Return to the Small Isles

It took six years from first visiting the Small Isles with a trip to Eigg before I next returned to them with a visit to Rum a couple of months ago, now it was time to explore the remaining islands of Canna, Sanday and Muck, albeit as part of a very fleeting visit to the group.

Journey Out…

Having driven up to the Morar Sands area the previous night and camped, we were a little daunted by the winds that had interrupted sleep on more than one occasion, but departing Mallaig on the Calmac’s MV Lochnevis we were delighted to find the winds had dropped to the lighter levels forecast and the sun was out for us too.

Views of Knoydart and Skye were enjoyed for a few minutes before hunger turned our attention to breakfast downstairs. The views were too good to be missed and after devouring breakfast quickly we were back up on deck to take in the views of the Small Isles themselves; first Rum and Eigg, followed by a glimpse of Muck in the distance through the gap between them and finally, after rounding Rum, Sanday and Canna too.

View in to Knoydart as we departed Mallaig

View in to Knoydart as we departed Mallaig

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Rum

Eigg

Eigg

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Rum's Cuillin

Rum’s Cuillin

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle

Skye's Black Cuillin

Skye’s Black Cuillin

As well as the interest in the landscape and wildlife along the way, including numerous porpoises, something else caught our attention, a ship wreck lying at the base of some cliffs on Rum. The FV Jack Abry II’s accident investigation report makes for interesting and quite enlightening reading about some of the operational aspects of big fishing vessels.

Bloodstone Hill on Rum

Bloodstone Hill on Rum with the wreck of the trawler, FV Jack Abry II, by the shore

Sanday and Canna

Sanday and Canna

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Canna and Sanday…

After landing at Canna and gearing up we set off on an anti-clockwise circuit of the island. Huge cliffs dominated things for the first few kilometres with an occasional peppering of caves. Some of these we explored but natural curiosity had to be curtailed in order to cover the miles we had ahead of us. The cliffs offer a cross section of volcanic activity layered down over the years and as well as the more common strata and dykes, there were a lot of signs of basaltic columns, some straight and others twisted in to curves along the way.

After completing our circuit, we stopped for a lunch at the local cafe to refuel having already paddled 22km with potentially the same again to do.

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Canna's east coast

Canna’s east coast

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Over to Rum…

By now the blue skies and sunshine were long gone, low level haze had been replaced by dense, low level cloud which hinted at rain (as forecast) later on.

Passing between Canna and Sanday our views of Rum, ahead, were quite different to those of it earlier in the day. Shrouded in mist and lacking any detail, just layers of gray rock extending far to the south and west. The water was nice and smooth though with just a very gentle swell and no wind to speak of. Within an hour we were following Rum’s west coast passing by more caves, some huge and some even host to a community of feral goats.

Leaving Sanday (& Canna) and heading for Rum

Leaving Sanday (& Canna) and heading for Rum

Haze becoming cloud

Haze becoming cloud

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Cave dwelling goats on Rum's NW coast

Cave dwelling goats on Rum’s NW coast

By the time we arrived at Harris things were decidedly wet – no photos in this beautiful spot this time! A quick snack on the beach before setting off again with recharged bodies, mine certainly was flagging a bit now.

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After so long on the water and having been rained on for a couple of hours, we were very happy to arrive at Glen Dibidil with no breaking waves to impede our landing, a warm, spacious and dry abode for the night was about to make our night so much more comfortable than any camping would have been.

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Glen Dibidil with bothy on lower left

Glen Dibidil with bothy on lower left

During the evening the rain increased and with it the burn we had crossed getting to the bothy turned in to a raging torrent. It seemed like we might be cut off from our kayaks for a while. Personally, I was too tired to care, that issue could be dealt with in the morning. The rain did stop through the night and the river flow and level fell back a bit giving safe passage back to our boats in the morning.

Home sweet home for the night, Dibidil Bothy

Home sweet home for the night, Dibidil Bothy

Eigg and Muck…

An hour had us across to Eigg’s west coast where winds picked up for a spell. Decision time, would be simply hug this coast and follow it round to land on Eigg at Galmisdale, or would we slog our way across to Muck against a headwind? Luck was on our side and the wind dropped allowing a quick crossing to Muck and the short route (clockwise) was taken to our landing at Port Mor. It was time for more cafe time – great soup, cakes and coffee before a short walk to a high point where we could look back at the extent of our journey with Eigg, Rum and Canna extending away to the north.

Eigg from below Dibidil bothy

Eigg from below Dibidil bothy

Heading south to Eigg

Heading south to Eigg

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This and the previous visit have really whetted the appetite for more exploring of this group of islands and as interesting as the paddling is, I always feel like I am missing out on all the interest on the islands themselves when spending so much time on the water, I think future visits will be focused on time on land either exclusively or combined with short paddles and Muck definitely needs more exploration.

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