One of our favourite places to take the plane is the Western Isles of Scotland. It’s somewhere we could never visit for a weekend if it weren’t for ‘YC – it would be more than a day’s drive plus ferry trips, or most of a day on the train (and as insane as it sounds, that option could end up being more expensive)! The privilege of having this mode of transport available is never more apparent than when we can make it onto one of the islands in a matter of hours.

We had been looking at the weather for a few weeks and it appeared promising in mid-June 2013. This was in the time pre-instrument rating so we needed stable and clear weather for the trip to be possible. We began to hatch a plan with our good friend D, who was living up in Edinburgh with work.

On Friday evening J and I set out for Edinburgh after work. It took us just over 3hrs – still difficult to get my head around that! Edinburgh airport is very organised with fantastic service, but it’s very pricey for GA as you’re required to opt for handling and they don’t have a cheap option like many smaller airfields. The service is brilliant but you definitely pay for it – we will always try and go up via Prestwick if possible as the flying club there is fantastic and their fees are much more reasonable.

D met us at the airport early on Saturday and we set off for a scenic flight up the Great Glen towards Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Hilariously the airport security guard insisted on carrying our luggage out to the aircraft and stowing it in the ‘hold’. ‘YC doesn’t have a ‘hold’ – there is a small hatch at the back where we keep things like towbars, chocks and life jackets when we aren’t using them, and that is fully accessible from within the cabin by reaching over the back seat. We explained this to the guy, who said that his job was to ensure ‘hold luggage goes in the hold’ for safety reasons, so that was what he was going to do. J muttered something along the lines of ‘not like I’m going to hi-jack myself…’ but let him do the necessary and we went on our way.

Lovely view of the Forth Bridge on departure from Edinburgh!

Forth Bridge

It was a very ‘scenic’ flight both in terms of being absolutely stunning the whole way and also a very roundabout way to get between our point of departure and destination, but that was the point – the weekend was really focused on sightseeing, so sightseeing we were! Here are a few highlights:

Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis
Loch Leven towards Loch Linhe
Loch Leven towards Loch Linhe
Loch Ness
Loch Ness

And there’s the amazing facial expression of someone seeing wonderful things from the air – I never get tired of that and I wear a similar one myself most of the time 🙂

D enjoying the view

We landed at Stornoway airport on the Isle of Lewis in the early afternoon. It was still gloriously sunny and everyone we met was commenting on the weather. It’s clear that a warm and non-windy day is a rarity here even in the summer months! We definitely picked a good’un.

We spent the afternoon exploring the harbour in Stornoway and doing some walking in the local area. There are some interesting wooden sheep in the town centre, which were just begging to be ridden:

Stornoway sheep
J & D get to know the Stornoway sheep

The following morning we walked along the seafront and discovered some stunning deserted beaches. It was a little chilly for a swim but a beautiful area to visit and the colour of the water was just stunning!

Beach on Lewis
Beach on Lewis

In the early afternoon we piled back into ‘YC for another scenic flight over the Outer Hebrides, followed by a landing to drop D off at Prestwick for her train back to Edinburgh.

Stornoway departure
Stornoway departure

 

South Uist
South Uist

 

Benbecula, and a handy safety reminder on the top-left!
Benbecula, and a handy safety reminder on the top-left!

 

D had to work Monday morning but J and I had booked a long weekend, so after saying our goodbyes at Prestwick we hopped over to Islay for the night. Another beautiful place to discover, and a particularly glorious sunset.

Islay mud flats
Islay mud flats

 

Sunset on Islay
Sunset on Islay

 

I can’t actually remember if we stopped off on our way back to Biggin from Islay the following day – J tells me we didn’t – but it was incidental to a weekend of stunning scenery and uncharacteristically gorgeous weather. I know how lucky we are to be able to fly whenever we like, and this collection of adventures shared with a friend only emphasised it further!

Happy flying!

Em x

Airfields visited

Edinburgh

  • ICAO code: EGPH
  • Elevation AMSL: 136ft
  • Runway direction & length: 06/24 (2,556m) and 12/30 (1,797m)
  • Runway surface: Tarmac
  • Landing fee (at time of visiting): over £200 including handling (won’t be doing that again!!)
  • Facilities: Terminal building has toilets, shops and restaurants.
  • Transport links: Tram or bus to Edinburgh main station.

Stornoway

  • ICAO code: EGPO
  • Elevation AMSL: 26ft
  • Runway direction & length: 06/24 (1,000m) and 18/36 (2,315m)
  • Runway surface: Tarmac
  • Landing fee (at time of visiting): £19.56
  • Facilities: Toilets, cafe & shops in the main terminal
  • Transport links: Bus service from Stornoway available Mon-Sat. Otherwise local taxi companies are very responsive and the ride into town is under 15mins.

Prestwick

  • ICAO code: EGPK
  • Elevation AMSL: 65ft
  • Runway direction & length: 12/30 (2,986m) and 03/21 (1,905m)
  • Runway surface: Tarmac
  • Landing fee (at time of visiting): £20
  • Facilities: Briefing room, toilets, tea & coffee in Flying Club. Further facilities in the main terminal building.
  • Transport links: Public bus service runs into Glasgow and the airport has its own train station.

Islay

  • ICAO code: EGPI
  • Elevation AMSL: 56ft
  • Runway direction & length: 13/31 (1,545m) and 08/26 (635m)
  • Runway surface: Tarmac
  • Landing fee (at time of visiting): £20.65
  • Facilities: Tea, coffee and toilets available in the terminal building during opening hours (morning only on Saturday, afternoon only on Sunday)
  • Transport links: Bus service Mon-Sat, otherwise local taxi companies.
Flying visit to the Western Isles

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