(On behalf of Kila, WDCS Canine Research Assistant)
It’s that time of year again and the various naval contingencies of NATO countries are due to be gathering in the waters off the north west coast of Scotland for their second round of “war games” this year … and we’re going to be watching! Our journey to get here however is worth a blog of its own and I’ve been given the honour of penning it!
Taking a slight diversion on the road north, we set sail from Oban headed for the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Due to some adverse weather conditions it took slightly longer (an hour longer … in pretty tempestuous seas) than the five hours it was meant to but thanks to the lovely people of Caledonian McBrayne ferries, I was able to pass the time in the company of my humans in the more relaxed environment of the “lounge” as opposed to being confined to the car in the bowels of the ship! (Can someone please ask those channel ferry operators to adopt the same policy as they won’t let me leave the car on those journeys … and they charge me (actually they charge my human) for the pleasure!)
Barra produced a first for me, a walk on an airport runway … although to me it looked more like a beach but what do I know? And one of the reasons for coming here? A small population of bottlenose dolphins is known to reside in the Sound of Barra and the idea had been to try and find them, unfortunately though the weather wasn’t playing ball (or stick!) and they weren’t to be seen. So it was onto another ferry, (across the Sound of Barra but still no dolphins) and over to Eriskay for us! Eriskay is a small island connected to the island of South Uist by a causeway and best known for being the site where the “AM Politician” ran aground in 1941 with a cargo of 22,000 cases of whisky, quite a godsend for the local community and made infamous in Compton Mackenzie’s famous novel “Whisky Galore”.
By the time we got to South Uist I was beginning to get a bit concerned as there was a distinct lack of trees (and thus sticks!) … not something I was too happy about! Another causeway took us over to Benbecula, where there were still no trees but there were lots of wader birds (they don’t need trees after all) including a spectacular number of lapwings. The next causeway took us over to North Uist where the fun was really to begin when we went “visiting”.
Monty Halls is a good friend of WDCS – such a good friend that he ran the London marathon in aid of WDCS dressed as a dolphin!! – and as he’s over here filming the sequel to his television series “Great Escape”, we wanted to pop in and say hello and have a chat about the whales and dolphins (and porpoises) that he could expect to see from his island beach retreat. Monty is kept company by his own canine friend who goes by the name of Reuben and while the humans talked shop, we had a brilliant time making friends … !!
Canine entertainment over for the day, it was back on a ferry for us, this time over to Harris and Lewis. And what a spectacular place Harris turned out to be … beaches as far as the eye can see, and even the odd stick! Lewis was nice too although there seemed to be a lot of interest from my humans in a bunch of odd looking standing stones … not too sure what the significance was but it involved a lot of walking to get there so I wasn’t going to complain.
A few beaches later we were back on yet another ferry (although I’ve been promised that this was the last one) and heading back to the mainland, final destination Gairloch. We had been hoping to spot some Risso’s dolphins from the ferry as we left Stornoway behind as there are a semi-resident population of them living in this part of the world but it wasn’t to be! We were however accompanied, and entertained for a short while by some of their cousins, otherwise known as common dolphins and harbour porpoises … very nice indeed!
And now? We’ve arrived in Gairloch and are ready to greet the warships - we’ve already spotted our first submarine (Norwegian in origin) alongside Stornoway harbour!! (And after my lunch of Sunday roast at the pub I’m more than ready … although I may have a wee nap first, just to recharge my batteries!)