I moved to North Uist in the Outer Hebrides about 6 years ago with my partner. We had been regular visitors to these islands for about 20 years – walking, cycling, and watching wildlife. We are both lowland Scots and don’t have cultural connections with the Gàidhealtachd. As two thirty somethings, we had reached a new phase of our lives with no commitments to stop us from deciding to move here during one particular visit when, somewhat on a whim, we started looking at houses for sale. We found a traditional croft house with potential but in need of serious TLC and decided we had more to gain than lose by buying it and moving into its somewhat mouldy, dark interior.
We also arrived here having been committed (though not militant) vegetarians for a decade. Being a veggie in central Scotland was a breeze, particularly since we lived a 2 minute walk from our local Sainsbury’s store. This choice and convenience somehow naively slipped our minds when we moved here. Cue the step from the safety of our suburban cottage garden with only herbaceous borders to manage to a full-on vegetable growing assault in challenging conditions. I optimistically thought these were no barrier to doing something as simple as growing veg (bearing in mind I hadn’t grown more than a lettuce before).
The often unrelenting weather systems (wind!), challenging soil conditions and short growing season in combination take their toll on the capacity to grow what you really want to eat and there have been moments of delight and frustration along the way (see Growing and Gardening for a resume).
Couple this with the notable bounty of land and sea. On the apparently inhospitable terrestrial side, there is so much fine quality local produce – reared and wild: local beef, lamb/wedder/mutton, pork, game – venison, goose, duck, rabbit. The marine environment is rich in forage with undoubtedly the finest seafood in Europe, and fish – both sea and migratory in abundance. One stat often cited about North Uist is the fact that over 50% area of the island is water – freshwater and brackish lochs. Brown trout abound here, and the occasional Arctic Charr.
You have probably sussed where this is going. Food provenance, the principal reason for our vegetarianism is irrelevant here (almost – see Ethos). That combined with an enduring love of meat and fish. A decade of meat-free living did nothing to dispel this and we have both resorted back to The Dark Side.