Saturday 23 August 2008

Island return

roadside flowers
Port Ellen
superb view
from the sleeping bag

view from the tent
The way ahead
Islay coast

natural arches

Wild weather
wild places
Low tide Islay
kettle on?


Islay, remotebeach

Wednesday 13th August 08. camped OS map LR60 GR 426 794.
Did the overnight shuffle up from the south last night. Once more changing at Glasgow to head up the west coast. The bus heading out from Glasgow was delayed by twenty minutes. This was a bit worriesome because of the ferry connection. the bus is due at the ferry terminal at twelve twenty and the ferry leaves promptly at 13 00hrs. The time gap is narrow. Amazingly we not only made it, we still managed the driver's compulsory 15 minute break at Inverarary. We arrived only five minutes late. Unfortunately the police where running a speed trap and the driver was cautioned. Poor bloke, yep, he certainly was at times driving fast, however, not recklessly. he was well aware that a lot of folk on the bus where heading for the ferry and he pulled out the stops to get us there. Treated myself to a plate of chips on the ferry and a cuppa. Breakfast at Glasgow had been a roll and a cuppa and I knew I was going to need some nourishment before the day was over. The weather forecast had been for bad weather but we arrived at Islay in patchy sunshine.Once off the ferry I headed north. The first four miles or so of road walking up to Bunnahabhain and from there another four miles across country to the lighthouse. There was a rough path and atv's had also been trundling back and forward as well. At times I followed their tracks but when they veered of in all directions to avoid the worst of the bogs I just kept heading north. Wet, boggy ground it was too. My intended goal had not actually been the lighthouse but a bay further around. The lighthouse though was the easier option and I am camped close to it. The lighthouse is covered in scaffolding, so is obviously under repair. While the main stuff comes in by sea it is obvious that the workmen are coming across country on the atv's. Tired tonight, a breeze is keeping the midges down a bit.

Thursday 14th August. Camped OS map LR60. GR 408791. Bagh an Da Dhoruis.
A very easy day. Was late in getting away. Time though meant very little, there was no hurry. Packed up this morning and moved up the coast a few miles following deer trails.Noticed fresh boots prints in places and so was aware that there was a guy somewhere in front of me. Met him as I descended down the cliff to the beach. He had walked in from the road end and was surprised to see someone else in the area. As he headed back I was left with the whole bay to myself. It was fun, boots off and in for a paddle, shorts soaked but it was warm and they would soon dry. This whole bay is large. As I walked down the beach to the far end it was quite amazing how far inland the cliffs are. At the far end of the main bay is finger of rock stretching out in to the sea. Seals just off shore are hauled out on some of them. By this rocky promontory is a grassy area and another smaller bay and beyond is an even smaller one. The grassy area offered a superb place for the tent. Spent the rest of the afternoon foraging for mussels, amazingly, none to found, made do with limpets The tiny bay has a plentiful supply of drift wood, collected a bundle and got a fire going on the beach and soon had the pot simmering nicely. Once done emptied the water out, discarded the shells, added some fresh water, some rice and a stock cube and soon had supper cooked. Just in the nick of time, thick, heavy, blue, black clouds like massive bruises had been building all afternoon. As I heated water for coffee in my other pot spots of rain gradually became more persistent. Fat drops of water making the fire hiss. Doused the fire and filled in the fire pit, legging it swiftly back to the tent. Sitting in the tent eating supper and drinking coffee, I was snug. Suddenly it went from just rain to an absolute deluge. The water hitting the tent made it sound as if I sitting under a waterfall. The sound was mind numbing. Had stuck the cooking pots just be the edge of the tent to wash them out, they filled almost immediately. The rain now has subsided a little, the seals seem to enjoy it though. They are quite vociferous this evening.

Friday 15th August. Same place as last night. Took the day off, just wanted time to potter and explore. Maybe to a time to reflect on recent personal problems too. The rain eased off during the night and I opened the front of the tent in the early hours to let things air off a tad. Just dropping off to sleep again when something woke me. It was deer grazing all around the tent. Standing right in front of the tent was a hind standing out in bold relief against the dark sky. her ears twitched like twin radars as she nibbled, paused and gazed at me suspiciously and grazed a bit more. Ideally I would have liked a photo but the flash from the camera would have startled them and it would have seemed rude to interrupt their grazing. So I lay on my stomach just watching. There are wonderful caves all around here. Some dank and dripping, each with there own pool of clear water. Others are comparatively dry, most of these caves are fairly small but one is big. a quick dip, the water was fairly chilly. Not having my cossy it meant going au'natural. Spotted curlews, oyster catchers and buzzards. Sitting watching the seals. They are so vocal. The big bulls with their deep bellowing, the females snarling, hissing and groaning, squabbling for the best haul out spot. if anyone did know how noisy they are, I imagine they would find it rather spooky at night. Despite the wood being damp from last night's rain, I managed to get a fire going. Surprising what can be done with feather sticks and Vaseline! Tried whelks with the limpets. preferably I would have had mussels but have failed to find any. Limpets are a tad tasteless and are chewy, nutritious though. Whelks are fine but fiddly. Currently it is raining once more. The midges are bad tonight, dense clouds of them.
Saturday 16th August. Camped OS map LR 60. GR 372772. Roughly.
Well, the seals left last night and it made me wonder why? Certainly I missed their noisy clamouring. Maybe they knew something that I did not? Sporadic rain during the night. Managed to pack up before it started again. However, by the time I got going I was in full waterproofs. As I reached the cliff tops the wind was quite noticeable. It was coming in from the east south east. White caps where to be seen further out to sea. This country has no defined paths, it is a case of following one's own nose and deer tracks. Actually, deer tracks are the easier option. They avoid the worst of the bogs. Huge great inland bays indent this coast line and often it was easier to drop down to cross them. In one was a series of huge caves. At some time in the past it had been used as a summer sheiling. Old, crumbling dry stone walls enclosed one big cave system. The temptation was to explore. In fact I went in a fair way until the cave turned a corner and all was gloomy darkness. The weather was worsening and I wanted to push on a bit so left exploration for a future date. Up on the cliffs the weather was turning foul. Walking was becoming difficult in the buffeting wind and the rain was now tearing across the landscape in a great sweeping grey curtain. For safety it was prudent to stop. Finding another bay I scrambled down on a steep goat track. A nasty, tricky river crossing and wow, what a bay. In fact it was a series of coves joined by narrow passageways. More dodgy river crossing. Waterfalls where plummeting off the cliffs in foaming brown torrents. One was especially spectacular. It plunged in to a deep pool in a thunderous, boiling tumult. and then the river running from it bore off to one side, roaring through a natural rocky tunnel. Got the tent up in a hurry, filled the water container and dived in, battening down the hatches. Just in time. Shortly after the rain turned in to a thundering deluge. Strong winds buffeted the tent. It made me glad I had pegged down the extra peg points. Well, I wanted to put this tent through it's paces a bit before the winter. The hex had needed seam sealing and I had been wondering up about the shangri. Apart from a few minor drips it has proved fine though. Saw a group of stags silhouetted on a ridge line. Currently they are still mainly in velvet, but soon they will be sporting their antlers in all their glory. The Autumn rut is not far away. Unfortunately with the rain I did not want to get the camera wet. Having said that, the rain eased off for short time after the torrential deluge and I risked dashing out with the camera to get a couple of photos. Saw a couple of swans in one of the bays and more curlews. Possibly too an eagle. Due to the weather I could not use the binoculars. A pity, by its size I am fairly confident it was one.
Sunday 17th August. camped OS map LR 60 GR308721.
Rain on and off during the night. Dry by morning and fairly warm. Lingered a bit to allow the tent to dry off. Just around the corner from where I was camped there was a trail of sorts heading up a steep slope. it looked as if it would get me up out of the bay. When I climbed up though I found I was actually on the crest of a deep hollow. Obviously some time in the past a large cave had collapsed. The slope I had come up had been part of the detritus. The side I was on sloped fairly gently down in to the this large bowl. The other three sides where a lot steeper, The back, under the cliff being almost sheer. Turning right I headed over to a high fin of rock. cautiously scrambling up, I peered over. The ridge was knife edge with a sheer drop. Headed back over to the other side. There was some indication that this was the way the goats came. Another bit of scramble and I was on a very narrow ridge. About a boot wide, just about doable. Gingerly edged my way across it to the main cliff. Scrambling with a loaded rucksack is not recommended. This whole coast line is really fascinating. Somewhere way back in time the sea levels had obviously been much higher. There are great bays with land bound, isolated rock stacks, caves, arches and cliffs. All some distance from the present shore line. This is excellent coastal walking. No man made paths, one picks their own route through. The only paths in the area are goat and deer trails. Mind, at times I do wish they would not walk so close to the edge of the cliffs. On the map the distance around this stretch of the coast looks small. In actual fact though it is a meandering walk, dodging in and out of coves, detouring to get around steep gullies. Sometimes these animal trails meander. Following them through dense bracken is interesting. In places I found bracken higher than me and yet trails wound through it. Taking a break to have a map check, a group of goats came ambling along. They stopped when they saw me. Eyeing me up suspiciously, they edged closer. What strange, glassy eyes goats have. Honestly, I swear the large billy goat was cross eyed! More tricky river crossing and then I hit the Doodilmore river. Near the sea edge it plunged, roaring in a thunderous torrent, down a narrow gully. Awesome but uncrossable. Looking at the map I could see a track marked a bit further inland. It finished at the river. Detoured across to have a look. Fantastic, there was an old bridge. Once across headed back to the coast across some very boggy ground. Picking my across was interesting, the ground, being saturated, actually quaked under me. It was like tip toeing across a giant water bed. Just before reaching the trig point marked on the map I came across an old rickety deer fence. Getting over that was challenging. My main concern was that the whole thing would collapse under me. Standing on Gortantaoid point looking at the bay I had been heading, it was surprising not to see anyone. A couple of miles of pristine beach and not a soul in sight. Boots off and an amble along the shore. Not wanting to to follow the bay all the way around, I made my way across country to the track leading to Killinallan. On the map the farm is marked as occupied but it is now just a series of buildings. Although still early, I decided to stop. There where some pleasant places to stop near the shore edge. Mainly though I wanted to have a chance to air things out a bit and allow footwear to dry. Have seen choughs today as well deer in the distance. It is interesting to observe the different types of insect life one gets in the tent. Spiders are regularly to be found. Ants too, some of them nip. A variety of strange creepy crawlies, one bit me on the arm. it hurt and drew blood. Several varieties of beetles. Slugs often come visiting. The only problem with them is the slimy trails they leave everywhere. Also, it pays to check the cooking pot, often they favour a snooze in there. Midges are the worst beasts, voracious, tiny insects. What they lack in size they make up for in sheer weight of numbers. This evening the wind is picking up and I have just lowered the tent a bit and pegged out the spare peg points.
Monday 18th August. Camped OS map LR60. GR 292554.
Heavy rain during the night with the temperature down a bit. Early this morning the sky was vivid, streaked in fiery reds and glowing orange. Soon though thick dark clouds began to move ominously across the sky. The temptation was just snuggle down in the sleeping bag for another hour or so. With some distance to cover I really wanted to be away quite early. Managed to actually pack up before the rain returned. Once more though I was soon back in waterproofs. Fortunately the rain was not that heavy, thin rain! My first goal was Bridgend. Some seven or eight miles away. Mainly just to pick up a few supplies as I was running low. the majority of walking was on track and minor roads until I reached Carnain. From there it was a case of plodding up a stretch of main road to the village. Picked up a few bits in the shop and nipped over to the handy bus shelter.Nibbling on a Scotch pie I studied the map. What to do? There was little choice but to continue on to Bowmore and then get back on to the coast again. So, a tad more road walking. At least the rain had eased off. Beyond Bowmore I headed over to Laggan point. My perseverance was rewarded. Right beside the mouth of the Laggan river I found a superb spot to camp. Right on the edge of the beach. It is awesome. A heavy swell is running., That is contributing to waves pounding on the beach. Sitting here on the edge of the action with a mug of coffee is exhilarating. The tide is coming in, sweeping all before it. What with the roar of the surf, the boom and crash of breaking waves and the growl of shifting pebbles. Gulls scream overhead, a skein of geese moving swiftly, low over the water. Turnstones rush back and forward, feeding right on the water's edge. Exciting and mesmerizing. The indications are that this is going to be a particularly high tide. There was a seaweed covered gravel bar just off the beach. Waves pounded at it, carrying away the seaweed and soon the gravel spit was demolished. A large section of tree trunk had been cast up on the former high tide line. That has now gone. What a place to camp, only yards from all the action. High enough to avoid even the highest tide but only yards from all the action. Mother nature is busy rearranging the scenery a tad, fantastic. A light rain is falling but I refuse to close the front of the tent and miss the action. Scotch pies do not travel well. had one in the sack and it is flat packed.
Tuesday19th August. OS Map LR 60. Kintra camp site.
Still a bit blustery this morning but no rain. Serendipity, according to the map it looked like I would have to walk out to the main road to cross the river Laggan. However, as I headed for a small track, low and behold a bridge across the river. It was a small wire suspension type of thing. A notice warned that it was there for estate workers and they would accept no liability if anyone else used it. Fair enough, actually it was a nice little bridge, shoogly, swaying gently over the turgid river below. From there it ws just a case of heading back to the beach. Laggan bay sweeps around in a huge crescent. Pristine sands that go on for over seven miles and narry yet a soul to be seen. Boots off, it was a delightful wander along the shore. Splashing in and out of the waves. Examining the tide line. The Machrie river proved interesting. Being in spate it was flowing quite deep and fast. Using a trekking pole for extra support, I eased across. The current was fairly strong in the middle with the water thigh deep. No real problem though. Ambled on to the camp site. As camp sites go, this one was fine. No posh caravans or serried ranks of tents. The lady at the farmhouse just waved at the dunes and told me to go pitch and let her know rougly the area had I pitched in. A few stand pipes for water, showers and toilets at the farmhouse and not much more. It was quite funny, the lady warned that the water would probably be a bit brown. The water I have been using recently has been the colour of strong tea before the milk was added. There are a few camper vans dotted around the place and and tents too but it is not crowded. Kintra is at the end of a track and has a small car park. It is strange in a a way. There are miles and miles of beach and yet people drive down the track, park the car and congregate on one small area. There seems to a be a fear to stray too far from the safety and security of their little mobile havens. One couple I spoke to where aghast that I was on foot and had been camping out alone for a week. In their view that was far too dangerous. Why? The only thing that worries me are other human beings.

Wednesday 20th August. Port Ellen.
Just a stroll down to the village today. It was tempting to camp nearby. Tomorrow morning I am heading out on the ferry. The problem is that I prefer to get cleaned up and put on fresh clothes for travelling. In the end managed a good b&b. Generally lazed for the bulk of the day. had a long soak in a hot bath and nipped out to buy a couple of rolls and a bit of cheese. There are no chippies in the village. It has been a good week though. The tent came through ok. Footwear, my Inov8s are in a parlous condition and I was not prepared to risk using them. my old Brasher hillmasters where dug out of retirement. They too are showing distinct signs of wear. Battle scarred old warriors. With goretex booties similar to seal skins my feet actually remained fairly dry.


  1. Very exciting stuff, Dawn! Many thanks for posting it. I was wondering where you'd gone. The photos are great, and the waterfall looks amazing.

    The limpets look a bit... eep! though. What did they taste like?

    Are there any midges when it's not wet and windy?

  2. Yay!

    More adventures to read, thanks.

    Haven't tested the Rainbow yet, got to buy a few more bits and pieces before I'm ready to embark anywhere


  3. Hi Shirl. The limpets where a bit tasteless and very chewy. Supposedly though they are very nutritious. The whelks where better but harder work. Unfortunately I was unable to find any mussels. Midges, eek, scores of them, trillions. getting bitten was an accepted factor.

  4. Midge soup perhaps?
    I've a certain set of secluded Cornish dunes in mind for one eof these days.
    Despite living within minutes of the south coast beaches,its just not the same as dunes to disappear into & long empty beachs for that special night out

  5. Thanks, Dawn, good read.

  6. What a magnificent write-up, Dawn.

    I could almost taste the salt water from the sea-spray!

  7. great write-up of a fantastic trip - you're an inspiration! The west coast is now on my must-visit list for next year. :-)

  8. Hi Lost in a Forest. Places like Islay are well woth visiting. my advice would be to go slowly, take your time and just enjoy. D

  9. Dawn that waterfall is great hey. Good write up and trip I like that a lot.