Whisked Oeuf to the Isles. Eigg October 2012.

Date: Friday-Saturday 21st-22nd September 2012
Distance: 15.2 + 8.2km
Ascent: 900 + 310m

With a Fri/Mon public holiday weekend we were keeping our eyes peeled on the forecasts – a tantalising high pressure ridge was on offer Friday and Saturday and the possibility of an island camp was on the cards.

Arran, Mull, Rum were all possible but we decided to seize the day and get to a lower hilled island that we’d seen from many angles before – Eigg.

We got parked up in the shore car park in Mallaig and watched as the Skye ferry left its berth allowing the “Loch Nevis” to set down its ramp for us to embark. Ferry travel still gives us a real thrill.

Wrapped up warm we took our seats on the outer deck as usual and watched the west coast go by. Rainbow and Bla Bheinn:

Loch Nevis from Loch Nevis:

Eigg – target sighted:

The Red Ensign:

Skye Cuillin:

Sgurr na Stri – summit camp past:

The early ferry goes to Muck first – we managed to spot 2 pods of porpoises passing by on the way.

Returning to Eigg An Sgurr – recognisable from afar – rather impressive from nearby.

The ferry quickly arrives on Eigg – and just as quickly departs:

Packed the ferry insulation into the rucksacks on the pier – was rather gob-smacked to see a few Minke Whales surfacing a few hundred metres offshore. Our first UK whale sighting.

There is a helpful information board at the foot of the pier – the residents have created an excellent system of routes way-marked by the odd daub of coloured paint. Worthwhile taking a picture of the board in the passing.

We were planning the circumnavigation of the island – the forecast had initially suggested Friday would be supreme but had backed off to suggest Saturday would be better. This in mind we set off anti-clockwise to try to improve our chances of the best views from An Sgurr.

Followed the paths round the southern coast towards Kildonan – the sun was out and it felt surprisingly warm. Some good views of An Sgurr.

The path crosses a few fields and then down a steep slope to pick up the road at NM 487 852. A few Peacock butterflies were around:

Walked north up the road for around 200m – the verges were well weighted with brambles, rosehips and rowans. Quite a few of these too – Sloe berries I think:

We turned right onto the track at NM 486 854 – this is off the island path network but seemed likely to lead to gates through fencing.

The fields held a few calm cattle and as we climbed towards An Cruachan the hills of Rum appeared.

As we ascended only one fence needed crossed – and the barbed wire had been wrapped heavily in plastic at one point to allow safe crossing.

As we neared the summit of An Cruachan I spotted a rainbow on the far side (upwind) – the heavy shower that was causing this promptly arrived as we reached the top and proceeded to heavily douse us for 15 minutes.

Once it cleared the sun returned – Rum:

Sat on An Cruachan for lunch before continuing our rather slow bimble towards the cliffs above Laig Bay.

These cliffs have a fairly active bunch of ravens inhabiting them – we were well entertained by these birds flying along the cliff line and calling.

Crossed the high point at Sgorr an Fharaidh and carried on – the cliff views are impressive:

We diverted towards the Lochan at NM 486 901 and filtered some water from a spring. Then continued to the trig point and the end of the ridge at Dunan Thalasgair. There is a fence-line at the western edge of this ridge but there is a gate at the top of the path ascending the SW nose (NM 4805 9053).

We dropped down this path quickly – we’d daundered around since our 1100 arrival and time was marching on. There were a few sea-kayaks and tents down at the beach of Camas Sgiotaig.

We followed the way-markers back to the tarmac road at Cleadale – quite an impressive place.

Turned off the road at NM 477 885 to visit the beach – we arrived under cloud – but still a rather intriguing appearance:

We took the track from the beach towards Laig Farm, cutting right off this before the farm to pick up a little path that zig-zags up the hill behind the farm – a flock of Soay sheep were up here.

Views develop over Laig Bay:

The track peters out and after that it’s fairly rough heather uphill towards Beinn Tighe. The sun was sinking and the light rather attractive.

As we approached Beinn Tighe a large raptor was circling – possibly an eagle – it headed towards An Sgurr fairly soon after we appeared.

Filtered our overnight water from Loch Beinn Tighe and headed up to the summit. A slightly heathery/lumpy pitch was found at the summit.

Watched sunset from the top:

We could see past Rum out to Beinn Mhor and Hecla on South Uist, as well as the whole chain down to Mingulay. Beinn Mhor:

Cooked up our freeze-dried meals (Christmas Dinner and Chicken Jalfrezi) and watched the light fade behind Rum. A rather spectacular meteorite crossed over and broke up as we watched.

Got out again at 2200hrs – the moon had set so we had an eye-popping view of the Milky Way. Watched the lighthouses swing round along the Western Isles and Mull. The Ardnamurchan Point light was amazingly bright – it perceptibly lit us up as it turned – not bad for 10 miles.

Turned in for the night – a calm night and a good sleep. Got up as the skies lightened at 0700hrs to catch dawn.
Skye:

Sunrise:

It’s always a joy to be up at dawn at a high camp – drinking it all in is the problem.

Loch Beinn Tighe and An Sgurr:

Nallo and Skye:

Nallo and Rum:

Rum:

The visibility was superb – hills were clearly identifiable from Torridon down to Oban. Torridon:

However the island views held the gaze – Skye:

Rum:

While I was gawping at the horizons Hazel had been watching the sea – 2 Minke whales were passing below us near to shore surfacing regularly. Whales from a summit camp was an unexpected bonus.

Retired to the tent for a slow breakfast – we’d decided to catch the 1540 ferry so we were not in a rush. Up again at 0830 to start striking the pitch.

Nallo Pano:

Pano to Skye:

Link to larger pano:

The views to the mainland were superb – Sections 10A and 10B with hills that had taken up about 80 hill days for us were laid out in a line to be pointed at.

At 1000hrs we began a slow meander back to the ferry. The SW aspect of Beinn Tighe looked very steep so we dropped back to the N shore of Loch Beinn Tighe and followed the shore to regain the ridge by a heathery ramp at its southern end.

The whole ridge north of An Sgurr is part of an ancient lava flow and made up of pavements of basaltic columns – a geological treat.

Terrain varies from heather to rocky pavement:

The ridge bobbles towards the high point at the south – An Sgurr:

Falling columns:

It’s hard to know where to look – underfoot, Eigg, the mainland or out to sea. A ferry was passing between us and Muck:

Spotted a large raptor circling round the hillocks – a rather confident Golden Eagle which paid us little regard:

Approaching An Sgurr we skirted W of the lochan at NM455 849 to approach An Sgurr via a grassy rake S of the lochan.

The whole ridge line to An Sgurr is peppered with little lochans:

Ferry and Ardnamurchan Point:

After a minor drop we reached the normal route up An Sgurr – the path skirts the ridge on its southern flank to reach the trig point and nose with little difficulty.

A superb viewpoint.

Laig Bay:

Rum:

The Loch Nevis heading for Mallaig:

Panorama of coastal hills:

Link to larger Pano:

We sat here for almost 2 hours – with superlative air clarity and sunshine we simply tried to absorb it all. A kestrel and a few ravens passed us by.

Aware we needed to be at the ferry for 1530 we got up to depart at 1340.

Used the path back along the ridge to reach the normal route back to the pier. Sun to the south lit the sea around Ardnamurchan:

An eagle passed round the ridge and took station above us – I presumed it was the same one as before but on review of the photos the bill size and wing breadth make me think this is an adolescent Sea Eagle:

The standard route drops off the N of An Sgurr from around NM 459 849 with a short grassy break dropping to a rather muddy path back to the pier. Nice views of the front of An Sgurr.

Followed the path down – we managed to miss the correct track direct to the pier from the cottage at NM 475 841 but managed to hit the main road after Sandavore and return to the pier with time to spare.

The 1540 sailing returns to Mallaig via the long route – Muck-Canna-Rum-Mallaig – taking 5 hours. TAlthough the skies were a bit greyer on the return the views remained excellent so for us this was a bonus Small Isles cruise at no added cost.

Eigg and Rum:

After Muck we ate in the cafe – decent food at very reasonable prices. Back out to watch as we sailed up the W side of Rum – the light doesn’t do for great photos but it looks an amazing landscape.

After stopping at Canna we were on the home leg – Canna and Rum:

The sun was dropping as we headed for Rum – S Uist:

The Cuillin look stangely smooth and scalloped from this side:

Hooked round to Kinloch to pick up only a couple of walkers (I thought there would be more) at sunset.

The last 90 minutes of the sail were in falling light. Most of the trip had seen many folk out on deck but by this point it was us and 2 others. We were still circling the ferry when we spotted multiple disturbances in the water off to starboard (forgive the saltiness).

We watched a very large number of porpoises crossing the ship’s path. Even better – several were jumping in the bow and wake waves – we’ve never had a better view.

We hung out on deck to the end – leaning on the funnel gives a lovely warm place to stand n these ferries.

What a trip – we’d swithered about such a low altitude trip on such a great weekend but had decided we needed a great weekend for this island. I can’t recommend it highly enough – as a viewpoint it is stunning from coast to islands. The geology amazing and a wildlife return to beat most trips hands down.

We did succumb to a high five on disembarkation at Mallaig.

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