Sunday, 20 June 2010
An Sgurr.Isle Of Eigg.
For an Island only five miles long by three and a half wide Eigg really packs a lot in.
We were up early and had time for a quick breakfast before setting off for the fabled pitchstone wonder of An Sgurr, a modest 393 metres or 1289 feet for us oldies but dropping sheer on three sides giving it a soaring majesty like few other hills.
The walk in was nice through mature woodland, a few large houses off the path. Most of the ordinary crofting population lives in the fertile valley of Cleadale on the far side of the island from the pier. Mainly big houses or farms around the pier area, which incidentally you couldn't actually land at with the Cal Mac ferry years ago and all goods and people had to change into a smaller flit boat. An interesting experience on a raw, howling early spring day as I found out on a visit here years ago with New Zealand Keith .No electricity then either and no pub. A dry, dark island with only the sound of the generators kicking into life after sundown. Beautiful but a very hard life I`d imagine.
Big changes now though. Wind farm and other green electricity on tap, cans and limited barrels also on tap in the tearoom /bar and a new large breakwater and harbour area. The island was the first in Scotland to be owned by its people through the Eigg Heritage Trust and has become a model for others thinking of this approach.
This is the view of the harbour from the summit. It is extremely exposed and I had to crawl to the edge to look over the vertical face from here. Peculiar egg box like rock structure. There are climbs on the front and side faces but we are talking mighty balls climbers here. Even at our peak, which wasn't that great admittedly in my case, we would need an E type rope jock and me a blindfold and strong sedatives to climb these walls to reach the summit.
Even the path up, though easy, has this sense of unseen airy space below you. Alex should have a good one sitting on the summit trig which he will no doubt put up.
This is Alex giving the thumbs up to our cheery descent gully which we couldn't see the bottom of. It turned out OK in the end, an easy grass and rock scramble.
Great little hill.
Back at the tents we slowly packed up thinking we had plenty of time intending to catch the MV Shearwater to Muck to bag the highest point there if we had time when we noticed it sneaking off well ahead of schedule from the far side of the now too large harbour. You have to watch this boat if you go over here it very nearly did the same thing again to us later that day.
There was nothing for it but to wait, all packed up at the tea room while it went to Rum and Muck without us. Boo Hoo!
We`d had a good night here sinking a few cans. Busy place and the throbbing pulse of Eigg life.
Mind you like all the western isles a lot of the locals here seem to guzzle it down like it was still a dry island which may run out of cans at any moment. Looked like they still had a collective memory of when the last can ran out and folk had to travel over to the mainland with empty shopping trolleys for new stock , wee tongues hanging out. A disaster when it only ran certain days but kind to the liver and the throbbing pulse of the temples. I`m sure in winter it can drizzle for months here which would explain a lot.
As we were waiting somebody off a boat dropped these nearby for the restaurant menu tonight.
We were not staying but now needed something to pass a few hours though tired and leg weary.
Alex suggested the caves a kilometre or so round the coast from here which are quite famous.
Andy decided he was happy wandering round the harbour and meeting folk.
Although I`d been into this cave, the Massacre Cave, before I still walked by it before I remembered it had such a tiny entrance.
You can see why they thought they would be safe here in 1577 and they were after days of fruitless searching but they came out too soon to see if the raiding party of enemy MacLeod's had departed and were spotted unknowingly from the sea. Now they knew where to look it was all over and the entire population of Eigg, 395 MacDonald's ,bar one family, were suffocated inside by fire.
All because of a long running simmering feud between islands and perceived insults. In a way you can see how some of the clans that left Scotland for America` s southern climes evolved into the Appalachian mountain people isolated in their valleys still harbouring grudges and thoughts of blood feud.
Although you have to crawl in it soon widens up to a long high chamber over 200 feet in length. It was so long and dark we couldn't really capture its size with one tiny torch and two small flashes.
Next cave was bigger and more obvious. Still fun to explore. It was getting on so we headed back to find Andy.
Got this nice view from the pier. Alex made a friend.
And we damn near missed that sneaky little boat again coming in from yet another new angle. It toots its horn when leaving. Be better tooting also on arrival methinks.
A terrific weekend with two great guys to be on an island with. Andy and Alex were not bad either now I think of it :0)
The best weekend for a long time. The only weekend for a long time. Fun going camping again.
Here`s the two other pals though I suspect one would try to eat the other for lunch.
Some more pics from Alex:
Couple of An Sgurr. The Nose goes at E8 apparently.!
Summit trig point.....
Andy looking over to the Isle of Muck. We saw a whale breaching here early on the way up...
The bothy at Grulin...
Lovely light in Glencoe on the way home...
And finally, Bob escapes a soaking as we traverse around to the cave....