Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Visit to the Monachs

Early on May 23rd Hjalmar Bjorge motored out of Vatersay Bay and headed up and around the east coast of Barra. As we traversed the Sound of Barra we were rewarded with a close up view of Riever's Castle, which stands atop one of the the small Stack Islands next to Eriskay. The castle was the stronghold of the raider known as Reaubaidair Stache, the subject of the October 8, 2015 post.

Riever's Castle - 1
Riever's Castle - 2
After passing Eriskay we sailed 30 miles north to the Monach Islands; a small group of sandy isles that are one of my favourite places. The three main Monach isles are connected together at low tide and, as the tide was low, after landing on the beach of Ceann Iar we were able to walk over to Shivinish. Even though the tide was on the rise, Lynda made a run for it and continued on to wade across to the main island of Ceann Ear

Lynda running across the sands to Ceann Ear
Ceann Iar is a very special island to me, as it was the first truly remote Scottish island I ever visited. That was during a sailing trip to St Kilda nearly 20 years ago when, after setting sail from Berneray, we anchored at the Monachs before heading to out to Kilda (see chapter 14 of book 2). There are the ruins of three small settlements on Ceann Iar, which we visited as we wandered around the island.

Settlement ruins - Ceann Iar
Fulmars were nesting just about everywhere on the island, including in the old houses. At one point a nest was nearly stepped into while descending a sandbank. It was fortunate that the nest was not damaged, and also that I did not get hit with any fulmar vomit - as they like to spit their foul smelling stomach oil at anyone who threatens them.

Fulmars nesting in the sand
At the westernmost point of the island we came to a beautiful little beach with a good view over to the lighthouse island of Shillay, which was visited in the January 19, 2015 post.

Shillay view
West end beach
Standing above the beach at the west end is a tombstone of a sailor who washed ashore during WWI. Its metal plaque reads: 


Lieutenant William McNeill was from Orkney, and died when the Laurentic hit a mine off the coast of Donegal, some 150 miles due south of the Monachs (see this link for more).

Gravesite - Lieutenant William McNeill
Grave of Lt William McNeill
We then explored the ruins of several dwellings as we meandered back to the main beach. We still had more time ashore, and so we settled in on the sand banks above the beach to watch the seals watch us; hundreds were in the water, waiting for us to leave their island.

We'd had a great day ashore, and once back aboard we had an excellent meal before settling in for the night. As we were eating several other ships came in to anchor, including a boat I've always wanted to sail on, MV Cuma, skippered by Murdo Macdonald.

MV Cuma
After a calm night we lifted anchor and motored around the west side of Shillay. (Aside from St Kilda, Shillay is the farthest west of the Western Islands). We then turned north to set a course to our next destination, the island of Scarp. After that, if conditions were good, we hoped to make a dash out to the Flannans.

West side of Shillay

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