August 2012, Skye, Moidart, and back to Oban.
During the eleven days we had been stuck in Lochmaddy we had persistent southerly winds. These would have been perfect for our goal of exploring the area around Ullapool, but typically it changed to northerlies the the evening we got our engine back in service. We do not enjoy beating to windward, so instead we crossed to Dunvegan on Skye.
The first evening we anchored below the castle. This is a grey rendered building so not very pretty in itself, but the location is beautiful. We are always amused that the leaflets in the tourist information centres never have a clear view of the castle, just the gardens, or some of the more interesting exhibits inside, with a very small image of the castle as distant background for the images of cute seals advertising the boat trips from the jetty.
The only downside for the castle anchorage is that it is a long walk to the shops and the bus stop, so we moved to anchor off the village with a fine view of Macleod's Tables (left). (see also Late June 2007).
With the winds now light again there was not much point trying to sail, so instead we walked up the northerly of the two Tables. This is the slightly lower of the two, but has a much larger flat top. The legend goes that neighbouring chieftains were derogatory comments about the size of the table, and hence size of banquet that Clan chief Macleod could provide in the castle. So he took them all up to the summit of the flat topped hill and said that was his table, with his warlords as theatening torch bearers surrounding the summit, the other chieftains could only agree that it was the largest in the region.
It was a beautiful clear day when we climbed, with fine views over Skye and out across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides (below and in more pictures). The top itself is one huge wet area of sphagnum moss, so would not have been very pleasant for a large banquet, but for us the unusually dry weather had left it only slightly damp, and a very pleasant spot for a picnic lunch.
From Dunvegan our next anchorage was Loch Bharcasaig which is less than 3NM from Dunvegan as the crow flies, but a 30NM trip for Innisfree. It is a small loch in the north west corner of Loch Bracadale with fine views from our cockpit out to the Cuillins (below). Though for most of the time we were there the cloud was clinging to their peaks.
This anchorage gave us easy access to the southern of the Macleod's Tables, though the walking was much more difficult being mostly pathless, but again fine views from the summit (see more pictures).
By this time in our holiday we had light southerly winds, but not enough time left to risk heading northwards and be left having to fight against the wind to get back to Oban in time for the lift out. So instead we picked a windless day to motor southwards, first to Arisaig, and then on to Loch Moidart. Motoring is not as exciting as sailing, but has the advantage that the auto helm can be engaged leaving us to admire the scenery (right) and watch the sea birds (left). The birds use the wind and updrafts from the waves to glide over the water looking for food. On calm days they have to flap so it is much harder work, and they therefore spend much more time sitting about, and rapidly paddling to get out of the way of passing boats like us.
Our next aborted plan was to cruise around the west coast of Mull, but that was abandoned when southerly gales were forecast, and instead we spent several days in the sheltered anchorage at Drumbuie (right and bottom) just south or Ardnamurchan. We were not the only ones to choose this spot to ride out the bad weather, there were 10 other boats that day when there are usually only one or two. It is a small loch with a very narrow entrance meaning that it is sheltered from all directions, and never subject to swell. It is also surrounded by tree covered hills of sufficient height to rob the wind of the worst of its power. In other words it is the ideal anchorage for a good nights sleep.
So in summary, our summer break was an enjoyable and relaxing couple of months, but it is very clear why we prefer May and June for cruising in Scotland when there is usually more consistent wind - not too much and not too little. There is also a lower average rain fall...maybe next year...