed. Wind speeds of around 75mph saw the ropes I had secured it with shear right through the sides. It was only four months old. Grrr.

The ferry brings in the food supplies and it's been cancelled for a few days....

No fruit, veg, bread or milk....chocolate and crisps for dinner it is.

However, the winter isn't all bad. There are no tourists and on calm days you get absolutely stunning views like this from last Christmas Day on a beach near my house.

Hogmanay - The Scottish New Year's Eve Most people pop down the pub to meet up with friends from about 8pm til 10 or so. Then the pubs close so the staff can get home to their families. At home people have snacks and drinks until the bells ring at midnight. The bells are from the local church. Our is St Barrs Catholic Church. The population of Barra is about 90% Catholic while the northern Hebridean Isles are almost exclusively Protestant.

After the Bells you grab a bottle of booze, usually whisky, and take it to your neighbours for what is called 'First Footing', i.e. the first people to set foot over the door in the New Year. Here you share in the alcohol and tell stories, play instruments and sing before moving onto the next house. Expect to come home with an empty bottle and a sore head. Until very recently (say 30 years or so) people in the Hebrides, and Scotland more widely, couldn't afford to buy bottles of whisky and such so they would save all year to be able to take a bottle round the houses on Hogmanay and share a 'dram' - a house measure. It's still considered a very social thing to do.

If I'm feeling up to it will go for a walk on New Year's Day. Barra has a hilly interior and you get great views from the top. This is looking south towards Ireland. The water in the foreground is the reservoir that supplies the island with drinking water - it's never in short supply.

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