Thursday, 28 March 2013

A dance of the veils on the west coast of Eigg

 We took second luncheon on the beach at Camas Sgiotaig - home-made butternut squash, coconut and chilli soup with home-made wholemeal bread accompained (to celebrate our arrival on Eigg) with a small measure of "The Singleton".

Behind the beach, the rocky peak of Beinn Bhuidhe (yellow hill) occasionally emerged from the swirling mist into bright sunshine.  This hill is the northern end of a pitchstone ridge running down the length of Eigg and culminating in An Sgurr in the south.

 We now had a small dilemma.  Our accommodation for the night lay at Cleadale, not far from the beach where we'd landed.  We decided that our plan would be to paddle to Galmisdale, the ferry terminal at the south of the island, leave our boats there and walk the 5 kilometres back over the spine of the island to our B & B.  This may seem a complicated plan, but there were a couple of factors which swung it for us.

 Firstly, Camas Sgiotaig and the nearby Laig Beach are prone to surf.  We'd had to time our landing carefully and a haze of suspended spray told of the peridic sets of big dumping surf here.  If the swell increased overnight due to weather systems far from land, we'd have a difficult launch in the morning.  Secondly, we intended to paddle down to Galmisdale anyway before crossing to Muck, so this would, in paddling terms, get us ahead of the game.

And thirdly, the coast of Eigg is simply fantastic to paddle!  All we now needed to decide was which side of Eigg to paddle; which is a great problem to have to deal with!  Really, the decision was very easy.  The west and south coasts are by far the most exposed to the prevailing weather and swell.  To be in position, with very light winds and a fairly benign swell was too good to miss - the west coast it would be.

At first it seemed that the mist would be burned off by the afternoon sunshine as we crossed the Bay of Laig

 But it soon rolled back in, shrouding the cliffs above us.  You might think that the mist would have detracted from paddling this wild coast, but in fact it added tremendously to the experience.

The cliff tops would sometimes be visible, sometimnes hidden.  All the time there was constant noise and energy from the low swell washing the bases of the rocks.

It is 12 kilomteres from the Bay of Laig to Galmisdale and there are absolutely no viable landing places.  This is a wild and utterly majestic stretch of coast and we were entranced by the sense of place and the shifting quality of light........ the mist created a "Dance of the Veils" effect along the cliffs.

Turning the corner to paddle along the south coast, we expected to feel some tidal movement against us but in fact felt almost nothing though we could see the tide moving further out.  We knew that Eigg's most prominent landmark, the mountain spur of An Sgurr was above us, but the mist kept it hidden for the time being.

Too soon, we paddled through the narrow channel between Eilean Chatasteil and Eigg to arrive at the old ferry slip at Galmisdale (no longer used for the ferry itself).  It had been one of the most remarkable and rewarding 12 kilometres either of us have ever paddled.  When added to the tour of Kinloch Castle in the morning and then the crossing from Rum to Eigg it all added up to a cracker of a day!

We were sorting out our boats at the top of the slip when a young lady came out and asked where we "the kayakers who are staying at Sue's"?  Word of our arrival had been passed, though there was uncertainty whether we'd arrive given the thick mist.  It turned out that Sue, the owner of the B & B, was working nearby in the community shop and would wait on to give us a lift up to Cleadale.  This was a kind gesture, and typical of the welcome we received on all the islands, and of the genuine interest in our journey.

We walked up to meet Sue and were soon driving over the hill to Cleadale.

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