After a first year and summer away at University I was told in no uncertain terms to get back for Christmas with my family instead of going off with friends… all of which comes to mind with Storm Barra and island it’s named after.
Its Ireland’s turn to take over the alphabet of storms that are coming our way in Britain.
Unbeknown to me we’re in a mini-union with the Netherlands and Ireland (nobody tell the Brexiteers?).
And we’re flagging up storms with user-friendly and cuddly names.
Why Ireland have chosen Barra I’ve not got to the bottom of yet as it’s a Scottish island.
It may, of course, be named after Northern Ireland’s popular TV weather forecaster Barra Best, and be a hands across the border gesture.
Though quite what Irish fashion maven and weather forecaster Evelyn Cusack had to say about that.
And the fact that Eunice (who?) has got the ‘E’ I’d hate to think.
Anyway, back to the Irish storm alphabet, and apologies for not name-checking Arwen at the start of this round.
And again quite what the half-elven daughter of Elrond from Lord of the Rings has to do with Ireland is again a hole in my knowledge.
Life’s a Scottish beach
Back to Barra and it is only the fifth most scenic airport in the world.
Behind my Dear Old Mum’s beloved Donegal and some others.
Barra though lays claim to being the only regular beach runway.
It is served by Loganair and our browse found a return ticket from Glasgow to Barra from £71.99. The view and landing is free.
While landing on a beach means you can wear your flip-flops, if you’re an eternal optimist.
Having done the old seaplane in the Maldives, I surely must bookend it with the beach landing.
We’re pleased to see the Vikings are still coming with routes from Scandinavia.
Of course, you can also reach the island by the arterial Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, universally known as CalMac by Gaels and Barra lovers.
The Vikings were here
And while we’re here why Barra?
And some more flesh on the bone of Storm Barra and island it’s named after.
Because the Vikings were here and named it in Old Norse barr and ey, meaning rough island.
And by Vikings I mean Viking, with the ancient Grettis saga telling us ‘Omund the Wooden-Leg’ was the first to pitch up.
Although I imagine he had ‘Scariur The Evil Eye’ there too to keep an eye on him with all those sheep around.
The Vikings ruled Barra as part of its Southern Islands, or Suðreyjar, from the 9th century through to the 13th century, bar a short period when Somerled declared independence.
Barra has only actually been part of Scotland since 1266 as part of the Treaty of Perth and the payment of a large sum of money.
And if you’ve been to the Western Isles’ most southerly island (stay with me here) then you’ll know it’s been money well spent.
Money, in fact, isn’t the most important currency on the island, if the following story is anything to go by.
Ian MacNeill leased the stunning Kisimul Castle, off the coast of capital Castlebay, in 2000 out of patriotic fervour, to VisitScotland for 1,000 years… for £1 and one bottle of whisky per annum!
Walk this way
Like all our remote areas our tourism chiefs have jumped on them to promote walking routes.
And despite being in a chain of islands, Barra is no different, and is part of the Hebridean Way.
Whether you need to take your swimming gear or not but you can check out the island hop from here up to the northernmost isle of Lewis.
Call of Nature
Seal Bay is pretty much what it says on the tin.
While Cleat on the east of the 23sqmile island is where you want to go if you’re a surfer.
It’s probably a bit safer to be a historian (guilty) and The Dualchas Heritage Centre has all Barra’s rich history.
So we’ll all take shelter this week (I hate the old newspaper phrase ‘batten down the hatches’).
And we’ll reflect on Storm Barra and island it’s named after.
And perhaps if you are going to be homebound (hello?, we’re back in Covid lockdown territory again).
Then you can order an oul’ favourite book, Compton Mackenzie’s Whisky Galore!, to occupy you.
Or watch the Ealing film.
Basically, it pinches the true story of when the SS Politician ran aground off Barra’s neighbouring island Eriskay in the Second World War.
The locals from the two islands, one protestant Great Todday (Eriskay) and one catholic Little Todday (Barra) have different reactions to the whisky and cash shipwrecked off their islands.
Of course if you know modern-day Hebrideans you’ll know whisky is the religion which unites both catholic and protestant.
And much was drunk by my friends that Christmas which is why I’ll be toasting The Hebridean, my old friend Finlay.
I trust he will be on Cloud Nine up in Heaven now with his dram. Slainte Big Man.