Jonathan & Denise >
The forecast for today was for cold but fine dry weather, so yesterday evening we prepared the motorhome for a rare long day out exploring. With a full day available, it’s worth travelling further, and short of taking a ferry, that means going as far as the islands connected by causeways) of North Uist, Baile Sear, and Berneray.
We spent the morning walking with Tilly in community-managed woodlands in North Uist, and after cosy lunch in the motorhome with the heating on, we drove round the island ‘ring road’ to Greinetobht, where we parked up at the head of the beach and pulled on our boots and gear for a long walk around the Udal peninsula.
The Udal is a peninsula formed with wind-blown sand, raised up on the Atlantic side into sand dunes up to 20m / 65ft high, with machair fields – good grazing for hardy catlle – on the sheltered east side. The peninsula owes it’s existence to the string of rocky islets that have become wholly or partly subsumed by sand ; these being combined with erosive long-shore currents and seasonal patterns of wind and rain – these together transport the sand hither and thither.
The sands of the Udal are constantly in motion : Atlantic storms pummelling the steep marram-bound slopes until they collapse ; long-shore currents scouring the loose sand depositing them in the sheltered east side of the peninsula ; dry summer winds blowing vast quantities of loose sand from the beaches up on to the land, and the rapid-growing marram grass binding the fresh-laid sand into new and higher dunes.
In the long term, however, and despite the constant comings and goings, the Udal is remarkably stable, a fact testified by an equally remarkable concentration of pre-historic archaeological sites. It seems that countless generations of humans have felt that there is something special about the Udal.
Unfortunately, the clear skies and sunshine were completely obscured by dense sea mist and spray : we definitely needed our waterproofs on! The walk was cold, wet and windy, but it’s an exhilarating walk, and so we enjoyed ourselves all the same!
Tráigh Udal [Udal Beach] : The patterns (in the photos below) are created by the winds scouring a thin layer of white sand underlain by darker sand. [The screens of smaller devices will not do these patterns justice!]