Thursday, 9 August 2018

A crossing from Eigg and the colours of summer

We had a leisurely start in our camp at Kildonnan, there was a strong north easterly breeze blowing as we ate our breakfast but the forecast was for the wind to drop as the morning went on.  We had a back-up plan which involved taking the lunchtime ferry to Mallaig if the wind remained strong, though we were very much hoping to complete the journey back to the mainland under our own steam.

The forecast was accurate and the wind had dropped markedly by mid morning.  We got underway and headed out from the shore of Eigg, knowing that it's an island we'll return to.

The conditions were just about perfect for sea kayak sailing - we hoisted our Flat Earth sails and felt the immediate increase in speed as the sails filled and began to pull strongly.  The was a short chop in some areas as the tide swirled up the Sound of Arisaig which only added to the fun........

....and we weren't the only ones enjoying the conditions.  This fine traditionally built yacht was absolutely spanking along and we got a cheery wave from her skipper.

The wind dropped to a very light breeze as we neared the Arisaig shore and we once again felt the full heat of the midday sun.  We were aiming for the beach at Port nam Murrach which had been the jumping-off point for our outward crossing two days previously.  The enclosed channel is quite difficult to locate from seaward, but a GPS waypoint kept us straight.....

....and we were soon cruising in to the idyllic little beach with jade green water beneath our kayaks.

The clarity of the water in this bay always delights, the colours change with the state of the tide and the reflection of the sky. Eigg is prominent in the seaward view, some 14 kilometres across the Sound of Arisaig.  With the assistance of our sails the crossing had taken a little over two hours without undue effort.

We were pleased to have been able to paddle out to Eigg, circumnavigate the island, climb to its highest point and then to paddle back to the mainland. Our journey wasn't over, but we now had a the remainder of the day to spend cruising the Arisaig coast, and we planned to spend an further night on the journey too.

In contrast to the morning we set out to Eigg we had the beach at Port nam Murrach to ourselves.  We enjoyed a leisurely luncheon stretched out on the cropped turf above the sand, absorbing the atmosphere of the place.  The machair  and rock outcrops were studded with the bright colours of early summer flowers, so we took some time to just stroll around and enjoy them.

Thrift (Armeria maritima) was at its very best, the seemingly delicate flowers nearly all open in the bright sunshine.  This is one of my favourite wildflowers, it's equally at home on salt-lashed shorelines and right to the summits of our mountains - a truly tough little plant.

Three different plants in this image,  the tiny purple flowers are Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) - the leaves of which can be used to add a lovely flavour to camp food.  The yellow flowers are Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) which hadn't fully formed the red buds which give it the alternative name "Bacon and Egg plant".  Between the two, a White Clover (Trifolium repens), a useful fixer of nitrogen in soils.  All these plants are favoured by bees and hoverflies and we saw some of the mining bees for which this site is known feeding on the flowers.

This tiny succulent plant was growing in amongst the boulders - I think it might be English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum) - but I'm not at all certain. 

I'd been mildly surprised that there was nobody else at this popular spot, and as we put our lunch things back in the boats, a guided party of kayakers arrived.  They'd paddled out from Arisaig and had been enjoying seeing the seals among the skerries in Loch na Ceall before heading down to Port nam Murrach for lunch.  What better introduction to sea kayaking could there possibly be to padle in a stunning location with great wildlife, calm seas and dazzling beaches?!

Mike had joined me in searching the shore ...... and we were delighted to find a few "Groatie Buckies".  There's a risk in finding one though; as those who paddle with me will know, hours can pass while I indulge in this addictive pastime! Having found a couple each to add to our jars of these lovely little shells, Mike managed to persuade me that it was time to go.....

In the space of about 30 minutes while we'd been intently looking at the sand in search of shells there had been quite a change in the weather.  A cloud sheet had formed, the breeze had disappeared completely and the air felt heavy and warm - it seemed that there might be some thundery weather.  We discussed possible spots to camp for the evening and decided to dawdle along the coast of the Sound of Arisaig towards Loch nan Uamh to assess a couple of places we've used previously.


  1. Ian, I'm sure that perfect little golden beach was where we stopped for lunch with you? It is so "Caribbean"! There were a few "coos" too, if I remember?

  2. It's the very same beach Duncan - no coos though when Mike and I visited!