Friday, 16 July 2010
Mull of Oa.Port Nan Gallan.Beinn Mhor.
Islay. Day Two.
A lot of firsts for me this trip.First time in years I`ve been away multi day camping.First time exploring Islay.First time in a pub three nights in a row for many years too.I can now see why so many pubs are shutting though with the price of a round of drinks.Ye Gods and little beasties! Next time I`ll bring a good book and a cheap bottle of supermarket own brand paint stripper with me.
Anyway, after landing we put up the tents,Port Charlotte campsite-£8 a night but full facilities,after a jaunt around the Rinns visiting Portnahaven and a few other scenic places.
Night came and the lights of Port Charlotte looked cosy and inviting compared to the quivering tents.
We were seized by first night fever to bag a new pub.It was surprisingly cold for July.
Five minutes into our walk the heavens opened and we were soaked on the exposed and windswept road into town.
This was a novel experience for the Blue Sky boys these days.A bus shelter gave a brief respite from the deluge.
We actually enjoyed it as we`ve not been rained on like this for ages.The weather forecast had been for heavy rain and winds and the higher hills indeed remained under clag for most of our stay.Wet trousers were quickly forgotten in the pub where a few cheery beers were helped down by traditional live music that first night.
Being loyal to the island Gavin sampled his way through a range of malts on offer over the coming nights while Alex and I stuck with pints.
A fine time was had and a dry walk back to the tents now rattling in the ever present wind on this exposed but scenic site.I was glad I`d brought the solid, heavier Vango this time as I think the lightweight Eurohike would have been given a real test.A neighbours tent...
Next morning, from the campsite we could see the Mull of Oa between bursts of heavy squalls as we sat in the panoramic cafe-restaurant on site debating what to do.The tents had taken a bit of a battering during the night and Alex`s was leaking slightly.This proved to be the pattern for the trip.heavy rain at night and early morning,brightening up into good if wild windy days.Superb for coastal walking.It was a done deal.Mull of Oa it was.
The American Monument at the Mull of Oa stands in a very dramatic situation on the edge of a set of cliffs carved on a majestic scale.The walk around the cliffs from here to Beinn Mhor must be in the top ten coastal walks in Scotland and I`ve done quite a few in my time.An age ago they used to call me Captain Coastwalk I`d done that many.
Hill fort out on a rocky limb....
Sharp fins, pinnacles and waterfalls....
Natural arches, caves and coves....
It had the lot.
Herds of wild goats,sheep and rabbits creating the only paths round the cliffs.Halfway round we descended to explore a sheltered shingle beach.Port Nan Gallan.
A stunning coastal walk.
On a dark night however it must have been a terrifying end for those American soldiers and sailors who died here from drowning, exposure or smashed against the rocks.
Many ships,wildlife and people have come to grief on the beautiful but deadly west coasts of Islay and nearby Jura.We spotted the remains of quite a few dead goats, sheep and seabirds, casualties of storm or cliff fall.
These ones were still full of beans though.And no they are not heading for the cliff edge :0)
A fair number of people come to Islay to tour the distilleries for which the island is rightly famous.Cycling is popular too,though a trial in such windy conditions.The numerous quiet sandy beaches and secluded coves are a big draw as are the scattered gleaming white townships placed around the island.
But despite many years travelling outdoors in Scotland I`ve never came across anyone raving about Islay`s fantastic west coast line of cliffs.Maybe I`ve just not been listening or looking in the right places though and it has slipped under my radar.I`d have to admit Islay was always a place on the back burner but more for a cycling holiday due to its lack of Munros.I stand corrected.What an utterly brilliant island.
Many thanks to Edi,Gavin and Millie (back seat driver extraordinaire) for getting us there.
Alex here :
For me the highlight,one of many,was the spectacularly sited hill fort of Dun Athad .I`ve been to most of the famous ones but this one was a bit special.! Click here and then click on the picture to see just how well it is situated.
More information on the American Monument and the sinking of the Tuscania can be found here and here.