Last week I helped you all out on that perennially tricky question – name five famous Belgian sportspeople. This turned out to be incredibly popular and I have been inundated with requests for me to do something else in the same vein. Sadly, I left Belgium quite quickly (as a lot of people tend to) and so am unable to bring you any more Belgian-related sports information. Do not fret, however – my travels have this week brought me to the Western Isles of Scotland. I am filming on the island of Barra and thought that a lot of you might not have that much of an idea about what kind of sporting activities are available on a remote Scottish island.
Before I came up here I had a little think and came up with some possibilities – fishing, hiking and seal clubbing were the three that came to mind instantly. Now that I've arrived and done some investigative work, however, I've realised just how ignorant I was. Barra is a sporting Mecca just waiting for you to don your lycra and get out here.
The Barrathon This is an annual half-marathon held on the island along with several misleadingly monikered "fun runs" that are a little shorter, should you not wish to run 12 miles over the Scottish tundra. I love the fact that the real reason this event exists is that somebody realised they could make "Barrathon" out of the word marathon. Once this was conceived, there was clearly no turning back. Rather cruelly, the islanders hold a ceilidh in the evening after the Barrathon in which tired runners are forced to dance the night away rather than putting their feet up in front of a good whisky.
Hill running Should the Barrathon not be your bag, then maybe this annual event will be. Participants run up the highest hill on the island, Ben Heaval, and back again. If you did this in the Cotswolds, you would either be shot for trespassing or sectioned as being a bit "funny in the head". Up here, however, if you see a hill then you run up it. They are a tough bunch and it's exactly this kind of activity that keep them match-fit and ready to fight off another Viking invasion.
Golf Barra claims to have the western-most golf course in the United Kingdom. The good people of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland dispute this, however, so I'm not going to get into that geographical argument. The course itself is a hilly nine holes with a very particular local hazard. Every green is surrounded by an electric fence to prevent the local cows and sheep from wandering on and tucking in.
I haven't been able to play a round yet as the weather is a little on the parky side so I'm not sure what the form is should your ball land within a putter's length of the fence. I rather hope that you have to take it like an islander and get a shock while trying to sink your putt. This is possibly something that Tiger Woods' handlers might like to consider as an alternative "control" technique.
The Barra Games These are the island's version of the Highland Games and involve most of the usual suspects, such as tug-of-war and tossing the caber. This latter event is clearly very popular as I have yet to see a single tree anywhere on the entire island. Presumably, years of caber-tossing have decimated the once proud forests of Barra, which are now Barren...
Power-kiting This is a windy place and the locals use it to their advantage. There are posters everywhere advertising lessons in both kiteboarding and kitekarting. This seems to involve being pulled behind a kite/parachute at huge speeds along a beach. It looks brilliant fun but I'm a little wary of this since I tried kitesurfing in Cape Town a couple of years back. A rogue gust of wind picked me up and deposited me unceremoniously in the surf about 100 yards further down the beach.
I couldn't walk for three days and had to be carried off the beach while being laughed at by 100 Afrikaners in speedos. There are unlikely to be any Afrikaners on Barra but I would still be very cautious if I were you. You also have to be a bit careful as the beach doubles up as the airport. If you were to be hit by the daily flight from Glasgow, there might be tears.