The first few weeks of August were notable for several days of strong winds and rain alternating with one or two calm bright sunny days. After several days hiding from the weather at Oban marina we had a couple of glorious days on Lismore, where there is a lovely anchorage at the northern tip of the island with views up Loch Linnhe to Ben Nevis (left). The weather changed and our passage to Loch Aline was very wet. But some improvisation with a broom handle and piece of rope (right) at least allowed the helmsman to shelter under the spray hood.
Tobermory was another good place where we hid from the weather. We had several days there, and did some walking, visited castles, forts and standing stones. Duart Castle (right) is in a spectacular location, perched on a rock on the corner where the Sound of Mull, Loch Linnhe and the Firth of Lorn meet. There was the added bonus of the bus journey all along the Sound of Mull with beautiful views all the way. The castle is the seat of the Chief of Clan MacLean, and has displays of the MacLean history and family artifacts. It has a magnificent view from the battlements, where we watched yachts, well reefed down, battling against the strong winds and were glad we'd left Innisfree in Tobermory.
Also while in Tobermory, we cycled over to Glengorm Castle which looks out over to Ardnamurchan and Coll. The castle is described as a "fairy-tale baronial mansion" in the Rough Guide, and this sums it up well. The route was quite steep in places and overall we reckon we walked 30% of the way, cycled 30% of it and free wheeled the rest!
Our original plan was to go on to visit Coll and Tiree from Tobermory, but the weather was against us with strong winds and rough seas, so instead we headed back south. Our trip down the sound of Mull was great fun, rushing along with just the head sail out and the wind behind us all the way. The weather was closing in again, which ruled out going to Colonsay or any of the other smaller islands so instead we rode out the next batch of strong winds in West Loch Tarbet on Jura. This was a really good place to escape the storms, being perfectly sheltered on all sides. Luckily the bad weather coincided with the final of the Friends Provident cricket final which was covered by Test Match Special on Radio 4 LW so we were well entertained as the rain lashed down.
There is a narrow sound between Islay and Jura, with fast tidal flows. We timed our passage south just right and had an exhilarating sail past the Islay distilleries of Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila (above) on the right and views up to the Paps of Jura on the left. The Caol Ila distillery is quite modern and it is interesting to see the whisky stills through the tall glass windows. We stayed the night at Craighouse, the main village on Jura and also home of yet another distillery - the Isle of Jura.
The weather was against us visiting Gigha, with the northerly wind making the anchorages exposed. So we crossed the sound of Jura to Loch Sween. The south end of the loch is very unprepossessing with a large static caravan park near to a ruined castle, however the north end is very different. The area is made up of steep ridges covered in oak forest and many of the narrow valleys contain small lochs. Much of the area is now a nature reserve with way marked walks and cycle trails. One of the anchorages is amongst the Faery Isles (left), and at this time of year these are covered in blooming heather. To make it even more appealing it was warm and sunny the whole time we were there. It was only a short row in the dinghy to the shore where we picked up one of the trails and enjoyed a lovely walk. This little fellow (right) was sunning himself on in the middle of the path, he was only about an inch long and was lucky we did not tread on him. Again we had the cricket on the radio for entertainment, with the first one day international between England and India. It was nice listen to the descriptions of the cold gloomy weather at the Rose Bowl in Southampton while we basked in sunshine.
As of 24 August, we are now at Ardfern Marina which we visited earlier in the season - catching up on the laundry and stocking up with stores. We have no fixed plans for the next week or so, it depends on tomorrows weather forecast.......