Our trip started on a Saturday evening. Ibs, Liz and myself met on a campsite a little North of Arisaig. A small libation and a giant OS map facilitated the planning for our trip. Weather was fair as we got ready on Sunday morning for our first crossing of the trip and over to Eigg. Kit on, ready to leave I endured my first mini accident, shutting my thumb in the van door! Never mind, “good enough to paddle” said the Dr. and Physio. (As I cried) and the first hour slipped by, fuelled by excitement and the stunning view of Eigg…
Eigg stands alone, stark.
Dark silhouette, brooding sentinel,
An Old Master….
The second hour felt like two! Possibly (just possibly)…last nights ‘libation’ may have been a little more than we thought? By the third hour we could see progress. Eventually landing on the North East shore for lunch. Very soon after, Ibs was heard to say; “well, that’s a big bird” as a glorious Sea Eagle lugubriously flapped by on giant, moth like wings. The Sound of Rum gave us a busy Otter going about his chores and stunning views of the Rum Coolin. The Sound also gave access to our campsite Camus Sciotaig. (21km). Guarded by wild hills and with views to Rum, we camped amongst yellow Iris (Liz’s daffodils) and above a beach of white sand. It was difficult to leave our beach fire but an early night was needed.
Rarely, do I feel such such reluctance to leave a place. But the paddle down the West Coast of Eigg was spectacular! Giant cliffs, another Eagle and the promise of a bacon butty at the end of the section made for a special time.
Her ancient rock holds fast,
In a living sea, changing colour,
With brush strokes of the sun.
Eating BLT and chips whilst sitting in the sun sure ain’t roughing it! But who cares? And I met my second accident. Whilst eating lunch we saw a woman fall. Concerned she might roll down a slope to rocks, I leapt to my feet or what I thought was my feet when in salopettes, only to tumble backwards. The original casualty was fine. I mainly lost my pride. Around 13km today.
With tents set up on a quiet headland, Ibs crept off for a snooze. Being of thoughtful disposition, Liz suggested we wander back to the Community centre to buy a beer for her husband. A ‘wander’ became an adventure amongst the most difficult terrain. But we did deliver beer! And the sunset delivered a red panorama of the Mainland West Coast.
A beautiful morning (again) saw a glassy paddle across to Port Mor, Muck (8km). Porpoise and some difficult to identify dolphin species accompanied our paddle along with views of Muck, Canna, Eigg and the Skye Coolin. Wonderful. But exercise needs feeding? Would the cafe on Muck be open? No! .. But a delightful owner delivered coffee with freshly baked scone, cream and jam. Gosh, this paddling game is hard!
And so to the next and my favourite crossing of the trip. Muck to Sanna bay. Around 10 km in sparkling sunshine. With Ardnamurchan lighthouse slightly South of our target, Sanna Bay and a beautiful sweep of hills to the North, the crossing passed quickly.
Sanna Bay is a sweet place on God’s Earth! Guarded by some lively water, we entered the Bay via skerries and expanses of water coloured from emerald green to dark blue.
Brilliance between shadows as clouds cross the sky,
Sea shining, emerald as spring grass,
Changing to the colour of blue-bells.
With rocks of an ancient caldera forming a backdrop, we landed on pristine white sand backed by dunes and machair. The views to the West of Coll and Rum with high cumulus cloud were simply magical.
With ballooning clouds to catch the wind,
Rum hoists his blue-white sail.
Dinner included a starter of freshly caught winkles (note the ‘hunter/gatherer’ in us men?… I think Liz was reading her book) followed by curry and concluded with a chilly sunset in the fresh North West breeze. With a deteriorating forecast we planned a long paddling day to give us a ‘spare’ day, should we need it.
The next day was cold and overcast. The wind had backed further to the West. Gone were the beautiful blues of yesterday.
With the squall comes the wind,
Adding white to the palette,
Mixing with silver.
Electric shards against the darkening sky.
Now clouds over loaded, purple heavy with rain
Sweep over Eigg,
Driving the sea to black.
An easy launch soon had us paddling in an interesting and lively sea state. Fortunately, whoever controls the weather had the wind and sea behind our left shoulders and we made good time for an early lunch and much needed coffee at Fascadale Bay. Further on, we turned Rubha Aird Druimnich and to our East we could just see the distant Castle Tioram of Moidart some miles to the East of our position. We were now paddling the same waters used by the ‘Seven Men of Moidart’ who accompanied Bonnie Prince Charlie aboard Du Teillay on his voyage from France to Scotland in 1745. Further on, we rounded Rubha Ghead a Leigh to be met with more fantastic views down Loch Ailort and Loch nan Uamh, separated by Rubha Chaolais and the Penmeanach bothy. Finally making our way past Samalamon Island and into Glenuig Bay. Some 32km today.
And people! Not many but it seemed like crowds after the previous paddling days. At Glenuig we found one of the joys of our trip. True Highland hospitality from the volunteer shop keeper who helped us find somewhere to camp, which generously happened to be in front of her house, to the very busy (not) polling station who we joined for coffee and shortbread. Much laughter! Especially when they heard of my third ‘accident’. ……
During the course of our trip I had kept in touch with the Coastguard whenever VHF signals allowed. I phoned home when I could but fone signal had been absent….
I had not tried phoning after landing at Glenuig. My concerned Wife (rightly) phoned the Coastguard to ask if they had heard from us. Coincidentally, as Ibs turned his phone on he received a call from the Coastguard who was checking our position and in response to the call from my Wife. I tried my phone and in this remote Glen, I found full signal!!
Our new found friends in the polling station chuckled as they quoted Robert Burns;-
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm
Clever, that Rabbie Burns! Liz even managed to take a photo of me next to a very rare and working public phone box. (Nice Girl, Liz!)
Our final day and the Wind had veered to the North. A short carry of heavy boats and we battled our final crossing to Rubha Arisaig and into the Arisaig Skerries. Another beautiful place, rich in wildlife including many Common Seals. It was also our lunch stop. Fine smoked salmon and coffee. ‘Roughing’ it again! The sun came out and accompanied the end of our trip near Bunacaimbe (18km today)
But not quite the end! My family met us on the campsite for a meal and a great evening and ‘sing song’ with both banjo and guitar getting a ‘work out’! . …Watched over by the ever changing colours of Eigg
Through the clouds a window forms.
Alchemy, where the sun goes to rest.
Whilst Eigg stands so stark
(In gathering dark)
Her signature, written Gold on the sea.