Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Ardnamurchan, Magnificent Seven - 1

From Marc Gerard:

The week which straddled September and October 2015 brought the seventh autumn visit in a row to Ardnamurchan. Previous years had established an ideal holiday itinerary of a first week on Skye followed by another on Ardnamurchan, and this year was no different. The first week's weather often followed the fairly typical Skye pattern of several seasons in one day, but was mostly set fair.

Views from the cottage were striking - when the cloud base obliged.

Some days were so clear that the walking - even the 10 mile slog to Macleod's Maidens and back - was about as good as it gets, with the Outer Hebrides regularly visible strung out along the western horizon.

The change-over day's journey included a flat-calm crossing to Mallaig and a picnic stop at the white sands of Camusdarach. The remaining drive through Moidart introduced us to the autumn colours which Skye does not necessarily hit you with, and, as the sun came out, arrival at Salen and the road along Loch Sunart ramped things up into the "technicolor" category.

Our base in Glenborrodale, as it had last year and in stark contrast to the previous week's more exposed and open location, placed us in a cottage nestled amongst that burgeoning autumn colour on the shores of Loch Sunart with a view across to Carna, all in all a place for which the word tranquil was surely invented. The cottage's owner promised a week of fine weather, as did the long-range forecast, and having only had one full day of rain on Skye we couldn't quite believe our luck.

Sunday dawned fair, but activities were limited to a stroll around the bay below the cottage, including to the end of a rocky headland which brought an interesting view of the tip of Oronsay with Mull beyond through the gap between Risga and Sunart's north shore - that and a clearing of the memory of the previous night's woeful display by England's rugby team against Wales and the resulting effects of quite a bit of Old Speckled Hen.

Monday was bright with a little high cloud but breezy. Ben Hiant was selected as the day's destination. Stepping out of the car at the wind-turbine parking area made it clear that the wind was, appropriately enough, far stronger than down on the sheltered shores of the loch and would surely strengthen as we climbed, but we were committed. Last year's foray up this hill was interrupted by an enforced pause on the way up at a point now known as "crisis corner" - the individual concerned was determined to get that particular monkey off their back.

The climb was indeed very windy, particularly on the more open sections. However, that wind served to make the long grass look almost like shimmering velvet, especially as one looked back down the ridge in the direction of Loch Mudle and Lochan a Mhadaidh Riabhaich. The downside of the conditions was that visibility was not particularly good - the hills of Moidart, never mind the Small Isles, remained invisible.

The view over Ardslignish and Loch Sunart towards Oronsay, Carna and Loch Teacuis was also rather murky, albeit with an interesting sky....

....as it was looking over Stallachan Dubha onto the Sound of Mull. The very top was too breezy to enjoy our lunch, so the revitalising effects of sausage and Daddies sauce sandwiches plus a stack of Jaffa Cakes were enjoyed in a sheltered spot just off the summit. An uneventful descent, other than for the passing of an unidentified eagle being mobbed on its way, meant that "crisis corner" could be struck from the memory of this particular hill.

Back at base and the evening seemed to be suggesting that tomorrow would bring more good weather. From last year's visit we knew that dusk would bring wildlife activity, but things were getting off to a slow start. That would change, however.

The next day started bright and clear and the wind had dropped - beach time. Destination, Sanna. A herd of cattle just around a bend near the Fascadale road junction caused a brief raising of the heartbeat as they seemed to resolutely prefer the tarmac to the grass, but arrival at Sanna gave us just what we had hoped for.....

....warm sunshine, gentle breeze, receding tide. Just perfect. 

Distant views were still a bit hazy, but closer in the colours were quite something.

Any intentions of walking around to Portuairk were discounted in favour of just wandering about, sitting and staring. It was with some reluctance that we eventually made our way back to the car.

The evening, back at base, brought the first of the week's wildlife extravaganzas....

Part 2 to follow.

This is the third year in which Marc has sent pictures and story of his Ardnamurchan holiday.
Many thanks to him for taking so much trouble.

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