Monday, 8th July: Sailing to the Small Isles
Today started very nicely. We sailed along the Ardmeanach peninsula watching where we walked yesterday and remembering what we had enjoyed. We timed the sail, and it took 40 minutes to sail in modest winds, what we walked in about 2.5 hours. Dominic commented on how it’s easy to understand why people chose to use waterways whenever possible, in the past. We sailed past the landslide which stopped us doing the full walk yesterday. We were able to go reasonably near the part of the shore where the fossilised tree should be but failed to see anything. Ah well, we tried. We were amazed to see sheep grazing on lush grass at the very end of the promontory, but just how they got there is a bit of a mystery!
We had southerly winds behind us and it was nice to have a warm wind for a change. It was a really nice to sail past the islands we’ve already visited or seen; Gometra, Ulva, Little Colonsay and Staffa. We decided to sail through the Treshnish Isles which was easily done as it was high tide. That was lovely! We saw masses of puffins this time, some floating in the sea very close to the boat. Also, plenty of guillemots, seals and five greylag geese sitting on a rock.
Past Treshnish Isles the wind dropped, and it changed direction, so we had the wind right behind us. We didn’t mind the sail taking a long time, and we decided we didn’t want to go back to Tobermory, so we kept going. After a while there was no choice but to use the engine if we wanted to arrive in daylight. When we got to the east coast of Rum we tried sailing again, but the clouds were thick over the mountains, and literally fell into the water, so again we were forced to use the engine as we didn’t want to risk arriving in fog into an unknown anchorage. We got to Loch Scresort and were anchored by 7.30pm. There’s a lot of kelp on the ground, but our anchor held. By now it was raining hard and we were very grateful for the heating on board!
Stats: distance 48.9M, underway 9 hrs 16 mins, average speed 5.3 kts, max speed 7.8 kts
Tuesday 9th, and Wednesday 10th July: Rum
Rain, rain, and more rain was forecast and it came in abundance. And when it didn’t rain it drizzled, and when it didn’t drizzle there was near fog. We mostly stayed on the boat, read, did crosswords, got on with stuff we needed to do in general. We did a quick trip to shore to check what Rum has to offer and bought a few things in the general store. We had noticed that there were 10 visitors buoys in the bay, which was surprising as neither the pilot nor the almanac said there would be any. And they looked shiny with no seaweed on the chains. It turns out they are indeed new, laid only the previous week. And we saw them laying another one today, a big grey one for heavier vessels.
Thursday, 11th July: Rum
Today was the first time we saw the full mountain scape here on Rum. The clouds were slowly lifting in the morning, and we saw peak after peak, eventually even Askival, the highest peak at 812m.
We walked over to the otter hide in the morning, while the Ranger was doing her Shore Watch. She hadn’t seen many species today, but we did learn how to tell an arctic tern from a common tern and we now know the call of the red throated diver. We said how amazing it is that the gannets can dive from such a height, and seem to catch fish very accurately. And she explained that sea birds have a globule of oil in their eye, which means they don’t see the reflection of the sky, but can see straight through into the water very clearly. It was also really interesting to hear her talk about life here on the island, and the reasons why the community decided to say yes to a salmon farm being put in last year. They are all clearly working very hard at staying a community, despite there being only 26 residents at the moment.
Rum is mostly owned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and is a National Nature Reserve. SNH employ four locals on the island. It has a high rainfall, particularly in the mountains and on the eastern shore. Despite this, the last four springs have proven very dry, and this past spring the burns dried out completely which obviously is not good for the wildlife, and the islanders’ hydro-electric turbine stopped working so they had to resort to diesel engines for nine weeks. More proof of climate change in action. There is no doctor on the island, but he comes along once a fortnight, by boat, and sees the islanders then. They have a primary school, with two pupils. One of whom is going to High School in Mallaig next year, which means living in the hostel attached to the school and coming back home every two weeks.
In the afternoon we visited Kinloch Castle. It was built at the very end of the 19th century by George Bullough, the son and grandson of the cotton mill industrialists James and John Bullough. It replaced his father’s hunting lodge Kinloch House at a cost of £15 million in today’s money. Built of sandstone on a steel frame, it is sadly now deteriorating and there appears not to be enough money to restore it fast enough. It is still a very impressive building, with very fine interiors and amazing wood carvings. It was the first private residence in Scotland to have electricity and Lady Bulloughs’ en suite has an early form of a jacuzzi bath with a shower. Best of all was this ingenious orchestrion which our guide played for us briefly. It was originally commissioned by Queen Victoria, but she died before its delivery and it was instead installed here at Kinloch Castle. The Bulloughs mainly stayed here during the hunting season and entertained in a spectacular way. Much of the rest of their time they spent on their 221ft Clyde built yacht the Rhouma, sailing around the world and collecting objets d’art, especially from Japan. Many of these are still here at the castle. Amazingly the yacht is also still around, now sailing under the name the Madiz. The lifestyle of the Bulloughs and their guests is a showcase of Edwardian opulence. More on this rather wonderful building and those who used it here: Kinloch Castle
Friday, 12th July: Rum – walk to Kilmory Beach
Another fantastic walk, and another 28,000 steps on Dominic’s counter, and we are tired! Today’s walk was from Kinloch along the river on the mountain side, past Kinloch Glen, then to Kilmory Glen and the white sandy beach! The walk uses a rough road, so it was easy enough, although a fair few ascents and descents. The flora is very much like that at Burg, and we again saw heath spotted orchids and the green tiger beetles. I even saw what could have be an eagle! It was far away on the other side of the glen, but it was huge, and the shape of the wings were right.
Kilmory Glen is a research area for red deer, and has been going since 1972, which makes it one of the world’s longest-running studies of large animals in the wild. We saw the deer from afar, about 50 of them spread around the glen near the sea shore. We sat on the rocks by the beach and had our lunch. Oyster catchers were noisily bustling around by the water’s edge, and black-backed gulls and terns were sharing the little bay. I paddled bare-feet in the sea and walked happily along the white sandy beach. There were deer foot prints among those I made! Dominic decided the little stream running into the sea needed a bridge, so spent quite a bit of time moving large stones around. We sat in the deer hide watching the herd, and one hind was quite close, so we sat there seeing her munch on the grass for quite a while. Lovely!
The walk home was partly through cloud, but it was quite nice to have the cooling effect. Stonechats flew noisily by and butterflies flitted around. There were some rather annoying midges and horse flies as well, but this is West Scotland so to be expected. We saw a few of the Rum ponies by the SNH centre, and I remembered that the guide told us yesterday that they do keep some there, in training for being working ponies. The rest of the ponies are at Harris, on the west side of the island, where you can also see the feral goats and highland cattle if you’re lucky. The goats are descendants of those left behind, when islanders were forced to leave their island homes during the clearances. Hooded crows cawed while we tiredly wended our way back to the Old Pier and our RIB for our return to our boat home. It was really nice to see the inland part of Rum, and I have absolutely fallen in love with the wide skies of these islands.
Bird names courtesy of the brilliant Birds of Rum guide that the Ranger provided us with!
Saturday, 13th July: To Mallaig
We have to drag ourselves away from Rum. We need to print and scan something and find a chandlery. We called up the new marina at Mallaig and they can take us after 4pm. Good, then I’ll get food shopping and laundry done as well.
We thought of where we could stop off while we wait. I fancied calling in at Eigg, and walk on the singing sand at Camas Sgiotaig. I’d give St Francis Cave a miss though. It also goes by the name of Massacre Cave, as this was allegedly the place where nearly 400 MacDonald islanders were killed in an act of retaliation when hiding in the cave. The MacLeods from Skye lit a fire in the narrow entrance and all the islanders died from asphyxiation. That aside, Eigg is where J R R Tolkien stayed and apparently had inspiration for The Lords of the Rings, seeing the dark, brooding mountains of Rum on the horizon.
We quickly discovered from the charts that there are no safe anchorages on the west side of Eigg, so I spent the morning cleaning and Dominic read more of the intricacies of our electronic navigation system. The singing sands will have to wait!
Stats: distance 15.2M, underway 2 hrs 42 m, average speed 5.6 kts, max speed 8.1 kts