Early July 2018 - Mallaig, Skye, Eigg and south to Islay
It was the first time for us at the Mallaig marina (see more pictures), and we were favourably impressed as the staff were friendly and helpful; there were deluxe showers and laundry; and it was nowhere near as noisy than we had expected. The small town is still an active fishing port with many commercial boats arriving to land their catch, before rafting up to make room for others. Within the harbour is a busy boat yard and it was great to see tired and worn looking fishing boats being transformed by a fresh coat of paint. Some of the fish is processed in a factory on the quay which had an excellent shop attached, so we had very tasty dinners while we were there.
The town is the terminus of the railway line from Fort William, and twice a day the town is swamped by a trainload of tourists on the Jacobite steam train. Along with the fish, this makes it a very attractive location for the piratical herring gulls who patrol the seating areas for discarded chips or dropped ice creams. It is so popular that nesting sites are at a premium with some inventive parents finding alternative locations, we saw several velux windows occupied.
On a baking hot day, when it too hot for anything energetic, we caught the train to Fort William. This is a stunningly beautiful railway line as it winds along the coast, then through the mountains, around lochs and across the impressive Glenfinnan viaduct (see more pictures). With a few hours in the town we ambled along the shore, timing our walk to watch the Jacobite Steam train (45157) cross the bridge over the river Lochy by Inverlochy castle below Ben Nevis - stunning (right).
Another day we took our folding bicycles on the ferry to Armadale and cycled around the Sleat peninsular on quiet single track roads. It was another hot day so there was a lot of walking up the steep bits, and great relief as we created our own breeze free wheeling down again. Half way around there was a perfect lunch spot at the ruined Dunscaith Castle (see more pictures) and fine views across to the Skye Cuillins (see banner). On the final stretch we discovered the new Torabhaig distillery (see more pictures). This had only been open a few weeks so it will be several years before they have any whisky but their cafe was very welcome.
A short motor across a glassy sea brought us to the island of Eigg. It was such a hazy day that we decided not to brave the heat to climb the Sgurr (below and Late July 2011), lounging in the cockpit was much more appealing.
After a couple of days on Coll and a night in Tobermory and Loch Aline we finally had a good sailing wind for a fast passage to West Loch Tarbert on Jura. This was not without incident as Judith failed to properly secure the stay sail halyard shackle, then compounding the mistake by not noticing and hoisting the halyard without the sail so it was far out of reach up the mast. She then spent the next half hour harnessed to the base of mast perfecting a lasso technique to drag it back down to deck level. Thankfully we were sailing through calm waters at the time making it a much easier task. It was a long day and we were very glad just crash out after dropping the anchor and did not need to dig out the bosuns chair to hoist Judith up the mast to retrieve the halyard
The passage to Port Ellen includes a trip down the Sound of Islay the home of Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila distilleries, and we were pleased to see the new Ardnahoe distillery under construction (see more pictures). This is the ninth distillery on Islay and there are rumours that Port Ellen will also soon be recommissioned too.
On another hot day we walked along the shore of the Sound of Islay. There were lots of excellent views, but also lots of horse flies. We were very grateful for the mountain bothy (right and below) at the furthest point of the walk so we could have a break for lunch away from the files. It was well set up with five wooden bunks a comfy-ish chair and a fireplace with instructions on where to find the peat a short way up the mountain behind the bothy. There was a large choice of books to read and even some dried and tinned food left by other users. A substantial shovel was the extent of the toilet facilities.
The morning of an England/India T20 match we walked the south coast past Laphroaig and Lagavulin distilleries to enjoy a coffee at the Ardbeg distillery cafe and were tickled that the chocolate on the top of the coffee was the Ardbeg logo. A six mile walk for a coffee is a bit extreme but was much more enjoyable than the cricket which India easily won.