Sunday, 16 October 2016

Having a blast on the Sound of Mull

 A light breeze started up as we headed north towards Lochaline, making for a relaxed start to the day.

 The ruin of Ardtornish Castle is prominent on a grassy headland jutting out into the Sound of Mull.  Built in the late 13th century, it was held by the Lords of the Isles (Clan Donald) through the 14th and 15th centuries before becoming part of the MacLean possessions in the 16th century - the castle at Duart across on the Mull side of the Sound would have given them complete control over this important sea route.  Abandoned in the late 1600's, the Ardtornish lands were eventually lost to the Campbells.

 We turned off from the main Sound into Loch Aline where we landed near the ferry slip to enjoy second breakfast at the Lochaline Snack Bar.  The food was freshly cooked and very good - some of us visited the nearby shop to stock up on essentials and we refilled with water from the tap.

Lochaline is nowadays best known as one of the ferry ports serving Mull, but is also a working industrial centre.  A sand mine produces high quality white silica sand with a particularly low iron content which is ideal for the manufacture of very pure glass.  Opened in 1940, the mine operated until 2008 when it temporarily closed, reopening in 2012 under the joint ownership of Minerali Industrali and NSG/Pilkington.

 We waited for MV Loch Fyne to depart on her run across to Fishnish on Mull before following her out of Lochaline harbour.

 As "Loch Fyne" departed Loch Aline she passed a very graceful yacht on her way into harbour - by coincidence our friend Ronnie had crewed on her when newly built.  Ronnie left us at Lochaline but it had been really good to meet up with him and share the evening at Inninmore.

 We hoisted sails to take advantage of the freshening breeze, cracking along on a sparkling sea under blue sky.


 After a while we became aware of a strange buzzing noise, and then were surprised to see a drone flying close above with its camera filming us - it got really quite close to Phil's mast.

 The wind had really freshened as we headed up the coast and by the time we reached the small bay below Caisteal nan Con (Castle of the Hounds) it was up to the top end of a F5 with gusts well into F6 - time to take down the sails as we risked damaging the rigs in the stronger gusts, particularly with loaded boats.  Built on the site of an Iron Age hillfort, the ruin is of a 17th century tower house which was also known as Killundine Castle and is believed to have been built by an Allan MacLean, tacksman of Killundine.  The building was damaged by bombardment by a British warship in 1719 when Jacobite rebels were garrisoned here and was subsequently abandoned.

 We found a spot on the shore to shelter from the wind and take first luncheon, watching the trees on the adjacent shore bending in the wind.  Then came that buzzing sound again, as the drone reappeared and hovered above where we were sitting.  This really felt intrusive, particularly as it got closer to us.  Just as we decided to throw rocks at the annoying object the operator, wisely, flew it away.

 We battled back out of the bay and turned north again with a full F6 wind at our backs.  Out in the Sound, the MV Clansman was battering along with spray flying from her bow, on her way to Oban from Coll and Tiree.

 The conditions demanded full attention, swell was building at an awkward quartering angle and the wind strength was an insistent pressure.  It was exhilarating sea kayaking of the very best sort though - blasting along in bursts of spray.  We'd hoped to have crossed over to Tobermory on Mull for a visit, but the crossing would have been a real challenge - Donald ventured a little way over in his F-RIB and reported the conditions to be more than a little exciting.

We pressed on northwards and as a corner near Drimnin was turned, we came quite suddenly into shelter.  Just offshore the white horses continued to pile past but we were in much more benign conditions.  Ahead and across the mouth of Loch Sunart the view was dominated by the impressive cliffs of MacLean's Nose on Ardnamurchan, meaning we were nearly at the second "corner" of our journey around Morvern.


  1. Ian, those conditions looked, um, "exciting". I place some limits on excitement! ;) The drone buzzing around seems intrusive, indeed, They may have a place, but not stalking self-propelled enthusiasts such as sea kayakers. I too would have considered a well-placed stone. Given my aim, however, it would have served as just a hint of a warning. :) Warm wishes to you.

  2. Ah, it was a good blast Duncan, definitely the fun side of "exciting"! We weren't to bothered about the drone filming on the water, but hovering the thing above us on the beach was a bit different