Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A miller's tale on the west coast of Gigha

We continued northwards along Gigha's wild west coast, paddling along low cliffs for several kilometres - and seeing yet more Otters on the way.  Our stomachs were reminding us that it was some time since breakfast, so we were pleased to reach the tiny bay of Port an Duin (Port of the Fort) which is sheltered behind an equally tiny island.

We landed on the slippery, weed covered rocks and walked carefully up to the dry flat boulder on the left of this image to take first luncheon of wraps, houmous, cheese and grapes with a welcome mug of coffee.

The bay contains a former mill and millers house close to the shore. There are few burns (streams) on Gigha and even where they occur they're insubstantial things which probably dry up in dry spells.  This mill appears to have been supplied by a lade which must have been dug from the nearby Mill Loch as there loch has no natural outlet to the west.

When the mill was operating Port an Duin and nearby Ardailly must have been one of the centres of Gigha society - much of the barley and oats produced on this fertile island would have been milled here.

The mill itself was a two storey building with an attic and had a smaller building joined to it at right angles, the miller's house was separate.

The final run of the lade, made of cast iron, is still in place and feeds the top of a 16 foot (4.9 metre) diameter wheel, also made of cast iron.  The wheel was originally black in colour and is of an overshot design.  "Overshot" means that the water enters the wheel at the top, rather than "undershot" where the base of the wheel is placed in the mill-race or lade to provide the power.

Overshot wheels were a later innovation in milling technology and were more than twice as efficient as undershot wheels.  There was a problem however if a miller wished to convert from one to the other - the overshot design reverses the rotation of the wheel compared to the undershot version, so all the machinery would also need to be reversed.  Careful siting of the mill was required too, with an overshot design the mill couldn't simply be placed next to the mill-race with the wheel dipping in; the water had to be led to the top of the wheel.  Given all this, it seems that Ardailly Mill was designed from the outset as an overshot mill.

Having "mulled all this over" we set out again to paddle to the north west corner of Gigha, where the map promised a treat in store - a tombolo beach connecting Eilean Garbh (Rough Island) with the north of Gigha.

Landing at the southern beach in Bagh Rubha Ruaidh (Red Point Bay) on white sand, we set out for a short exploration.  The southern beach is beautiful......

....but if anything the beach facing north is even more so - a sweep of white sand backed by marram grass.

Looking eastwards towards the very north tip of Gigha, there's another couple of small white sand beaches.  The only thing our trip had lacked was bright sunshine (under which most of Scotland was basking!) which would have transformed the scene to a dazzling array of colour, but we weren't complaining.....

These beaches are justifiably popular and get plenty of visitors through the summer, so we weren't surprised at the lack of driftwood on the tideline.  We felt that there might be some where the south beach meets Eilean Garbh though, as it was open to the prevailing wind and quite rough and rocky.

So it proved, we filled two Indispensable Kayak Expedition Accessory bags with driftwood to supplement the logs we'd left at our camp on Cara, easily fitting these in the hatches of our boats.

The north coast of Eilean Garbh a wild place with granite outcrops falling straight into the sea.  Given its exposure to Atlantic swell it must be a most impressive place in heavy weather.  We'd taken advantage of the unusually calm conditions created by several days of light winds both locally and farther out in the Atlantic to enjoy Gigha's west coast in calm conditions.  Douglas has paddled here in less settled weather and rates it as one of the roughest places he's enjoyed.

We passed by the northern tombolo beach......

...and paused before heading down the east coast to look at the Paps of Jura which were just becoming visible through the cloud.  A rumble of diesel engines in the calm air announced the appearance of MV Finlaggan on her route from Islay to Kennacraig in Kintyre.

Our stomachs were also rumbling (again) - but we had a plan.....


  1. Great acronym you've created of a wellknown bag! :-)

  2. Thanks Leif, but I really can't take the credit - it was our friends Duncan and Joan who created it. Apparently, the company make furniture as well as kayaking equipment!


  3. OK! I Always appreciate their use of words on their blog too!

  4. An island I've not visited yet but always wanted to explore on foot. Looks good.

    1. Hi Bob, there looks to be some good coastal walking on Gigha; and the wildlife on the west coast was a highlight of our visit.

      Kind regards

  5. First luncheon sounds delicious, Ian. You, Douglas, and Leif will be interested to know that we recently picked up some more blue kit bags at the recent International Kayak Enthusiasts Association (IKEA) meet up here in Canada - they also host a rather nice store, on the same premises, that sells furniture. But, strangely, you have to put the furniture together yourself! So Joan and I just opted for the bags. ;) Warm wishes.

    1. It certainly was Duncan - unfortunately we had to repeat it for second luncheon rather than the hoped-for treat!


  6. :-)) LOL. Great you found something of a high value for a low price at that International Kayak Enthusiasts Association. It's otherwise eaasy to get carried away at that place and bring home more,
    than you thought at first. Well done! Enjoy the coming usage of your new kayak travelling companions.
    Safe paddling!