Friday, August 28, 2020

An Irate Comment

I recently received an irate comment on an old post. It was a post that described my one, and only, visit to one of those small Hebridean islands whose owners consider it their private kingdom. That visit was back in 1998, and I was only able to find a boatman willing to take me there on a day when he knew the owners were off-island.

The essence of the comment was that I should provide them with my home address, so that they could tromp through my garden, peek into my windows, and then blog about it. Their anger was misplaced, as I did not walk through any gardens, and did not look into any windows. The landing place on the island is below the only house on the island, and I passed by it as fast as possible in order to gain access to the rest of the island. I did take photos of the house as I passed by, as it is quite a beautiful structure. I won't name the island here, but a search of old posts will easily identify it. The photo I am using in this post is from the main access point to Eilean Righ, another 'private island', but not the source of the comment.

I am well aware of the rudeness of so many tourists. A friend of mine runs a guest house near Eilean Donnan Castle, one of the most well known tourist destinations in Scotland. She has many tales of tourists peering in windows, and deciding to have picnics in her garden. So I completely understand the basis of the comment I received. I hope it made them feel better to lash out publicly, even if the target was misplaced.

There are five or six Scottish islands that I've discovered their 'owners' do not welcome uninvited (or non-paying) visitors, and consider their islands to be private kingdoms - the best known example of this was Rum back in the day. Not being a Scottish citizen, I don't feel comfortable commenting on "Right to Roam", and all its aspects, and responsibilities, on roamer and owner. But it eludes my why someone would buy property in Scotland who is not comfortable with the concept, and who would not find a way to make it work in their particular circumstances.

In designing cruise itineraries these days I avoid these five or six islands like the plague - not in deference to the owners, but because their thinking makes the islands sad places to visit, and there is a galaxy of other Scottish islands out there that like to be visited. In my roamings I have always tried to respect the privacy, and occupational needs of landowners, and given them as wide a berth as possible. But there are times when accessing an island means walking near a residence. So to the person who vented on me, I apologize for all the thoughtless visitors who peek in your windows and tromp through your gardens, but I had every right to seek out the historic sites on your beautiful island.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Lost Summer of 2020

Here I am stuck stateside. I am so jealous, as I hear tales of friends in the UK actually being able to venture out to the isles. But for me that's a 50/50 hope for 2021. A couple of weeks ago I did manage to get to an island. Blake Island State Park is only five miles from my home in West Seattle. I camp there at least once a year, and a few weeks ago I went over for two nights. Because of Covid they were only offering weekend trips, so I had to put up with the typical Friday and Saturday night drunken yotties, who carry massive coolers of booze ashore and proceed to party the night away. Saturday night was the worse, and bizarre to say the least. The idiots insisted on playing the soundtrack of Sound of Music at 100 decibels. I guess it could have been worse . . . 

In pre-Covid times the island hosted a well know Native American experience, where they bake salmon on open cedar fires. In 1993 Bill Clinton hosted one of those dinners for those attending the APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in Seattle. But this year they've had to resort to offering a smaller dining experience. One benefit of this, to campers like me, is that they have a bar open to all comers. You have to imbibe outside in the sunshine, and I was able to have a couple pints of Manny's, my favourite Seattle beer.

Clinton & company in 1993

Quieter times

The island is full of raccoons - appropriately masked, I'm glad to report - and I had a good laugh when around 2am, just as the drunks had all passed out, the raccoons raided their campsite, devouring all the snacks they'd left out. One dimwit left their tent open and ran screaming into the darkness. I had to laugh again as a fearless raccoon scampered into it looking for a snack. (In the second photo below you can see the metal food lockers they provide to keep food from the critters, which my 'friends' in the adjacent campsite decided not to use.) Oh how I missed the silence of a campsite on the remote moorland of Lewis.

At daybreak, while the numpties were sleeping off their hangovers, it felt so good to make as much noise as possible as I cooked breakfast. It was only instant coffee and instant oatmeal, but it's amazing just how much noise you can make if you really try.

So that was my island adventure for 2020. Not much, but better than nothing, and I hope to get out for another camping expedition before the days start getting short. I also have some articles in the works for Scottish Islands Explorer, which should keep me out of trouble in the near term. The long term plan is to set foot on Mingulay in eight months, and then Sula Sgeir in ten months. Fingers crossed!