Another weekend*. Another pandemic escape. Another island.
This weekend – pandering to my urges to get as far away from home as possible – I have made it as far as Lewis and Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. I have set up camp in a 5 star bed and breakfast in Bac, a few miles north of Stornoway.
Within Scotland – although we are now allowed to go a wee bit further – it is about as different as you can get from my corner of the Central Lowlands. Orkney and Shetland would be rivals, but that is about it.
To get here you have the choice between a long drive and then the ferry, or a very short flight. For a 2 night break I decided the time was right to get on a plane again.
My 25 minute flight (scheduled to be 40 minutes, but the wind was behind us) was my first flight since February 2020. Believe me, it was a strange experience.
My departure was from Inverness, which is a small airport with flights to London, Paris and Amsterdam before the pandemic, as well as local ones. Now… not much is moving. My 14:00 flight was the only one on the departure board.
The shops are shut although the food outlets (one landside and the other airside) have been kept open. Passengers are easily outnumbered by staff. Whilst it was a disorientating experience, it certainly made me feel completely secure in terms of hygiene and distancing.
My Loganair flight was on a 34 seat Saab 340. 10 passengers and 3 crew. I suspect they do not sell the aisle seats in each row, so that brings capacity down to perhaps 24. Anyway, it too felt entirely safe.
The airport in Stornoway is even smaller than Inverness. My bag arrived on the carousel about the same time as I got into the terminal. 20 minutes after arrival I was in my rented car and on the road.
My confidence about getting on a plane again comes mostly from having had both doses of the vaccine (Pfizer). The low levels of infection in most of Scotland – including where I live, the Inverness area and the Outer Hebrides – is another factor. Anyone travelling to the Scottish islands is advised to obtain 2 negative tests in the 3 days before travel. I did.
[* My weekends are Wednesday to Friday as a result of my current work arrangements.]
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021