Saturday 17 July 2010

Machir Bay,Saligo Bay and Cnoc Uamh Nam Fear.

Islay Day Three.
This was another great day.The wind was stronger,the waves much bigger and we visited three contrasting and dramatic areas of scenery.
First stop was the ramshackle but picturesque old church and cemetery at Kilchoman then the military cemetery nearby with its lines of sombre formal gravestones to lives lost at sea.

Next we travelled the short distance to Machir bay for a walk along the windswept sands to the cliffs.

A solitary gannet sat on the beach.It looked badly hurt,either through injury, diving for fish,sickness, old age or a storm out at sea.One minute a flashing spear of power and grace the next a huddled lonely form waiting for death.

Just as well you never know what life has in store for you round the corner.There was not much we could do so we left it in peace.A few sand wrapped bundles further on mute witness to other seabirds demise on this beautiful but wild coastline.
A short distance in the car took us up to Saligo bay.The big draw here was the natural arches on the map but as we hadn't explored this area before we didn't really know what to expect.

In reality the arches were submerged in a deep cleft as the tide was in.

The sloping cliffs around here were the real delight however.With no pinnacles to climb up king monkey Alex and fellow good climber Gavin were restless and discovered that the inclined bedding plane around here suited an exposed traverse above the crashing waves.

I held Millie and took the pictures while they went off for a storm tossed scramble.Even taking the photos was exciting stuff!Best cliff for this I think I`ve encountered.

I mentioned to Alex the fact that he couldn't swim very well.
"I don't think that`ll make any difference here" he laughed.

A place well worth a visit but remember health and safety guidelines at all times of course.
Our last destination was the peninsula to the west of Sanaigmore outside the popular tearoom where we walked from the lovely beach and coves here to Ton Mhor.Here we stumbled on another amazing find. A faint sheep or goat trail snaked around halfway up the grassy cliff,leading us to a spot on the edge of the escarpment right above the waves.Next, grass ledges and small walls of rock led us sportingly or in my case slightly disconcertingly upwards at an ever steepening angle. Millie took this easily in her stride.What a dug!

A couple of folk sitting at the top of what looked like a steep cliff were surprised to see three relieved guys and a Jack Russell pop out literally at their feet.You can see their shoes in this picture.An unexpected adventure suitable for people with a good head for heights that like a scramble far above the waves.Wouldn't like to reverse it though.Now that would be mad.
All that was left was to plod along the cliffs to Cnoc Uamh Nam Fear so Alex could bag his all important trig.Mind you we would probably not have found this best and last days entertainment without a bagger in our midst.

On the way back we smuggled Millie past the unsuspecting highland cattle which we had to pass at close range.Just as well they are more placid than they look.Having said that I`ve read they are popular in modern Russia due to their ability to fend off wolves with these formidable horns.

Note the smuggled goods in Gavin`s rucksack.
As the tents had been packed into the car this morning we drove to the ferry terminal at Port Ellen for the last ferry home.We had an hour or so to kill in the town spending it looking round the harbour and taking in the end of a local raft race in an adjoining bay.

Its a busy wee place when the ferry docks.
We jumped aboard and set off around 8.45PM enjoying a long smoldering sunset over both Islay and Jura.

Driving back in the dark was slightly surreal passing through these normally quiet Highland towns at 11.50 pm and see them buzzing with activity ,colour and young folk out for fun and games in their Cruise mobiles.It`s not just the big cities that can put on a show it seems.
A great trip and an epic post.Off to rest my finger.
When I got back into the house,even though it was now four in the morning I had a deep, very salty bath.My poor soft body chewed pulpy by clegs ,midges and an unknown collection of other small wonders of nature.Now I remember why I prefer spring to summer in Scotland apart from the better weather.I chucked all my clothes in the washing machine for drowning the next day.Enjoyment aways has its price.
The last time I looked like this I had chicken pox.Not believe me?

Still it was worth it though.What a trip.

A wee bit from Alex.This day out deserves a few extra pics.!

Bob at Machir Bay....

Zoomed shot of the poor gannet...a lovely bird.

Geological arch at Saligo Bay....

Don`t let Bob fool you about his climbing prowess.he used to climb quite steady at a good grade.!

The headland at Ton Mhor near Sanaigmore...

Bob approaching the top....

While Millie keeps an eye open for him....

Kamikaze sheep on the headland....

A Golden Eagle flies past the summit of Cnoc Uamh nam Fear.Almost as exciting as bagging the trig point :)

The memorial at Sanaigmore to the 241 Irish emigrants who were drowned off the headland on the Exmouth of Newcastle

A piggyback back to the car Jeeves if you don`t mind.....

The journey homewards.
A rich man tucks into an expensive slap up three course meal photographed through the window.Face blurred to protect Gavin....oops...I mean the guilty party.....

....while outside in steerage class two paupers with a haunted look and sunken eyes wonder whether death will be by exposure or starvation....

We had the sunset as consolation though....

The surf pounding Saligo Bay....

As Bob said before this is a brilliant island and we shall return,hopefully soon..!

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.