Monday, 9th September: Fort William to collect Daniel
Daniel was due in to Fort William on the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston just before 10am, but due to emergency track repairs he was forced to go to Aberdeen and then by bus to Fort William. Which made an already very long journey even longer.
Dominic and I went from Mallaig to Fort William by the local bus, which was a very pleasant experience. We went in search of boat repair bits and pieces while waiting for Daniel. It was so nice to see him again as we’ve not seen him since Easter! We went straight for lunch at the Grog and Gruel pub, and enjoyed a very scenic train journey back to Mallaig.
Our friends Toby and Janette had arrived in Mallaig having sailed from the Outer Hebrides and we chatted for a bit. Nice to see them again!
Daniel convincingly won Scrabble after dinner. I’ll get him next time. A very enjoyable family evening on Idun!
Tuesday, 10th September: Sailing to Kyleakin and yet another night of very high winds…
We had read the weather forecast for Daniel’s visit with heavy hearts and unfortunately it didn’t change. With southerly winds we could only really go north, so set out in the morning up the Sound of Sleat; well known territory for Dominic and I, but all new to Daniel who’s never been to Scotland before. Daniel spotted dolphins almost immediately; a good start! We got to Kyle Rhea in very good time and jybed up the narrows. We had chosen a sensible time again so no real overfalls but the tide got us up to 11.1 knots. We checked if there was any space on the Kyleakin pontoons but no. We could have gone across to Kyle of Lochalsh but with this kind of wind that would have been uncomfortable. So off we went to the moorings in front of the hotel. There should be three visitors’ moorings according to the Almanac and we checked them all out, but they looked very rusty and uncared for and we instead opted for one which may be privately owned but by now we didn’t really have any choice but to go on it. Dominic and I went ashore to Kyle and tried to find a phone number for the mooring association so that we could tell someone, but no luck. We got back just in time as the rain started and the wind picked up significantly. As we will be here for a couple of days by the looks of it, I spent a fair amount of time trying to work out bus schedules and book a hire car, but nothing worked well. We would have loved to visit Dunvegan Castle on the north of the island, or see the dinosaur footprints that have been discovered at Staffin and Duntulm. I’ll have to think of a different plan. It’s difficult to plan ahead when you’re never quite sure where you’ll be next.
We had a nice roast dinner, and enjoyed the England game (though the reception was a tad patchy!) while the wind was a steady force 6-7, gusting to a high force 8. Rather uncomfortable and a vigorous start to Daniel’s sailing experience.
Stats: distance 20.6NM, underway 3hrs 17min, ave speed 6.3 kts, max speed 11.1 kts
Wednesday, 11th September: Eilean Donan Castle and Plock of Kyle
We went over to the Kyle of Lochalsh pontoons in the morning, both as we intended to overnight there, and to catch the bus. Citylink took us to Dornie, where we visited the lovely MacRae clan Eilean Donan castle. It sits on a small tidal island in between Lochs Alsh, Duich and Long.
The island of Donan is most probably named after the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan who came to Scotland around 580 AD. The island has been inhabited at least since the Iron Age, and the first fortifications were constructed in the early 13th century, then extended and contracted over the centuries. What we can see today is the lifetime work of Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap who bought the island in 1911 and restored it to its former glory. The castle was rebuilt according to the surviving ground plan of earlier phases and was completed in 1932. The furnishings are from that era and the bedrooms and kitchen are set up as it would have looked when the family stayed there in the summers. The castle is not lived in permanently today, but is used for clan meetings and major family occasions. We really enjoyed our visit!
We also saw several cormorants flying and sitting on the rocks, drying their large wings!
Between rain showers we also managed a very lovely walk in an area off Kyle called the Plock. It was bequeathed to the community in 1946, and remains a well-cared for area with walking paths by Pladaig Bay and up the hill, where we also found picnic tables and a viewing platform with 360 degree views over the area. Not the best evening for views over Skye, but it still gives Daniel an idea of all the loveliness we’ve seen here.
We decided it was too uncomfortable to stay the night on the pontoons so rang Kevin, who is the Community Association contact. He told us they have visitor moorings just near the bridge so that’s where we went. It was a difficult buoy to catch in the high winds but we did it, and they have laid the buoys quite close to each other so although you know we’re not going to hit the boat behind or in front, it didn’t feel like it.
It’s really nice to have Daniel with us for so many reasons. One of them is that he has a very interesting line of tv documentaries for us to watch. We watched Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Thoroughly recommended.