Rum and Eigg

Finally, after years of looking at Rum from afar and from all directions, I managed to get over to the island for a long weekend and do the reverse, getting a new perspective on places as far and wide as Skye, Moidart, Ardnamuchan, Mull, Eigg, Muck, Canna and the long chain of the Western Isles too.

The big draw to Rum, aside from the historical and wildlife interest, was the traverse of the Rum Cuillin, the group of hills which give Rum its distinctively, lumpy skyline when viewed from elsewhere. Having taken kayaks over on the ferry though we could also enjoy the island’s coastline and all going well, Eigg’s too if conditions allowed.

Paddling Northeast Coast

The weather was improving from the outset and not long after leaving a rainy Mallaig, form which Rum appeared almost entirely mist shrouded, the rain eased off whilst we enjoyed a Calmac breakfast, then stopped and the mist rose to reveal some of the lower peaks on the island by the time we arrived.

Rum has strong tidal flow on three of its four sides but thankfully the other, the northeast, has weak tides which suited us for our first jaunt. We headed out from Kinloch and after just a few minutes had an encounter with a couple of otters, one adult and one pup.

Rounding the corner, views over to Skye (the misty isle) opened up and it did indeed look misty, the Skye Cuillin looked like a pretty dank and gloomy place to be, we seemed to be getting better weather and when eventually more of the Skye Cuillin it seemed that from this side (west) they look a little tamer and less serrated from elsewhere and I don’t think it is down to the distance.

Onwards we passed numerous rocky and then sandy bays, stopping at one for a leg stretch before continuing on to Kilmory Bay our final destination. Canna was revealed to us as we rounded the top of the island, looking desceptively close but actually too far for the day if we were coming back to our starting point.

A restful half our was had on the beach and exploring the surroundings, including a cemetery and wildlife hide. A very scenic and atmospheric spot, with dozens of deer grazing.

By now, it was brightening further and the journey back was sunny and hot. Bird life and eventually views of Eigg and the Rum Cuillin (now free of mist) were enjoyed.

Still the weather improved and after dinner, a group of us headed to the nearby otter hide but with no luck, just an enjoyable hour spent admiring the scenery and various seaweed based false alarms as the tide ebbed and revealed more of the weed moving in the water.

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Cuillin Traverse

At last, the Rum Cuillin, a walk I have been wanting to do for years. The weather didn’t look too great at first, but if the forecast was to be believed, it was going to be the best day for the traverse with things clearing later on. A group of us set off and not far out of the village, our ascent began, not too steep though and with lots of views along the way to stop for.

I was keen, if possible, to do as a full a traverse as possible so two of us broke off to an outlying hill, Barkeval, with promise of a great view of the bulk of the Cuillin. It looked like a bad decision at first with the mist descending and denying us the view south. However, on the walk back to the main path, things opened up and allowed us to see our day ahead.

Sooner than expected we caught up with the rest of the group and after a couple of tops we grouped and lunched taking time to discuss various options about the rest of the day and how to get back to start; a descent to Dibidil and the consequent boggy path back out below the Cuillin, re-tracing steps back across the high ground, or a longer walk out from Harris on the west coast after continuing off the end of the ridge. The latter was chosen by three of us, it would allow more coverage of the higher ground but would also avoid, boggy ground and re-tracing steps. An added bonus was getting to see the Mausoleum at Harris on the west coast too.

Minds made up, we broke off and continued along the ridge. A lot of the scrambling that is possible had to be avoided as the rock proved too wet and slimy but we did enjoy the drier rock on the central peak of Trollaval.

A great day walking with mist coming and going occasionally to add interest along the way. Great views within the island itself but also out over the surrounding islands and as far out as Coll and Tiree and the Western Isles.

Having descended to Harris after a big day hill walking we now had the 13km walk out back to base over a pass. A sore plod to start with but soon enough we got a rhythm going and in the end it wasn’t too hard going. Great views again along the way to the smaller, northern peaks of the island as well as over our walk from earlier in the day. Goats, deer, coos, ponies and eagles kept us company on the way out too.

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RumCuillinPanorama

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Moving Onwards to Eigg

Perfect, the weather was being not only kind enough to us allow us our paddle south to Eigg but it was actually a beautiful, warm day.

We set off early to give us plenty of time to cover the distance and make it down Rum’s southeast coast and over to Eigg before continuing anti-clockwise round it to the village of Galmisdale where we would pick up the ferry back to Mallaig.

Views of Eigg were drawing us on almost immediately but we held off crossing to a point where the crossing would be shortest. Rum’s SE coast had cliffs with dramatic waterfalls but the lie of the land above them allows the Cuillin skyline to be enjoyed too, not hidden away even when in reasonably close.

Our crossing was uneventful but from a couple of kilometres out from Laig Bay, we could hear surf breaking. Not great for an intended landing but we managed to land on relatively sheltered, rocky beach and savoured the views back to Rum for a few minutes.

More cliff scenery was enjoyed, this time from further out as the swell made being in too close a bit dicey. The Sgurr of Eigg eventually came in to view and we paddled under it looking up at walkers on its top, themselves possibly looking down at us. Numerous caves pepper the coast and as we approached the village of Galmisdale, we guessed at which was the infamous Massacre Cave.

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I don’t know why I convinced myself that Rum was hard to do as a trip for a weekend, but having finally gone through the process of consulting the ferry timetables, it is obviously perfectly viable, something that means I will be back for more. With a coastline of just over 40km, something paddleable in one big day or two short ones, there is lots of potential for future walks and paddles.

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