Wednesday, 9 July 2014

So crystal clear it's hardly there - a summer day on the Sound of Arisaig

The view from Arisaig to Eigg and Rum in the early morning was very fine.  Calm clear weather was forecast for the coming day, deteriorating over the next 24 hours - we would enjoy the best of a short weather window.

We were on the water soon after breakfast, hoping to make a full day's journey on the Sound of Arisaig.  The day would prove to be a riot of colour, the pale eggshell shades of early morning developing to a dazzling royal blue as the sun climbed higher.....

 ..while beneath our boats were shades of green. The white sand  sea bed was lit beautifully, every detail pin-sharp in the calm conditions.  It was a marvellous morning to be out on the water.

The view to the west of Eigg and Rum became sharper as the morning haze burned away. Rum's grand Norse-named hills, Ainshival, Askival, Trollaval and Hallival looked temptingly close.  Memories of a winter journey among the Small Isles with Douglas are still very fresh; places to re-visit soon.

We reluctantly turned away from the view to the west, rounding a small headland riven by channels and rocks.  Duncan and Joan paddled ahead a little to pass through one of the channels and into.....

......a small piece of perfection.  The quality of light in this bay is wonderful in cloudy weather; in glorious summer sunshine it's simply astonishing.  The shadows of our boats on the bottom were clear and sharp through ten metres of water as we entered the bay. As the water shoals towards the white shell sand the shades move from green through turquoise and aquamarine to......

...something with an almost ethereal quality.  Duncan described the water as "so crystal clear it's hardly there", which is about the most perceptive description I've yet heard.  A vote for second breakfast was unanimous!

We shared the beach with just two other folk, a couple who had walked in early and were enjoying a swim and a sunbathe.  I was pleased to see cattle and stirks on the turf above the beach.  Such a stunning spot within relatively easy reach of a road and paddle launch sites will always attract people - as it attracted us.  The pressure on this site from repeated camping by both individuals and groups has become a real problem.  In summer this site can have twenty people camping on it several times a week, some of them individuals but also guided groups of kayakers.  While the attraction is undeniable, the risk of damaging a very special place has reached a tipping point.

In common with several others I know, I choose not to camp here any more- a small way of relieving a bit of the pressure.  Cattle rarely make good companions at a camp site, being both curious and clumsy, plus of course their well-fuelled dunging of the ground.  It may sound a bit elitist, but I hope that the cattle discourage some of the camping.


On such a day however, it was impossible to deny the draw of this spot.  Well, white sand beaches had been asked for - and this was just the first!


  1. Ethereal and atmospheric...that's Caledonia. As always, you captured it, Ian. :) Duncan.

  2. Thank you Duncan, though it's difficult to truly capture a quality which is hardly there! :-)

    Kind regards