Isle of Canna and Tobermory (again)

Friday, 19th July: Canna

We tacked down the Sound of Sleat, in search of sun, heading for Canna, the westernmost of the Small Isles.  We’ve heard from various sources that islands like Tiree and Canna, with the full force of the Atlantic on their western side, are in fact surprisingly sunny.  We’ve come to check this out.

We gave a wide berth to the Point of Sleat to avoid any overfalls, and with a nice F4 occasional 5 southerly wind zipped past the north of Rum towards Canna Harbour.  We saw a shipwreck by Rum’s northern cliffs, which was a bit scary.  It turns out that it’s the remains of the French trawler Jack Abry II, which ran aground on a stormy night in January 2011.  I’m glad to report that the Mallaig RNLI lifeboat together with the Stornoway MCA search and rescue helicopter saved all 14 crew.

We saw a square rigger exit Canna in full sail, which was a wondrous sight!

The Flying Dutchman

We enter Canna Harbour and are very happy to see there’s enough space for us to anchor in the inner bay.  We are even happier to find that Canna has clear skies and sunshine!  We hear a strange braying, barking sounds which echoes off the cliffs.  After looking around we notice four grey seals sitting on the rocks, and they are clearly the source of this sound.  What a lovely beginning to our stay!

Stats: distance 37.5 M, underway 5hrs 55m, average speed 6.3 kts, max speed 9.4 kts

Canna island was donated to the National Trust for Scotland by Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell and photographer Margaret Fay Shaw, who together amassed and researched Gaelic and Celtic songs, stories and poetry.  Their archives are on the island and can be accessed for study.  They lived in Canna House, which overlooks the harbour.  Canna is linked by a bridge to its neighbouring island Sanday and is thought to have been inhabited since 5000 BC.  As with so many of the communities in this part of Scotland, the clearances of the early 1800’s saw a dramatic reduction of inhabitants, and there are abandoned villages across the isle.  Nowadays, there is a small but active community, with a campsite, cafe/restaurant and small shop for visitors.   There are six wind turbines, the farmhouse has a great set-up of solar panels, and there is excellent Wi-Fi and broadband provided by HebNet.  There are many signs that the community have taken good advantage of lottery and EU funding.

Canna House half-hidden, and Cafe Canna and the community shop by the shore
A drink and catching up on communications

Wildlife is abundant.  There are apparently 20,000 seabirds here.  We were very lucky to have come across so much of both wildlife and other animals during our very short stay here: eider ducks, greylag geese, heron, terns, kittiwake, puffins, oyster catchers, gulls, shags, horses, sheep, cattle and Highland cattle, grey seals, porpoise and a dolphin.

The ferry terminal, and the cliff face behind shows the names of fishing vessels using the harbour.  We saw the crew of the Harvester Anne continuing this tradition by spraying her name in green.
The remains of Coroghon Castle hanging on to the cliff
Idun lying peacefully with Catholic St Edwards Church on Sanday behind.  One of three churches in this community.
The Presbyterian Rhu Church, with Rum dominating the horizon
The farmhouse to the left with St Columba chapel, which is still in use.  The green post office and red phone box near the houses on the right.

Saturday am, 20th July: Walking on Canna

We set off early to walk to Tarbert Bay and beyond.  We have wonderful views across to Rum and Skye, where we can see dark clouds forming over the peaks,  while we’re enjoying glorious morning sunshine.

Sheep grazing in the most impossible locations
The stunning Tarbert Bay
Highland Cattle ruminating in the sun overlooking Tarbert Bay
Dominic walking on the boggy ground

We arrive at our destination, two prehistoric souterrains on the southern slope of Beinn Tighe.  Reading on Canmore I understand that the latest archaeological investigations see this is as one souterrain, with two modern breaks in the roof.  I had great fun trying to reach in and take photos of the stonework!

We walked across the hill and were rewarded with fantastic views over the Atlantic across to the Outer Hebrides.

The Outer Hebrides on the horizon

We really like Canna and plan to come back!

The wind that comes from Canna,

I feel it warm;

I like to be looking in your direction;

Short is the time until I'll be coming back to you.'

(from a Gaelic song collected by D C MacPehrson in the 1860s)

Saturday pm, 20th July: Tobermory

There is lots of wind and rain coming, so we set off after an early lunch to take advantage of the westerly winds to go and hide in Tobermory.  We had a lovely fast and sunny sail until we got to Ardnamurchan light house, and then wafted our way into the Sound of Mull and on to Tobermory.  I spent literally hours whale watching to no avail.  I must be wearing the wrong glasses.

Stats: distance 33.1M, underway 5hrs 52mins, average speed 5.6 kts, max speed 8.7 kts

There was nowhere suitable to anchor so we caught a buoy.  Our mooring is really near the cliffs, with a gorgeous waterfall nearby and close enough to see the shags very busily flying to and fro feeding their little ones!

It’s actually quite nice to come in to a harbour we’ve been to before.  You sort of feel at home.  We pop in to town, to visit the Coop.  In the harbour car park we see this large vehicle which turns out to be a mobile cinema.  What a good idea!


As we sit down with a drink after dinner, we see two people in a dinghy right outside our window.  It’s Sarah and David, friends of my friend Julie from home, who have been told our boat’s name, and spotted us and have come along to say hello.  What a lovely surprise!  They come in for a drink and a chat.

Sunday, 21st July: Tobermory

We go in to town for a short walk.  The forecast rain and wind is nowhere near as bad as we thought.  We’re actually a bit disappointed about the lack of winds, as we had counted on getting our batteries charged up.  We’ve clearly positioned ourselves in too much of a sheltered position!

Sarah and David invited us for dinner on their boat, and we had a really lovely evening, eating very tasty food and chatting, swapping sailing stories and getting to know each other.   We’re so happy they looked us up!


2 thoughts on “Isle of Canna and Tobermory (again)

  1. Happy Birthday Birgitta :o)
    Loving the mobile cinema – what a great idea for remote places. Such stunning and varied scenery wherever you visit – so much bunny grazing to be had – can you imagine the fun Lily and Jimmy would have!
    Your sunny, blue sea photographs make me miss the coast so much. Did you hear the call of the Eider duck? – such a funny sound. Lovely that friends of friends found you even that far away.
    Take care x


    1. Thank you Verity! Having a lovely birthday so far in the sunshine!! Yes, we’re so lucky to see all these beautiful landscapes. Can’t get enough of it! We’ve seen plenty of flower meadows where Lily and Jimmy would have been in second heaven! We did hear some very odd bird calls we didn’t know what they were, so maybe that was the Eiders?


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