Loch Craignish and Eileach an Naiomh

Thursday, 27th June: Loch Craignish

We anchored last night by Eilean Nan Gabhar or Island of the Goats in Loch Craignish.  We woke very early this morning, and were treated to a most wonderful sunrise.  It had been a completely peaceful and quiet night.

5am in Loch Craignish

It’s hard to describe just how beautiful this place with its verdant islands and craggy skerries.  Seals swim by, and birds fly overhead.   We went off in the RIB mid-morning up to Ardfern where we tied up in the marina, and went for a walk through the village, and out into the countryside.  We chatted to a partly-sighted bloke who came along with his guide dog.  He told us his dog is getting too old to guide, and he will have to get a new one.  Must be very hard!  We got some provisions in the very well-stocked village store on our way back.  We had planned to go out again after lunch, but it was so warm and lovely that we decided to just stay on the boat and enjoy the sunshine.  We even got the sunbeds out!

View over the skerries into the west channel of Loch Craignish
Smooth waters and sunshine all day

In the evening we heard strange braying noises and water splashing, but could not see anything.  After a while one of the women on the nearby yacht came over.  We wondered if it could be a seal in distress.  Dominic and the lady went over to check it out, and rowed slowly towards the noise.  It seemed to come from a basin of water on the other side of the rocks.  We never did find out what it was.   I so hope the seal, or whatever it was, is ok.

Friday, 28th June: Eileach an Naiomh

Dominic spent a fair amount of time passage planning last night.  This is not always needed as we have very good electronic charts, but today’s sail is going through a few places where there can be strong tidal streams and heavy overfalls, so you want to make sure you go through at the best time.

We headed out at 7:30am and passed Dorus Mor tidal gate at Craignish Point without any difficulty.   We went by Jura and Scarba, having decided not to even try going through The Straight of Corryvreckan – “cauldron of the speckled seas”.  Apparently not even the navy go through there.  In the Sound of Luing there was a bit of water disturbance, but only so much that it formed interesting patterns to look at.  Well planned morning sail!

Corryvreckan Sound, Scotland’s maelstrom

We were on our way to Mull and had decided to stop over for a few hours on Eileach an Naoimh.  You can only get here by private boat, so it feels very special!  Nowadays there are but a few large and fluffy sheep on the island, but we came here for its history.

Arriving at the small island of Eileach an Naoimh

‘So Brendan sailed over the wave-voice of the strong-maned sea, and over the storm of the green-sided waves, and over the mouths of the marvellous, awful, bitter ocean… and found beautiful, marvellous islands.’      Life of Brendan

Eileach Naoimh means the Rocky Place of the Saint.  St Brendan of Clonfert, also known as Brendan the Navigator founded a monastery here in AD 542.  This is some 21 years before St Columba founded the much more well-known monastery at Iona.   The island seems to have been abandoned by the 9th century, when viking raids devastated monasteries on the west coast, and although the island was still deemed to be a holy place, the monastery was never reinstated.  The structures erected by St Brendan and his followers were almost certainly built of wood.  The remnants of stone buildings that you can see today are thought to date from the 9th century and onwards.  There is evidence of crofting and sheep rearing in the 1800s and reuse of some of the monastery buildings.  The island is now under the protection of Historic Scotland, and we were glad to see that what could well be the oldest ecclesiastical building site in Britain is well maintained with plenty of interesting information boards.

The early Celtic monks searched for communion with God in the lonely deserts of the ocean.  This island is truly beautiful in its serenity.  But you must admire the devotion of those that chose to make their home here.  Yes, they would have grown their own vegetables and crops, and reared animals, and eaten what the sea and sea cliffs provided but it must have been a very hard life.

The most complete Early Christian monastery in Scotland
The remains of the Chapel, possibly re-built in the 11th-12th century
An underground cell which could have been for storage of food, punishment, or possibly for ritual purgatory
Dominic admiring the view
Birgitta having lunch watching over Idun at anchor
An Early Christian cross-marked stone, traditionally identified as the grave of St Columba’s mother, St Eithne.
The mortarless, double beehive cell, possibly for one or two anchorites.
The cells were inter-connected.  One doorway leads to the other cell, and the other one to outside.
The well


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