Af­ter the mu­sic is over


The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JAN PITTMAN

GIDGEGANNUP, WA WE­trav­elled by ferry from Eriskay in the Outer He­brides, off Scot­land’s west coast, south to Barra the morn­ing af­ter the 2011 Barra mu­sic fes­ti­val, hav­ing missed the event as all ac­com­mo­da­tion and fer­ries had been booked.

We drove from Ardmhor to Castle­bay in pour­ing rain — and yes, there’s a cas­tle in the mid­dle of the bay. It seemed that ev­ery spare patch of land around the tiny set­tle­ment had aban­doned camp­ing equip­ment strewn about the sod­den grass. We couldn’t imag­ine what it must have been like try­ing to sleep in such damp con­di­tions.

We later dis­cov­ered that it’s com­mon for cheaply pur­chased camp­ing gear to be left be­hind. We were told char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions col­lect some of the tents for re­cy­cling, but most gear goes into land­fill.

En­ter­ing one of the pubs for morn­ing tea (no such thing as a cafe, let alone a res­tau­rant, on many of the smaller He­bridean is­lands), we were told fes­ti­val-go­ers had ‘‘wrecked the joint’’ the night be­fore. But we were di­rected to the lounge, where we en­joyed our cof­fee and watched as a storm con­tin­ued to ham­per clean-up ef­forts.

Af­ter driv­ing to an­other pub some dis­tance away for our sta­ple trav­el­ling lunch of soup and sand­wiches, my 65-year-old Scot­tish part­ner (who doesn’t even sing in the shower) was as­ton­ished to be asked by an­other diner, in rev­er­ent terms, whether he was the lead singer in one of the pre­vi­ous night’s bands. He replied that if he had been, he would have cleared the tent be­fore the end of the first song. Later, en­joy­ing a pint back in the first pub, now cleaned up, we were treated to a long and fab­u­lous jam ses­sion by vis­it­ing and lo­cal mu­si­cians, who played fid­dles, flutes, ban­jos, key­boards and, of course, bag­pipes.

For sev­eral days we en­joyed mild and balmy sum­mer weather (soar­ing to 18C) and rev­elled in the his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions, such as Compton Macken­zie’s grave (he wrote Whisky Ga­lore here), and the scenery of wild­flow­ers, pris­tine beaches, beau­ti­ful Barra and neigh­bour­ing Vater­say. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to our Fol­low the Reader col­umn. Pub­lished colum­nists will re­ceive a Lem­nis Pharox So­lar Kit. Ideal for out­door ad­ven­tures, this nifty de­vice is both an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient por­ta­ble light and a charger for de­vices such as phones and iPods. Charge via elec­tric­ity be­fore you leave home or on the road with the in­cluded mini so­lar panel. $49.95. More: 1300 LEM­NIS; lem­nis­light­

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