Round Britain – meandering southwards

After Plockton and storm Hector, we motored gently round to Kyle of Lochalsh, where there is a small pontoon. It’s not a great location as it is quite exposed, but has a couple of plusses: an enormous Co-Op a short walk away, and a little kiosk at the top of the gangway which serves award-winning Cullen Skink! We ended up spending the night as it was too good to miss!

Then on to Loch Duich to shelter from some more strong winds, forecast to come from the SW. We went past the spectacular Castle Donnan

and another 4 miles down to the end of the Loch, where we found a spot to anchor. First night was fine and fairly quiet. Second evening the wind got up – from the NE! So rather than risk being driven onto a lee shore, we motored out into the loch to find another spot. There was one that looked OK on the chart, but we soon found ourselves battling across a f7 to a windswept corner much worse than the one we had come from. So back we went to put the anchor down off a little hamlet, close to some permanent moorings. The wind dropped during the night and the current obligingly turned us around and we grounded at about 0630. Just for half an hour or so, but on an uncertain bottom with probably some rocks. We did have a single bump, but nothing serious, and got off OK.

Back up Loch Duich and round to Kyle Rhea, the narrows separating Skye from the mainland, and dividing up the cruising areas. Once through here we motored (again!) down the Skye side of the sound of Sleat to IsleOrnsay for a couple of nights. (Actually we tried to go south again but met a nasty f7 on the nose, so turned back. Wind conditions seem very local round all the islands, often caused by them being funnelled down valleys and bent round headlands.)

Thence to Rum, which was a revelation. Described as dark and gloomy in one book, we didn’t find it to be at all like that.

A lovely anchorage in full view of the extraordinary Kinloch Castle.

A great bunkhouse with excellent loos and showers and a jolly welcome from Jed the warden. (Oops, that’s the castle, not the bunkhouse!) Unfortunately we had arrived on the one day of the week when the castle was not open! So we resolved to return with Alison in two days’ time for the tour. In the meantime I climbed the second highest peak, Hallival, which is the remains of a volcanic plug from a huge eruption 60 million years ago.

The castle was worth the wait. It is a Victorian folly, built by George Bullough, son of a Lancashire cotton entrepreneur, with a (now rusting) steel frame clad in inappropriately soft sandstone. The interior still has the original furnishings, mouldering away, although many of the paintings and antiques are still OK.

The whole place was used for entertaining friends to hunting and shooting parties…. although there are rumours that the parties might have been a bit more than that: George was apparently gay and his wife Monica certainly had a colourful past (there’s a nude picture of her on the upstairs landing!). Scottish Natural Heritage was given the place by the family in 1956, and offered to send them back the bondage gear they found in the basement!!

From Rum we went to Canna for a second visit. A lovely island, the main house a bit neglected, but with a promise of restoration soon.

Then to Loch Sunart and Salen Jetty, through a very narrow passage between an island and the mainland (Ardnamurchan).

And round to Loch Aline, ready to start the next leg of the adventure – going through the Caledonian Canal. It’s been a wonderful, magical time up here among the islands. We have been blessed with incredibly good weather for weeks on end – the only downside being the amount of motoring we have had to do. But we have seen the north west of Scotland at its finest, and surely there can be few places on earth as lovely just now.