Archive for Rum

Return to the Small Isles

Posted in Paddling, Sea Kayak with tags , , , , on July 23, 2014 by Jinja Coo

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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Rum and Eigg

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak with tags , on June 10, 2014 by Jinja Coo

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.

Skye, Two Small Steps Towards the Cuillins

Posted in Hiking, Hills with tags , , , , , , on January 23, 2013 by Jinja Coo

Two great walks on Skye, first a walk from Glen Brittle round to the lower, first tier of Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda which pretty much coincided with the snow line. The day started clear and dry but grayed over the course of our walk with the sun and cloud cover working together to cast interesting light on the crags above us and out on the sea around the islands of Canna and Rum. We also experienced an odd illusion of the higher, white portion of the Cuillin mountains above us appearing much smaller in scale yet at the same time closer to us than we knew them to be, almost within reach.

Coire Lagan

Coire Lagan

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Soay with Eigg (left) and Rum (right) behind

Soay with Eigg (centre) and Rum (right) behind

Coir' a' Ghrunnda

Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda

Soay and Rum

Soay, Eigg and Rum

Rubh an Dunain and Canna beyond

Rubh an Dunain and Canna beyond

Second walk was a wintry ascent of Bla Bheinn, my second by the same route. Icy paths from the start and we had our crampons on from the corrie floor. A very white scene in our immediate surroundings was countered by more colour in the sky and sea and in the various shades of brown on the ground below the snow line, stunning views in all directions with hills near and far showing a fairly consistent winter covering. The islands of Soay, Eigg, Muck and Rum and the sun’s changing light on and round them drew our attention out to the west but soon, on reaching a certain height, the landscape of the Red Cuillin off to the north and stretching beyond to the Storr became more of a focus. The best was kept right to the end when, on reaching the summit trig point, the jagged ridge of the Black Cuillin came in to view. If only we had longer to linger and take in the fine detail highlighted by the contrast of the snow and black rock.

Bla Bheinn (left) and Clach Glass (right)

Bla Bheinn (left) and Clach Glass (right)

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Red Cuillin

Red Cuillin

Black Cuillin

Black Cuillin

These two walks have re-ignited an interest in spending a lot of time in and around the hills of both the Red and Black Cuillin and are hopefully the start of a lot of wandering and scrambling in the area this year and beyond.