Saturday, March 1, 2014

Climbing Ailsa - 5

After reaching the well I had to take a rest. The temperature was in the high 70s, and I still had 600 feet to climb - that beer was going to taste good once I got to the top. From the well there was nary a trace of a path to be found, and the summit was hidden from sight. But I knew it would be easy to find, so I started climbing up the steep grassy slope to the north west.

I then came to a hidden glen, more of a ravine, known as The Garraloo. At its centre lay tiny Garra Loch. (Garra may be from the Norse word for 'fertile'.) And fertile it was, due to a constant rain of guano.

Set above the lochan was a confusing set of ruins; tumbled stone structures that may have once been beehive cells. I spent a few minutes looking at them, but time was short, so I hurried up the ravine you can see at the upper left of the previous photo. Ten minutes later the trig pillar that marked the top of the island came into view. 

Like many such high-points, the pillar was surrounded by a stone wind-break. But I did not need it for shelter; for although the clouds were streaming by overhead there was not much wind, so I hopped up onto the pillar, cracked open a beer, and enjoyed the view. Thousands of gannets, who occupy the western side of the island could be seen; some flying high in the sky, others floating on the calm sea (the white dots in the next photo).

Patches of mist swirl past the summit
A look at the watch told me I only had an hour left. I knew the descent would be quicker than the ascent, so I lingered for a while, soaking in the view and enjoying the beer. After fifteen minutes I hopped off the trig-pillar, turned my back on the soaring gannets, and started down. Instead of returning the way I'd come I headed straight down the hillside. After 15 minutes I realized that had been a mistake, as it was slow going. 

Once back at sea level I took another look at the lighthouse before returning to the dock. Once back on the boat they took me around the west side of the island to see the colonnaded basalt cliffs and the gannet colony.

All too soon I was on my way back to Girvan. Before stepping ashore I paid the skipper. It was a lot, but it had been worth it: my day alone on Ailsa is something I'll remember for a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to go there - do it!

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