My friends and myself are planning a trip to Lewis & Harris for a trad climbing holiday and one thing we potentially have our eye on is taking a boat to one of the remote islands around the main island. One section in the Outer Hebrides guide book that stuck out to me is the Bernera islands, in particular the islands of Bearasaigh, Seanna Chnoc and Campaigh due to the fact they don't appear to be as far away from the main island as other places like Pabbay. The guidebook recommends trying to find a fisherman at Circebost to take us to the island. After this, the details seem to be slightly lacking so I'm wondering if anyone here could answer a few questions:
-What are the landings like on the islands? Are they good places to moor a boat? Do you need to climbing a cliff to get to the main camping spots?
-What is the signal like on the islands, do phones work or is it necessary to rent a radio from someone? If so, is it easy to rent one on Lewis & Harris?
-Is there a time of year this is out of the question (we're going in September)?
Thanks for your help
Can't help I'm afraid but you could try getting the book Scottish Island Bagging or similar for info.
I've paddled round (and through!) Campaigh by sea kayak, and based on what I remember I don't think you'd be able to land there without getting wet. Logistically, getting onto the island might be more like getting over to Am Buachaille than stepping out of the boat onto a beach. The sea was rather lively that day (which is why I didn't make it to Bearasaigh or Seanna Chnoc), so perhaps I'm being unduly pessimistic.
I remember passing a sign offering a taxi service over to Little Bernera on my way to Bostadh beach, and while I was mooching about on Little Bernera a small boat did bring a couple of people over to visit the cemetery, so maybe that's the same one.
Out of curiosity I had a look at google maps to see if it's listed there, but no. I did notice there's a company offering boat trips (among other things) at Circebost, so perhaps they'd be someone to talk to: http://islands-of-adventure.co.uk/ It might also be worth getting in touch with 'Sea Trek' at Miavaig.
I've no idea what your chances of getting a phone signal are, but not good probably. (In case you have a strong enough signal for a text but not a voice call, it'd be worth registering to make a 999 call by text perhaps: https://www.emergencysms.net/ )
I think your chances of hiring a VHF are very slim. A basic non-DSC (you don't want DSC anyway) radio isn't hellishly expensive to buy though, and you could probably sell it on for a fair chunk of the purchase price afterwards, especially one of the more popular Standard Horizon or Icom radios. (And you want one of those imo.) A couple of models charge via USB so you could use a powerbank to charge it if necessary. (eg: https://www.force4.co.uk/item/Standard-Horizon/HX300E-VHF/9SZ ) Various models also give you the option to use AA batteries but beware - they usually can't transmit at full power using AA's, which is the last thing you'd want in an emergency.
If you're not already used to using a VHF it'd be worth reading up on the correct protocols and such. "MIPDANIO" especially. (Strictly speaking you're supposed to do a one-day course and pass a test to get a licence to use one for non-emergency purposes.) As a random person on an island with a hand-held, you don't have a callsign - just make one up, make it ludicrously simple like "Climber George".
I'd suggest writing out a little waterproof card, and keeping it with the radio as a guide to follow just in case you did need to make a 'Mayday' call. (Put 'Dont Panic' at the top in big friendly letters, and remind yourself to speak clearly and slowly - much more slowly than you will naturally want to if you're stressed.)
Oh, one more thought. There's a very active (and I'm told very friendly) canoe club in Stornoway. I bet they'd be a good source of beta. (Their facebook group might be a good way to get in touch - 'Stornowaycanoes'.)
And to think I've been struggling to persuade people I know that Fairhead is worth the extra effort!
I'd be very surprised if you could find anyone to take you to Campaigh or Seanna Chnoc. You can land on Bearasaigh with difficulty, there is a spot on the south side with access to the island. I guess you can land on all 3 if you have a small dinghy but it's getting off at the end of your trip that I would be worried about. There can be a huge swell and the sides of the first two are pretty steep.
You could camp beside the ruins on the south west side of Bearasaigh.
There are no safe places to moor a boat north of the south side of Little Bernera.
Seatrek may have advice.
Take enough supplies for an extended trip. If the weather picks up, even slightly, you could be there for an extra week or three.
Thanks for all the advice and suggestions. Given how difficult it might be, I think we'll leave it for this year but it's good to get people's opinions none the less.