Early August 2008 - Rodel, Lochmaddy, Skye and Torridon
From Scalpay we sailed south to Rodel which is on the south west corner of Harris. The harbour is well sheltered being surrounded by a series of islands, and long ago it used to be ferry port from Skye. However the ferry timetable must have been dictated by the tides, because the navigable gaps between the islands have a water level measured in inches at low water (see more pictures for a view of the harbour). It was a very grey and overcast day when we were trying to take pictures - this was not helped by a partial eclipse of the sun making it even more gloomy - not that we could see the sun! The harbour is overlooked by St Clement's church. It was built in the 1520's but was not used after the Reformation in 1560, and then was restored in the 19th Century, though it is still empty despite being in good structural condition. It has some impressive wall tombs in the otherwise bare interior. The carvings (right) are clockwise from top left; Virgin and Child; St Clement; Galley under sail; an Inscription; and the Archangel and Satan weighing souls. The full tomb is included in more pictures.
From Rodel we moved on for a brief visit to Lochmaddy on North Uist in order to get the laundry done. One of the hotels in the village allows yachties to use their machines/drying lines once the hotel's own laundry is finished. The hotel has wifi, sells good coffee and excellent beer, so waiting for your laundry to dry is no chore. This time it was also enlivened when we were asked to briefly remove our washing from their washing lines so that a guest could land his helicopter in the adjacent field!
A day's sail took us across to Skye where we anchored off the village of Dunvegan. We stayed here for some time in 2007 so it was a familiar place. This time our stay coincided (by design) with the Skye Highland games in Portree. The games are held on "The Lump" which is a promontory on the southern shore of the town. At one time it was quarried for stone which has left a flat circular area in the middle surrounded by steep banks, all now covered in grass, in other words a excellent amphitheatre for holding the games. Unlike the North Uist games we attended last year, the Portree games insist that the "heavy athletes" wear kilts. This made a great spectacle as they spun round to throw the hammer - though they all had shorts on underneath! A common event at Highland games is the hill race where participants run up the nearest hill and back by any available route. At Portree the hill was a fair way away and being low water that afternoon a popular route was across the exposed mud flats, several runners came back plastered in mud and a couple came back with either only one shoe or none where they had lost them in the muddy foreshore. The finale of the games was the tug-of-war. The teams were 9-a-side, with the first prize of a bottle of whisky for each member of the team. The competition was fierce, with several of the teams having specially modified boots to help the traction. (for additional pictures see more pictures).
Bad weather kept us in the Dunvegan area for several days after the games. Although we did venture out to stay for a night off the village of Stein on the Waternish Peninsular. Here there is a good CAMRA recommended pub which has a very pretty sign (left) as well as excellent beer and food. The views over the loch, across the Minch to the Uists, with purple heather in the foreground were very special (more pictures), but the blue skies did not last and we scuttled back to the safety of Dunvegan to ride out the storm.
The storm thankfully passed quickly, and then followed a week of calm sunny weather. This was only in the north west of Scotland, the rest of the UK had heavy rain with severe floods in some areas. However, it was not good sailing weather, but perfect for exploring Upper Loch Torridon. The loch is surrounded by high mountains, these are very beautiful but even in light winds can create strong squalls of unpredictable direction. Our last visit in June to the less mountainous outer loch was memorable for staying up all night on anchor watch though a gale. This time could not have been more different - there was so little wind that the midges ventured across the water to probe our midge net which was thankfully very effective. Our first stop was at Diabaig (see more pictures) before moving on to the anchorage shown below at West Alligin.
The walking was excellent. At one point we met a Swedish couple who were just setting out on a six day hike around the loch taking in all the munroes and other high mountains. They certainly picked the right week for it. We would have liked to do more, but a combination of food running low, and unsettled forecasts caused us to move on.
Our plan for the rest of August is to gradually return south inside Skye back through Kylerhea and head towards Ardnamurchan.