To start the adventure, I had to get to the UK fist. Easy time!

Apart from having to wait half an hour for a slot in Zurich and speeding over the apron towards the runway once we got it, the flight was uneventful. Here we are on finals for Luton's Rwy 26 already.


I had a seven hour stay at Luton, so I took advantage of the frequent bus connections to and from Heathrow and squeezed in some spotting at Hatton Cross before departing on my next flight ex Luton


While the sun had already set at ground level, we got another sunrise and sunset during climb. What a feeling!




Evening cruise

The crew must've had tons of fun doing their job, as they just couldn't stop giggling during the safety demo, and finally fleed into the toilet and behind the curtain respectively for two minutes to regain their composure. Didn't help much anyway. Oh yeah, and the sun was smiling, too!


After arrival in Edinburgh I checked in to my comfy room...err yeah, a hard set of chairs behind the baggage belts. After some 3 or so hours of sleep, I spent most of the day spotting there, before heading back to the city to catch my train to Glasgow. I did manage to have a look Edinburgh's downtown area, too, though. I'm sure it's a nice city, yet the lousy weather and the tired state I was in weren't conducive to a positive impression. Anyway, here's the castle towering above the city




St.Giles, the patron of Edinburgh, in front of his Cathedral   

 

The next day was dedicated to spotting at Glasgow-Prestwick, the cargo and Ryanair hub - e.g. standing in the rain for hours and praying for some movements to arrive. With a little energy left, I set out on a brief nightshot tour in the evening - however, the Scots seem to be stingy with electricity, and hardly any of the buildings were lit at all...the City Chambers was one of them, while the Cathedral nearby remained dark


That meant I had to climb that hill again the next day to get a shot of it - here it is!


Behind the Cathedral, "Necropolis", the city of the dead, occupies the top of the hill.


 

Finally, after two days in Glasgow, the real adventure was near!   

After a long wait, the 13 passengers were allowed to board!


It didn't take long for the bags to be stowed and the doors to be closed. The co-pilot joined the passengers for a short yet very entertaining talk on safety. Among others:

„There are three good reasons, why you should use your lifevests. First, you paid for them. Second, you are easier to recognize for search troops (for sharks as well, though). Third, there is a chance that they might save your life.” :D


After power-backing from our stand, we taxied to Rwy 23, let the two props roar, and off we went!



Cabin Shot




A glimpse of the Cockpit   



...and then the scenery outside took over! How nice!   



Over the sound of Jura   

The cliffs of Carsaig on the Isle of Mull



Over the Isle of Mull   



A nice beach on the Isle of Coll, home to 170 inhabitants total!   

The one hour flight was over in what felt like 10 minutes, and we're already descending towards the island of Barra.


Runway...errrr, Beach is in sight, and we set up for landing at Traigh Mhòr (gaelic for "large beach", it's that easy! ;))


...aaaaand, here we are! Didn't really feel much different than on a paved runway, or I was just too busy taking shots to notice it at all!


Of course, a cockpit shot was a must considering this special location!


With the approval of the Captain and the local Safety Officer (yeah, it's still the UK, you see!) I was allowed to quickly walk around the plane and get some different angles. Wonderful setting!


The only airport in the world, where scheduled flights land on a beach!




Terminal Overview :)



Airport Overview :D 
Landings are only possible during low-tide, while the flights are also following the only flight schedule in the world that is dictated by the tides. In the case of emergencies on the island (there is no hospital on Barra), this is a huge problem - so you either wait for the water to recede, or send a Helicopter instead


Turning around by 180 degrees at the same spot, this is the breathtaking view you get! Yeah, the airport's located at the narrowest point of the island, where it is a mere 200 meters wide!




No Fara Morgana - the airport hiding behind the dunes is for real!   

After its 20 minute turn-around, the Twin Otter was ready for the flight back to Glasgow. Note the flat tires, which prevent the wheels from burying themselves in the sand


Time for take-off! The Twin Otter speeds up, and after a short takeoff roll splashing through some puddles and probably cracking some mussels on the beach, is airborne again. This torture makes it necessary to clean the aircraft every evening after its return from Barra. The airline's been looking for a replacement aircraft for quite some time - yet at the moment, the 1980 built Twin Otter is the only type to handle these special missions well!


This was the first day of sunshine since my arrival in Scotland (what superb timing!), and so I was eager to see more of the island why the blue sky lasted! I jumped on the Royal Mail postal bus, which doesn't only get the mail from the plane, but also takes its passengers into town. After getting my bed at the youth hostel, I rented a bike („you want a lock? What’s that for?“) and set out on a sightseeing tour around neighbouring Vatersay Island (98 inhabitants! :))




Navigation's pretty easy, too - all roads lead to Castlebay!   

On the way, I had a superb view of the island's capital, Castlebay, or Bàgh a' Chaisteil in gaelic




Traigh Varlish may not be the prettiest beach on the island, yet its flower power is quite convincing, too!



May I present, the island's main road!   



But it sure takes you to amazing places!   



Vatersay Bay, the most popular beach of the island - not hard to guess why!   



And that's about the moment I fell in love with Barra! White sands, blue seas, and flowers all around. So charming!   



Talk about contrast: Barren and rocky slopes and pristine sandy beaches!    



Another beach on the eastern side of Vatersay near Caragraich - a hamlet consisting of 4 houses!   



King of the Island :D

That's Kismul Castle in Castlebay (hence the name...), built around 1050 and therefore one of the oldest in Europe. It has always been home to the MacNeil Clan which reigned over the island, and took advantage of its position to raid ships to or from the UK. At the moment, a Robert MacNeil, architect living in New York, is the 45th clan chief. However, he rented the castle out to Scotland in return of an annual bottle of Whisky.


Highlight of the day is the arrival of the ferry from the mainland!


The next day the clouds were back, but I was happy with the one day of sunshine I got. But even the strong winds and frequent rain showers couldn't stop me from cycling around the whole Island once! I also stopped at the airport beach, which - as there's no scheduled traffic on Sundays - is open for the cockle pickers




Want some more gaelic?   

On Monday, I returned to the airport once again, but this time to fly out myself. Here's the terminal shot: The extensive food court on the left, the expansive shopping and waiting area in the middle, and countless check-in desks waiting in the back! :D


There's also a poster of the airport layout. Tricky are night operations (for emergencies): With portable lamps the runway is marked, and a car is positioned at its beginning to mark the touchdown zone with its headlights! Gotta be creative!




Time for the next flight...



...or what was left of it!   

Dense fog surrounded the island, so that the inbound plane from Glasgow, which was to take me on to Benbecula, returned to the mainland after a few circles and without even attempting to land. When I started to be worried about being stuck on the island, the check-in lady (who's also the station manager) took me and the only other passenger to the ferry. On neighbouring Benbecula Island, we were awaited by a BA-sponsored taxi to take us to the local airfield! Thank God this was only a 20 minute flight, and so even on the ground it took little more than an hour! And so I managed to get to the „Port Adhair Bheinn na Faoghla“, the Benbecula Airport


From here I was supposed to continue on to Stornoway on Highland Airways, but of course I'd missed their morning flight. But they re-booked me onto their afternoon flight without any problems. How nice of them! And here's their Jetstream to pick me up!




Here we go, finally taking to the air again!

Not even half of the seats were taken, and so the 30 minute flight over to Stornoway was quite relaxing. Here we are on approach already!




Cleared to Land Rwy 36



After a short stop there (one person got off, nobody joined us) we continued the flight to Inverness!   



And this wouldn't be Scotland, if a day which started with a flight cancellation due to bad weather wouldn't end in sunshine!   



Here we are on finals Rwy 23 for Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands!   



Cabin-Shot

The youth hostel was located right next to the city's main attraction, Inverness Castle. And it didn't really meet my expectations of a castle in terms of size and atmosphere, it was pretty nonetheless (even more so in sunshine!)


In contrast to Glasgow it seems that they have enough money to light their sights at night, so here's the Castle again!


From Castle Hill (which is as high as the castle is impressive...) you get a good view of the city by the River Ness


River Ness in turn is the effluent river of famous Loch Ness, and that's where I headed next! I didn't care much about the monster (and didn't seet it, as you may guess), but the Urquhart Castle at the lake's shore was a nice sight!


You get a great overview from the main road, and even save the 10 pound entry fee! And after an hour's wait, I was finally rewarded with a bit of sunshine, too!


Back in Inverness, the sun peeked out one last time - making me run all over the city to get as many sights in sunlight as I could! Here's the castle again...




And here a view of Inverness' Skyline   



Wow, these school children here must be quite a pain!    

Early the next morning the time had come to move down south again - which wasn't a bad thing, since I started to ran out of sweaters (13 to 15 degrees is considered summer there!)




We leave Inverness' Dalcross Airport behind...   



...and are back to the sunny south and hour later!   

Loo-ton Airport was a pain once again, making us share the baggage belt with two heavily loaded Boeing 757 charters from Spain. The left baggage machine took 20 minutes to get operational, too, and the ticket machine for the train to London was out of service as well. But I made it to the city somehow, with the main goal being a visit to the “New Zealand Shop“. Unfortunately, some old buildings blocked my way, like this clocktower here...




...or golden Victoria   



...or armadas of strange vehicles...   



...or these cabins from the long-gone cellphone-less era!



Counting all the people in the busses, too, there are easily more people on this shot than there are residents on Barra!   



After this visit to the city, and now heavily loaded with goodies from Down Under, I made my way back to Luton for the last flight of the trip. 

No shots from that flight, since the windows were dirty as hell and there was nothing to see anyway. Instead, another shot from the Edinburgh flight - I love airborne sunsets!


To conclude, the trip was a lot of fun, and while the Twin Otter flight to Barra easily costed twice as much as the other Easyjet flights combined, it was a unique experience I wouldn't wanna muss. In the meantime, Flybe has taken over the flights, but they could end someday when a proposed ferry service to Barra starts. So if you liked what you saw here, book your flights, and book them fast! But keep in mind that you need to be lucky to get such a sunny day there!

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