Monday, 16 April 2012

A blessing in the Loch of Heaven

Continuing along the north shore of Loch Nevis (the name is possibly derived from the Gaelic for "heaven") I landed on the shore at Inverie Bay. I'd planned to land near high water to avoid a long portage with the boat as the tide recedes some distance in the shallow bay, though I'd brought a trolley just in case.

Inverie is the most remote mainland village in Scotland and is accessible only by sea or on foot over one of the mountain passes in one of the roughest areas of the country.  The land around the village is now owned by the community and managed by the Knoydart Foundation.  The foundation was set up to effect the community purchase of the estate made possible by the Scottish Government Land Reform Act.  It's been a great success story and is a fine example of why land ownership in Scotland matters so very much.

We stayed at the Foundation Bunkhouse, which is both comfortable and well equipped.  I was met by the warden, Anna, and shown around.  Dave and I had stayed here just after the bunkhouse opened and the progress has been considerable.

On my way into the bay, I passed this strange sculpture which is semi-immersed at high water.  It seems to be a figure and made of a single piece of wood.

After a meal and a couple of beers in The Old Forge (Britain's most remote mainland pub), we walked back  in heavy rain, counting our blessings that we weren't returning to wet tents.

We were even more glad we weren't camping when we woke to snow showers!

Dave, Karen, Diane and Andy still had three days of their backpacking trip to go, but for me this would be the last day.  I paddled across the bay towards the entrance of the loch, only realising how much snow had fallen overnight when I could see through to the bigger hills.

Once the snow eased the sun warmed things a little and I passed close to the hulk of the "Serene", a Mallaig registered trawler which now sits in a corner of the bay minus her superstructure.

At Rubha Raonuill (Ranald's Point), a statue of the Madonna (marked as a monument on the map) seems to offer a blessing to those entering the Loch of Heaven.

Certainly the bay and beach she stands above are a small piece of earthly paradise.

All is not completely heavenly in Loch Nevis though; there are a couple of quite large fish farms along the south shore.  There are deep divisions in the Highlands between those who see the salmon farms as a source of employment in a harsh economic location and those who point out that the industry is far more polluting than it should ever be.  Loch Nevis was the first recorded site in Scotland where Infectious Salmon Anaemia was recorded in the 1990's.

Once out of the shelter of the loch I was exposed to the north wind and the resulting swell coming down the Sound of Sleat.  I had a bouncy and entertaining ride back in a beam, then quartering sea.

Entering Mallaig, the bustle and activity of a working port were a contrast to the previous couple of days.  My drive home was also entertaining; several roads were blocked by heavy snowfall as winter made a temporary return to the Highlands.  It had been a good little trip, and good to share part of my friends adventure.

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