Sunday, 3 July 2011

Across Hirta

From the 430 metre summit of Conachair our walk would take us west to the rounded top of Mullach Mor with its crown of antennae and radomes, then south along the ridge dividing Village Bay from Gleann Mor (big glen) to Ruabhal overlooking Dun.

Right on the summit of Conachair, on the edge of 400 metre cliffs, we were surprised to see this Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata).  It's a common species in damp ground throughout Scotland but isn't normally associated with cliff edges, especially ones so exposed as here.

From Mullach Mor we had a view out to the northern arm of Hirta, An Campar, and beyond to Soay (Sheep Island).  The difficult nature of any landing in Glen Bay can also be seen in this picture.

Gleann Mor stretched out below us, facing north.  The oldest archeaological finds on Hirta have been made in this glen.  There are hut circles and a set of remains known as "The Amazon's House" which is probably a bronze age wheel-house.

We followed the vehicle access track from Mullach Mor to a dip, then left the track and followed a contouring path to Ruabhal (western hill) and the cliffs of Hirta's south coast.  The view was, as everywhere we looked, stunning.

To the north west were the dramatic cliffs we hoped to paddle along the following day.  The pointed summit in the distance is the 358 metre Mullach Bi which is about half way along to the northwest tip of Hirta.

After some searching, we found the Mistress Stone, a fallen block bridging an eroded dyke.  Apparently, the young men of St Kilda balanced on the very edge of this rock as a test of balance and nerve (the drop is very considerable) although it may equally have been a stunt for the benefit of Victorian tourists.... 

We went right to the edge of the 130 metre high cliff overlooking Dun Gap.  How calm and easy it looked compared to the previous evening! 

We'd had a great day ashore.  I think we were all grateful to have had the opportunity to explore the village and some of Hirta, and of course to a hillwalker Conachair is a rare "tick"!

The weather signs were encouraging; the calm conditions in the Dun gap was an indication that both wind and swell had dropped away. We headed back to the pier in Village Bay to rejoin Cuma for another of Murdani's super meals.  All ears were on the weather forecast for the following morning