Canna – small but beautifully formed. June 2015.

Date: Saturday-Sunday 13th and 14th June 2015
Distance: 17.3 + 10.6km
Ascent: 500 + 200m

Much humming and hawing over the forecast – MWIS seemed massively optimistic for the NW highlands coast on Saturday although few others seemed to be. It did however look like the Small Isles might get a decent day Saturday and Sunday looked good everywhere so we set off for Malllaig on Saturday morning.

This time we were heading to Canna – not previously visited but big enough for a weekend wander.

On the way out Skye, Rum and Eigg were cloud-capped but there was blue sky.

Skye capped from ferry:

By the time we were passing Kilmory on Rum we had reached the sunshine – looked good.

Arrived at Canna – like most of the “summer” so far it felt like March temperatures, but at least it was dry and sunny.

We decided to head round to Sanday for a look first and then backtrack to follow the coast of Canna round over Compass Hill and Carn na Ghaill with an aim to camp at Garrisdale Point (the NW tip).

Chapel and cliffs:

The Rum Cuillin is not obvious from Canna – blocked by Orval.

Rum over Sanday:

Crossing the bridge to Sanday we could see our favourite lighthouse – Oigh-sgeir. Seen this one from Rum many times. Much closer on Canna.

Oigh-sgeir:

A quick wander on Sanday and then we headed back to An Coroghon to ascend Compass Hill.

Eider and chicks:

There’s a nice beach around the corner from the jetty at the castle….we sat and had a bite to eat before starting round the coast.

Castle at An Coroghon:

Although there are plenty of stock fences there are also plenty of gates and stiles on Canna so progress is not impeded……although some of the stiles are rather shoogly!

An interesting angle on Rum from the Compass Hill ascent (which didn’t seem to affect our compass despite the tales of mariners’ navigational hazard).

Bluebells and Rum:

Camping pitches up here – but cattle too.

K on Compass Hill:

As the NE corner of Canna is turned there is a last view to Rum.

Cliffs and Rum:

The cliffs are quite precipitous – a good posing point.

K on cliffs:

No chance of a coastal level walk here – kayakers only.

Northern cliffline:

The cliffline is littered with evidence of raptor kill – rabbit bones and bird pellets. Some may be from ravens and black-backed gulls…..but I assume it’s eagles tearing rabbits to bits and decapitating adult razorbills!

Razorbill head:

Followed the cliffline round then wandered the few hundred metres inland to the summit of Carn na Ghaill and a view of Rum again.

Rum from Carn a Ghaill:

Back to the cliffline – there’s a seabird colony under Beinn Tighe. The birds were taking off in a stushie as we approached.

Cliffline to Beinn Tighe:

A pair of Golden eagles were cruising above the colony – unusually for goldies they paid us very little regard and hung around scouting for opportunities. No good photos as they remained above our heads.

Golden Eagle:

Carried on along the cliffs – at this point the sun had been clouded and the cool theme of summer 2015 was firmly back on track.

Cliffline to Tarbert:

We watched as Skye was increasingly under showers – glad we didn’t take a punt on the good forecast and go there.

Showers on Skye:

Diverted to the souterrains marked on the map – 2000 year old underground chambers apparently.

Souterrains:

From here dropped down to the Tarbert low point of the island before heading on towards Garrisdale Point. The ground on the west half of the island is grassy and very easy so progress quickened a bit.

The threatening showers on Skye made no progress.

Beinn Tighe and showery Skye:

Dropped down to the coastal strip at NG 216 055 – reasonably easy access here.

Happily the sun re-emerged for the rest of the day, just 2 hours of cloud and no rain was a good result.

Identified a possible pitch at an old fort site at NG 208 053, then carried on round the corner to see if the wind was calmer there.

H at Garrisdale Point:

Round the corner was even gustier – and would have no sight of sunrise so we decided to head back. Took a look at the rather interesting Dun Channa – quite a fort site on a columnar rock column.

Seal:

Dun Channa

Headed back and set up the tent – a bit breezy (and cool) but warm in the tent with the sunshine.

Scarp pitched near Garrisdale Point:

Scarp on old fort site:

Scarp and Beinn Mhor Sout Uist:

The Cuillin remained stolidly under a hat.

Cuillin keeps its hat on:

Cooked up tea and sat around enjoying the evening – great to be straight back out to the islands after our holiday…..with a fine view back to some of the places we’d just been.

Garrisdale Point at dusk:

Sunset was blocked by some western cloud so we got our heads down for a few hours. Got up at 0100 – scarcely dark at all. No lighthouses on as far as I could see. There was a nice display of noctilucent clouds though.

0100hrs – noctilucent clouds:

Alarm went off for dawn – 0430. Sunrise again blocked by cloud.

0430hrs – dawn Cuillin:

We got going early – the ferry leaves Canna at 1215 and we wanted to get some seriously slow mooching along the coast in before that.

Walking by 0600 – great visibility out to the islands – I could actually see the Lochboisdale Hotel through the binoculars.

South Uist:

There’s an easy route up to the cliffline above the fort. Grassy slopes only.

Pitch site from ascent:

The south harris hills of Roineabhal and Ceapabhal were just visible past Neist Point.

Roineabhal and Ceapabhal beyond Neist Point:

The actual old walls of Dun Channa were visible from above.

Dun Channa from above:

…and as usual it’s nice to see Oigh sgeir.

Oigh-Sgeir:

Got a decent view of a peregrine falcon as we walked the cliffs.

Peregrine:

Wrong time of day to be looking at this side of the island – better lit in the afternoon. Still dramatic though.

Bre Sgorr:

We could hear the seals down on the rocks below singing.

Seals:

A great cliffline for a wander.

Back towards trig point:

As I was watching the rabbits scurrying here and there Hazel then spotted an adult sea eagle appear over the rise and whizz past us – got a view through the binoculars as it turned around the corner away from us.

About 3 minutes later a big bird sailed back round the corner – Golden eagle this time. As on the Saturday this bird paid us no heed at all and spent the next 5-10 minutes making multiple sweeps around the corner and along the cliffline, presumably looking for rabbits. Certainly the most prolonged and closest encounter with an eagle we’ve ever had.

It was being mobbed by kestrels and buzzards all the while.

Golden eagle and kestrel:

Golden eagle skimming cliffline:

Flypast:

Banking:

Another pass:

Buzzed by buzzard:

Once it headed off across the island we started to move again shaking our heads……and then 2 adult sea eagles passed us by, catching a thermal a bit out to sea.

Should have bought a lottery ticket!

Sea Eagle and Oigh Sgeir:

I was half hopeful some Orcas might swim past but, alas, not today.

Carried on along the cliffs at an amble. Am Beannan provides views both ways (and there is a fixed rope allowing a rather steep descent to the ruins of an old nunnery on the shore).

West from Am Beannan:

East from Am Beannan:

Dropped down Tota Tarra to the beach at Tarbert Bay – a lovely combination of sand, blue water and columnar rocks. Wow.

Beach at Tarbert:

Columns at the sand:

Time was ticking away – we were maintaining a snail’s pace and were bang on schedule. Took the track from Tarbert Bay back to the jetty.

Tarbert Bay from track to ferry:

Blue sky and water, black rock:

Rum had been straight under the sun for most of the morning – making photos tricky.Again an afternoon/evening walk needed for these views.

Rum over Sanday:

The hawthorn is still in full bloom – seems awfully late this year. A welcome sight regardless.

Hawthorn still in bloom:

We had outpaced our plan and arrived 25 minutes early…..so we nipped back round to An Coroghon and the beach to organise our kit for the ferry.

Beach at An Coroghon:

The Cuillin was clear on Skye – a great day to be up there given the visibility.

Cuillin and columns:

Skye Cuillin pano:

Link to larger pano

Back on MV Loch Nevis and the 2 hour sail back to Mallaig. An extra treat with these trips.

Bloodstone Hill and wrecked trawler:

Hallival and Askival:

Another great Small Isles trip – would definitely plan to head back to Canna, great place.

Link to Isle of Canna website

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