Like A Bird on the Wing

27 January 2017

 barra landing

 

This month sees the return of direct flights between Inverness Airport and Heathrow, the first time in nearly 20 years that the capital of the Highlands has had a direct link to one of the busiest aviation hubs in the world. This is brilliant news, not only for locals but for visitors to the Highlands, as the timing of flights makes it even more convenient for anyone living in the south east of England. With flights departing London at 10am and a hire car reserved at the airport you could easily be almost anywhere across the Highlands by the time you have to check into your holiday home. A return flight in the afternoon means you can make the absolute most of your holiday time. Culkein Lodge, right up on the north-west coast is a spectacular destination. To get here you drive along part of the renowned North Coast 500 route but because you have done the bulk of your travelling by air you can relax, and take in the scenery. Despite looking on a map like it is at the remotest corner of the country it is still less than two and a half hours drive from the airport.

The beach on Barra is one of the most iconic landing spots in the world where uniquely, the flights are scheduled so as to coincide with low tide. As you fly into Traigh Mhor on the north of the island you will be able to see Eriskay and the causeway that links it to South Uist. Once you have landed a short ferry ride will take you here and to the luxury of Beachcomber’s Cottage.

Barra is not the only beach on the Islands to be used as a runway. Sollas beach on North Uist was for many years used by air ambulances and hosts regular fly-ins by aviation enthusiasts. The beach was also mentioned in Peter May’s Blackhouse Trilogy as the location where a drug smuggling light aircraft was landed. Clachan Sands Cottage overlooks the next beach along the coast and offers inspirational views over the golden sands and out across to Harris.

Broadford Airfield on Skye was, until recently more famous for being a location in the Flash Gordon film than it was for aviation. That has now changed as the once derelict and forgotten about airstrip is being regularly used by intrepid light aircraft pilots and as a base for sea plane tours. In less than an hour a seaplane can take you on a complete tour of the island, including flying between the Red and Black Cuillins, over the Quiraing and a landing on a remote beach. If you would like to savour some of Skye’s best views for a little longer then Beach House has some of the most impressive vistas you could gaze at for hours.

The popularity of the islands as a holiday destination has meant there are now more flights than ever to Stornoway. Currently you can fly direct from Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. With car hire easily obtainable on the island a self-catering holiday need not require a lengthy drive or ferry journey. The time you save travelling could instead be spent one of the amazing Harris beaches or mountains. In addition, the regular flight connections really opens up the area to those wanting to have a short break. Bargains can be had off season when the beaches are quieter and midges scarce and in addition, the ongoing cultural renaissance of Stornoway means there are no shortage of festivals and fine dining options for those wanting a city break with a difference.

Glenforsa House has an amazing location right on the Forsa River and with sea views. Just over the river lies a grass landing strip, the aircraft control for which is actually inside the nearby Hotel. If you are lucky enough to be able to arrive this way you will be pleased to know that landing fees are an absurdly reasonable £10 and the airstrip is cleared of grazing livestock prior to the summer. In previous years the Glenforsa Fly-in has been a legendary high point in the private aviation calendar, attracting up to 135 aircraft from the UK and beyond. This summer there are three separate events when you can expect to see dozens of vintage aeroplanes on display.