Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cave View - 8

The first photo is the view from inside the Nun's Cave on Mull. Supposedly, when the nuns were evicted from Iona, they came here. What's known for certain is that the cave was a centre for stone carving, and some of the stone used in the 1875 restoration of Iona Abbey came from here.

It is a beautiful walk along the south coast of the Ross of Mull to get here, and the cave marks the halfway point of the path to Carsaig Arches described in book 1, chapter 13. There are many crosses carved into the cave wall, some are ancient, but most are vandal-scratchings. The most interesting thing to me was the whale font-stone, which you can see at the left of the first photo. The last photo shows some of the flotsam that accumulates in the cave.

The whale font-stone
The Font

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Amy of Muck

Both times I've been to Muck I was adopted by Amy. The last time, in 2009, she went with me all the way from Port Mor to the MacEwan graves at the northwest tip of the island. The folks in the Tea Room in Port Mor told me she regularly adopts a day-tripper. Here are a few photos from my day with Amy in 2009.

MacEwen graves - Horse Island in the distance
Amy of Muck
On the road with Amy - Eigg in the distance
Amy leads me past the Muck horses
Amy on the road at Gallanach

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Great Cumbrae to Wee Cumbrae

The weather held, and the following day I returned to Great Cumbrae to walk to Millport once again, where I would board a small boat for the journey to Wee Cumbrae.

Once ashore on Great Cumbrae I hiked up the one remaining road that I had not walked on the two previous days on the island, the B899. It made a gradual climb to a small woodland called 'Standing Stone Plantation'. At the SE corner of the plantation I found Great Cumbrae's only standing stone, a seven foot high monolith called the Gouklan Stone. It had several names incised on it, most unreadable. In addition to the above CANMORE link you can also read about it in W. Lytteil's Guidebook to the Cumbraes.

From the standing stone the walk to Millport Bay was all downhill. I walked out onto the brown sands of the beach where there was a direct view to Wee Cumbrae. Moored in the bay was a small boat, the Anne Marie, which would be taking me to the island.

The Anne Marie motored south to Wee Cumbrae where we tied up to a small pier. Directly opposite it Cumbrae Castle could be seen on Castle Island. Once the tide was low I would be able to walk to it.  Just above the pier a sign welcomed us to the island, and I walked past it to take a brief look at Cumbrae House before climbing up to the top of the island.

"Welcome - Wee Cumbrae" sign (between the anchors)
As I climbed I was excited about exploring a new island; an historic isle once the home of Saint Bey. But little did I know that there would be problems with the boat, and that I would be stranded here for a while. For the story of what I saw on the island, and what went wrong with the boat, see chapter 2 of book 1.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Great Cumbrae - A Walk Around the Island

The next day I returned to Great Cumbrae. But this time, after walking off the ferry, I turned right to start my journey around the island, a total distance of about 11 miles. A half-mile into the walk I passed this monument on the north tip of the island. It was a memorial to Charles Cayley and William Jewel, two sailors on HMS Shearwater who drowned 'by the upsetting of their boat' in 1844.

Just past the monument I came to White Bay, and a sign that marked it as a point on the Cumbrae Sensory Trail. The sign is one of five around the island, and if you touch all five you'll have good luck, or so the sign said. I decided I would try to find all five. I needed some luck, as the weather had to be good the next day for the boat trip to Wee Cumbrae to happen. 

A short distance beyond White Bay I reached Stinking Bay. The tide was out and piles of rotting seaweed lay on the beach. The smell was not too bad, but I would not want to linger there on a hot summer day. With a great view over to the island of Bute I carried on to the south, passing Skate Bay and Bell Bay, where I passed what's called 'Indian Rock'.

'Indian Rock'
Next came Fintray Bay, where I touched the second Sensory Post before stepping into the tea room to get a coke. From there I carried on south to Sheriff's Port, where I found the third Sensory Post before reaching the southernmost point of the island. Wee Cumbrae was now tantalizingly close, just a half-mile to the south. And I was wondering if I'd be able to get there the next day. I then passed through Millport. I had been there the day before; a Wednesday when most of the shops were closed. But on this Thursday they were open and busy. 

I walked through town and then made my way to Farland Point, the SE tip of the island. There I found another great view to Little Cumbrae and the fourth Sensory Post. 

From Farland Point I started north up the east coast of the island. At the Marine station I found a memorial to the Scottish Antarctic Expedition of 1902, and shortly after that I crept carefully past Lion Rock (fortunately he was looking the other way).

Lion Rock
A mile later I came to Ballochmartin Bay, where I touched the fifth, and final Sensory Post. I was now assured of good weather for the following day (and it would be good). I then passed Stinking Goat Bay. There was no sign (or smell) of the odoriferous goat, but what I could see was the ferry terminal. I had made it all the way around the island. As I waited for the ferry back to Largs I did not know for sure if I'd be returning to the island the next day to get a boat trip to Wee Cumbrae, but I would.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Great Cumbrae - Millport - and Rain

From the top of Great Cumbrae I headed down to Millport. The Cathedral of the Isles was open, so I took a look inside. Known as Britain's smallest cathedral, it is a beautiful building, and on display in the vestibule was a fine collection of ancient cross-stones.

From the cathedral I wandered down to the quiet waterfront. It was a Wednesday, and most of the shops were closed.

And it was here I noticed a worn poster on a pole that advertised trips to Wee Cumbrae from Millport. I dialed the number on the poster and was told that if the weather was okay they could take me to Wee Cumbrae in two days time. Happy as could be I started back to the ferry pier. I intended to walk all the way, a little over three miles, but the skies opened up and the rain came down in buckets. As I took cover in a bus shelter to eat lunch I decided I'd take the bus instead. So when it came along I hopped on, and for one pound sixty had a warm and dry ride back to the ferry. As I rode the ferry back to Largs I was hoping the weather would improve so that I could return in two days and get to Wee Cumbrae.

Two days what should I do tommorow...hmmm...I thought about it, and decided I would return to Great Cumbrae and walk all the way around the island. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Great Cumbrae - To the Top

To get to Great Cumbrae I left my car in Largs and walked onto the Loch Shira for the short crossing.

Once ashore I found the start of the Broomy Knowles footpath that climbs up the spine of the island.

The grassy path ended a kilometer short of the summit of the island. Then a 15 minute road walk led to the top where I found the trig pillar and view indicator.

From the top I could see Wee Cumbrae (next photo). If you look closely at Wee Cumbrae you can see the old coal-burning light tower at its highest point, and Wee Cumbrae Castle can be seen on the small islet to the left. I could also see the spire of the Cathedral of the Isles in Millport (at far left of the photo). My next stop would be Millport, where I hoped to find someone who could take me to Wee Cumbrae.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lion Rock - Great Cumbrae

This is Lion Rock on Great Cumbrae. It does indeed look like a lion climbing up the island on the lookout for a tasty tourist to eat. I ventured over to Great Cumbrae a few years ago hoping to find someone who could take me to Wee Cumbrae. I did find someone, and in the process spent two days wandering around Great Cumbrae. Over the next few posts I will share some of the sights I saw along the way.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kilchalmkil - North Uist

I love wandering around the old mound type burial grounds that you find in the islands. This one is Kilchalmkil (St Columba's) in Clachan Sands of North Uist. Sand and time have done their damage and there is no sign of the church that once stood here. The graves are laid out in lines, called roiligein in Gaelic (see page 159 of Bill Lawson's North Uist).

Lismore Light

Lismore Light is a landmark for anyone setting out to visit the isles of the west, or returning from them. As a result I must have a hundred photos of it. This is my favorite. It shows an ominous sky and turbulent sea; not good omens if you are heading out to the islands. But fortunately for me I was on my way home.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Muck View

Another highlight of staying on Eigg is the opportunity to easily get over to Muck for a few hours. This is a view of Port Mor, where the ferries arrive on Muck. In the outer harbour the relatively new Calmac RO/RO dock can be seen, and in the inner harbour you can see the old pier where the boat from Arisaig still lands.

As I hiked around Muck I was escorted at times by two ponies who had the run of the island. After seeing me off they happily trotted away (second photo). 

Port Mor - Isle of Muck

Muck Ponies

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Rum Sunset

One of the many highlights of staying on Eigg are the sunsets over Rum. This photo was taken in Cleadale as the sun descended between the peaks of Askival and Hallival.  At sunrise the next morning we awoke to see those same peaks dusted with a fine layer of fresh snow.

A Rum Sunset - seen from Eigg

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shiant View

This photo was taken from the steep slopes on the northern side of Eilean Mhuire of the Shiant Isles. The hillside here is pitted with hundreds of puffin burrows. In the distance you can see Garbh Eilean, which is also home to a large colony. Someday I want to camp on the grassy plateau you can see on the far right of Garbh Eilean to watch as 100,000 puffins fill the evening sky.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cave View - 7

Our next cave view is of my favourite island cave. It lies high up on the central east coast of South Rona. It is Uamh an Fhuamhair, the cave of giants; more commonly called Church Cave. With its rows of stone seats (second photo) it is still occasionally used to hold church services.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cave View - 6

Here's a view looking out Fraser Darling's Cave on Lunga. That's my name for it, as it is not marked on the OS map. I first read about it in Donald MacCulloch's The Wondrous Isle of Staffa. My second literary encounter with it was in LR Higgins' A Tangle of Islands, where it is described as "dark, mysterious, little known and unsuspected". Then I came across it again in Fraser Darling's Island Years, where he would use the cave as a shortcut to the shore.

All these mentions made me want to see it in person. It's not too difficult to get to, just a short, but steep slide down to the cave entrance, which is in a hole in the centre of the southern half of Lunga (second photo). From there the cave leads to the western shore of the island. The hard part about visiting the cave is that it takes you away from the puffins, which draw tourists in the hundreds to Lunga every year.

Next time we hop to South Rona to see the view from Church Cave.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cave View - 5

This cave view is from Uamh nan Calman, Pigeons' Cave. It is on the south east coat of Iona, a half kilometer north of the marble quarry. It opens out onto a small stone beach occupied by doves and shags. The second photo shows the entrance on the landward side. The cave was visited often by Henry Graham who wrote The Antiquities of Iona (1850). It's a book I'd love to own, but copies go for upwards of $250.

Next time we'll jump over to nearby Lunga to find a cave referred to in LR Higgins' A Tangle of Islands (one of the best island books) as "dark, mysterious, little known and unsuspected".

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cave View - 4

This view from inside Fingal's Cave on Staffa is one many have seen, but getting a photo like this without a horde of tourists showing up in it can be a challenge. I had to wait until the boat was just about scheduled to leave, which allowed for a few solitary minutes in the cave. But that tactic only works when there is only one boatload of tourists on the island. Sometimes there can be two or three, including boats actually inside the cave (second photo). In that case there's little chance you'll have the cave to yourself.

In the first photo Iona can be seen on the horizon, which is where our next cave is to be found.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cave View - 3

This time we're inside Breackan's Cave on Jura looking out to Scarba and the Corryvreakan Whirlpool. Martin Martin wrote this of Corryvreckan and the cave: This gulf hath its name from Brekan, said to be son to the King of Denmark, who was drowned here, cast ashore in the north of Jura, and buried in a cave, as appears from the stone, tomb, and altar there. I found no tomb or altar inside the cave, but there was a large rectangular slab of stone that may have once marked a grave.

Next time we'll head over to Staffa to peer out of Fingal's Cave. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cave View - 2

Here is another view from inside a cave. This one is from Eigg's Uamh Chrabhadh, the Cave of Devotion. Also known as Cathedral Cave, it was used to hold Mass during times of Catholic persecution. Next time we will jump to Jura to see the view from inside Breacan's Cave.