Somehow, before I knew it, I had signed up with thirteen others for a walking trip to the Isle of Barra.

However, my choice of travel to get there was either a five hour ferry crossing from Oban or a one hour flight from Glasgow.

Easy choice, I thought to myself, because five hours on a choppy ferry sounded like the journey from hell.

So…. I went ahead and booked the short flight and by chance that very evening when I turned on the telly, I came across a travel programme hosted by Robson Green who just happened to be flying to Barra.

Watching intently I discovered that as Barra doesn’t have a traditional tarmac runway, the tiny aircraft actually lands on the beach.

Oh well, I’m booked now. I mumbled nervously to myself.

Excited but somewhat anxious, I gathered with the others in the departure lounge at Glasgow airport when suddenly our chit chat was interrupted by a stern voice bellowing through the speaker system.

“We are sorry to announce that flight BE6581 to Barra has been delayed by thirty minutes.”

Wondering what had caused the delay we heard……….

“Due to high winds the tide is not out sufficiently to land.”

“We will keep you informed.”

“High winds?” queried one.

The rabble from our small group was again deafening.

“Tide?” Another laughed uneasily.

Soon we were greeted on the Tarmac by Stewart our co-pilot who was attempting to steer us on to the aircraft as best he could, however, it was a bit like herding sheep because everyone was stopping and asking him to take pictures of them outside the tiny aircraft.

Finally up in the air, Stewart, who was over 6ft had to crouch somewhat in the tiny space to demonstrate the pre-flight safety demonstration.

“In the event of an emergency, your lifejacket is under your seat.” Stewart who was still doubled over then attempted to explain the necessary use of the very small yellow plastic jacket.

“Harry Houdini couldn’t put a safety jacket on in a plane this small.”

I pointed out to my fellow passengers.

“I can barely stand upright and I’m only 5 ft 2!”

Ignoring me Stewart carried on with his spiel.

“Our flying time is one hour, and at this stage we are optimistic of a landing.”

My pal Raymond and I turned to each other at the same time in a state of panic and repeated.



“Raymond, we are 10,000 feet up in the air,” I whined.

“I was hoping for a bit more reassurance than ‘optimistic.’

However, sitting nearby (and let’s face it, everyone was nearby), our friend, also called Janice advised.

“Don’t worry guys,” she laughed.

“If an aircraft is going to fail it is usually in the first 10 seconds after take-off.”

Raymond and I wondered what was coming next.

“Just remember next time you fly that if you’re still up in the air after counting to ten.”

She advised.

“Then there’s a very good chance your flight will be fine.”

“Ever considered a career as an air hostess Janice?”

Sarcastically I couldn’t help but pose the question.

“Because you certainly know how to put passengers at ease.”

Turns out Janice had had a career in inspecting aircraft flaws, and apparently did know what she was talking about, however, her top tips and assurances did nothing to ease my apprehension and convince me that all was well.

“Prepare for landing.” The pilot announced to his co-pilot Stewart.

But really there was nothing for us to prepare.

No-one had moved an inch from their seats as there was no toilet, nowhere to go and you could barely stand upright.

There was no in-flight catering, so there was nothing to tidy away.

So all-in-all, we were ready for landing.

And what a landing.

Descending through the thick cloud, the aircraft rocked from side to side somewhat before we bumpily touched down on the beautiful white sandy beach.

And I can tell you that it felt quite surreal stepping from the aircraft on to the sand in puddles of icy cold sea water as the strong winds almost blew us off our feet.

Two days later and we were back at the airport again for our return journey.

We stepped in to a canteen area with the check in desk to the left.

The lady check-in crew was outside sunning herself when she noticed the small crown of passengers starting to gather and made her way behind the desk.

I put my small suitcase on the scales, showed her my passport and sat and had a cup of tea before stepping aboard for the return journey.

All-in-all it was the simplest check-in I have ever had.

“Did they not even scan your bag?” My pal was curious.


“Well they even scanned my black pudding when I was at Stornoway,” he added.

Well, that’s the beauty of Scottish isles for you.