Lismore

A circumnavigation of Lismore takes in about 40km of coastline and though possible to paddle this in a day, these things should not be rushed, so instead we stretched this out, not to two days, but slightly more with a second evening camping to kick things off.

We gathered late in Port Appin and after loading up our boats were soon paddling across to Eilean an Caorach, a small island north of Lismore which has the remains of some of the area’s lime producing past on it, in the form of lime kilns and worker’s cottages. The forecast, which had said clear sky and little winds for the weekend, seemed to be slightly off as the moon, bright as it was, was obscured behind light cloud which covered the whole sky. We covered the short distance of about one kilometre over on flat calm water with barely a sound audible bar our own paddles breaking the surface and with the bright moonlight illuminating the bottom below us through very clear water.

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The following day we were in no rush but soon were paddling down Lismore’s east coast, alternating between hugging the coast of Lismore itself and getting a bit closer to the islands sitting further out in the Lynn of Lorn. The weather again seemed to be contrary to that forecast other than the light winds but soon enough some patches of blue appeared and within an hour we were labouring under blazing sunshine with just a few remaining wisps of clouds here and there. Clearly, having left my sunglasses in the car was the trigger for such great weather, albeit blinding on our southward journey.

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One of these islands, Eilean nan Gamha, had an attractive looking spot which we paddled over to for a lunch stop; out the breeze and with a view back up the Lynn of Lorn and what till then had been over our shoulders on our route down. Leaving here we continued down Lismore’s coast eventually arriving at the lighthouse island of Eilean Musdile where an impressive amount of workmanship is in evidence from the lighthouse buildings themselves to the walled gardens and even a seemingly excessive stone bridge giving access to a less obviously used second island, it must have been important for light-housekeepers to have somewhere to go and calm down after the inevitable disagreement on occasion. This really is a stunning spot, views extensive and plenty of interest too.

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By now it was like a June day, well, the kind of June day you get here if you are lucky, sunny but still cold if you don’t move around enough. We opted to keep going up Lismore’s west coast rather than camp down at this end and proceeded up to Bernera island, passing through between it and Lismore via a channel which is passable at higher water levels, before settling in an idyllic spot for the night in time for tents to go up as the sun coloured the sky above Mull as it left us for the day.

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The moon, which had already been up a while, now dominated the sky but a great show put on by the stars and Jupiter added to our fireside entertainment for the night. Temperatures dropped and this fire proved more and more valuable, our group mimicking Emperor penguins, shuffling in and out of the hotspot and each taking turns at the outer reaches of its warmth. The discovery that the rocks close to the fire were warming and yet safe to hold led to the suggestion of sleeping bags being pre-warmed by them and soon the fire was sinking in to a rapidly growing hole as greedy hands saw the potential for a more comfortable night ahead.

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Next day, on waking for a second time, I decided to look out and see what the wind I could hear was doing to the sea and to get a better idea of the time based on the level of daylight which I was getting a hint of through my nylon walls. There was indeed a bit of chop on the water due to winds, stronger than forecast, and from the wrong direction too. Better though, there were clear signs of dawn breaking. I didn’t need much more encouragement and got up, grabbing my camera and headed off for a walk, a walk that kept going and going wherever next looked worth a visit. I had left my map at camp but had spent long enough looking at it in the days previously so had an idea where I wanted to go. First I headed up the coast a bit before turning east and heading for the island’s highest point. Great views and sunrise made for a brilliant start to my day, I could see the hills of Lochaber, the Cruachan group, down to the isles of Jura and Islay, over to Mull and also Morvern as well as getting my first good overview of Lismore itself – a place I am keen to return to for some more walking now. One doubt I had about the map related to whether or not I was in the right place for some links to the past I had a vague idea about. Nothing stood out obviously in my vicinity so I headed back by a different route to our base via Achadun Castle ruins.

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By now the others were starting to rise and have breakfast and I had worked up an appetite for mine too and the need for warming up as the wind had picked up even more since I left and the cold was biting with it. Whitecaps were forming and we would have a bit of a headwind as we paddled north up the remainder of the west coast of Lismore, we also had the delights of a splashy launch through surf to start the journey off with. Thankfully we had done the lion’s share of the journey round Lismore already and in any case we were soon enjoying the numerous bays along the way for respite. A delightful lunch stop out the wind, by Castle Coeffin, broke the journey back in half. Views from here are amazing and you can see the original inhabitants chose it partly for the views, more likely for strategic ones rather than pleasing ones though.

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Winds dropped and the remaining padding was easier despite tiredness catching up and soon Port Appin and its gleaming Pier House Hotel came back in to view signalling an end to our journey. Some of us had a play in the tidal stream between Lismore and Port Appin as there was no desire to rush and get off the water with such idyllic conditions now present.

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