Garvellachs

Finally, after three previous attempts I made it to the Garvellachs, a group of islands between Mull and Jura. Two contradictory things struck me, they were much closer than I expected and they were much bigger than I expected, the latter (combined with the amount of bog and bracken) thwarting my intentions of exploring the bulk of our chosen home for the night on foot.

The choice of the Garvellachs as a destination for the weekend was a late one, when a few days before there had been a reasonable forecast on the cards, unlike each of the previous times when paddling had been limited by weather and resulted in less exposed paddles nearby, looking across at what should have been.

We set off from Easdale and headed southwest under bright skies with the black silhouetted Garvellachs lying single file ahead of us. Contrasting the blackness of our destination was the warm colouring on Mull’s long, southern coast – a palette of oranges, browns and greys … somewhere else to visit someday.

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With three main islands, we managed to alternate our way down the west, east then west coast of the chain before rounding the southernmost skerries and landing first at the historic, religious site on Eilach an Naoimh for a wander and snack. Another surprise for me – I knew of the ruins from the map and research, but would have never expected such an extensive or well kept site on such a remote spot.

As well as interest in the ruins, we had good views of Scarba, Jura’s northern end and in the distance Colonsay and Islay too. No doubt the monks who stayed here will have enjoyed the views from time to time, but it must have been an uncomfortable and hard life here.

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Slight swell and smooth reflective surface had been enjoyed west of the islands on the way down, now on the east, we were exposed to the winds and the sea became a bit choppier and a drop in temperature was felt too.

We both managed to squeeze our tents into small patches by the pier on Garbh Eileach and were changed and warmed up in time to enjoy the colours of sunset on the eastern shore and hills to the east. We passed on seeing the actual setting sun over Mull which would have involved a walk over rough, boggy ground, but it was impressive all the same.

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Clear skies continued later with a starry night – no photos though, I messed up my camera settings in spectacular fashion.

Next morning, sunrise gave us more nice colouring on the scenery to the east and the promise of more good weather for our return journey.

Leaving Garbh Eileach, we island hopped our way back via the Eilean Dubhs (Beag and Mor) and Belnahua, where we sat in glorious sunshine brewing up tea then wandering among the old slate mine ruins. This is somewhere I have always fancied spending a night and exploring more in detail. There is no shortage of flat, dry ground to pitch a tent, it is a short hop out and back and there is tidal interest and great open views of all the other islands and hills around … another one for another day.

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Looking back to the Garvellachs (centre) with southeastern Mull on the far right…
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Tides (neaps) were picking up by now and we had to slog a bit to get up to and across Cuan Sound and the final scenic leg back to Easdale bringing a long overdue paddle with good weather to an end.

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