When Joan and Kirk arrived in Port Ellen, Islay we had already experienced 3 blissful weather weeks in Scotland. The land of 4 seasons in a day and the ever present skin eating brain torturing midge has so far been thankfully a great disappointment. The locals here say its a “once in a decade” weather phenomenon where a high pressure system sits over the northern United Kingdom and while England and N. Europe sits in a low. Whatever its called, we’ll take it. We are expecting another full week of this weather pattern over their stay.
We made a short 9 mile hop after their arrival to the Ardmore islands off southeast Islay. Here we made our first of many to come transits into a rock (called skerries) strewn anchorage. The transits are often marked with cairns on land. These are rocks piled into a pyramid shape, sometimes painted white, that you line this up with another point, perhaps a certain mountain peak, a roof of a barn, or another cain off in the distance. You put these two items in a line until you reach your next transit and follow that or arrive at the protected anchorage spot. This entry which is slightly intimidating went without a hitch all the way into Plod Sgeirean, our first stop.
We dropped anchor and the scenery was surreal. The golden hour of light here in Scotland lasts about 4 hours. The sun sits low on the horizon only getting fully dark around 11pm. There was barely a ripple on the water, everything was still and the light brought ever changing color and shadows that wooed all four of us. We enjoyed the sunset for about 3 hours with a nice meal on board. Only one other boat we could see, anchored about a half mile away, was in this remote spot.
The next morning we again woke to blue skies and light winds. We motored sailed some 20 miles or so north to the lower end of Jura, in the wee town of Craighouse. Jura, a very large island, 145 square miles, only has some 200 full time residents. The island is mostly left wild with some large land estates often used for hunting and fishing and not much else. One important piece of Jura is their whiskey of which there is an old distillery and well known brand. We took our first long island walk soaking in the sites, one of which was a cemetery with deceased dating back to the 1200’s. We were surrounded by the standard backdrop of impressive stone mountain peaks with lush green valleys interspersed with wild flowers and ancient trees. After a few beers at the small inn with the only pub and food, we decided to return here for dinner.
Early the next morning Joan and I were up to move the boat. Kirk was still catching up on his sleep from spending his first 48 hours virtually sleepless and the Admiral was just lazy. Our destination was Crinan, as it was recommended the night before by a local sailor. We motor sailed north for another 25 miles or so and made quick time with a following current. Anchored up outside the mooring field we took the RIB in so we could hike and explore. There were some great vistas from the hills we climbed.
Crinan is at the end of the 9 mile Crinan canal which saves a boater some 80 miles when going from Loch Fyne to the Sound of Jura via the Mull of Kintyre. It is a self administered locking in and out trip that we were very close to taking but were warned against as Cadence is of maximum depth and as far as scenery, the canal is not overly impressive. The Crinan Inn however is a lovely spot and we sat here for a few beers before heading back to the boat.
Just 3 miles from our Crinan anchorage was our next place, Eilean nan Gabhar, Gaelic for Goat Island. It was mentioned in the cruising guide as a scenic anchorage. We motored up Loch Craignish for Goat Island in a glass mirror that reflected the woodlands which flanked the narrow passage. No other boats or humanity to be seen we had the whole loch and anchorage to ourselves. Clear skies and great light over mountains, woodlands, islets could not adequately be captured in a photograph. There was certainly no lack of effort especially by my sister Joan who is an amazing photographer. (this post will be updated with some of those photos)
We ate another great meal out of the grub nugget (admirals name for our galley) which was fantastic. We had perfect views though the Kardashian crack out to the hills of Mull and the Paps of Jura in our backdrop. The wine flowed.
Day 3 I rose early to a very quiet boat and took us some 25 miles north to a highly recommended anchorage called Puilladobhrain, in the Firth of Lorn. The entire crew was asleep when I left, with only memories of the fantastic Kardashian crack, awaking to completely new surroundings. Kind of like being a passenger on a cruise ship. I went back to sleep before the boat woke up. This highly touted anchorage was very pretty and we shared it with another 4 or 5 boats. It was not a let down but not as magical as last nights anchorage. We went ashore in search of beer, tonic water and smokes for Kirk, just the basic staples needed. After half mile trek through a cow pasture we came across the old Clachan bridge and a small pub/Inn. The bridge was famous as the Jacobites would cross it and put their kilts back on in the inn, before returning home from their days labor. We were given directions to another town that had a small shop. 3 miles later we finally came across the shop, re provisioned, and marched our way back to the Clachan bridge and pub for a few beers. Another peaceful night under a never setting sun was had while dining aboard.
The next morning we left with the tide to make our way up to Tobermory, a small colorful village on the island of Mull. We stayed on the municipal pontoon. Here we enjoyed a great meal and another fantastic pub, the Mish Nish. We all enjoyed the town for the evening and the next day before leaving late afternoon for Loch Aline. One of the nice things about summer this far north is that it stays light until about 11 at night giving you plenty of time to make a small trip but have time to explore as well.
We arrived Loch Aline and made our way to the end of the Loch anchoring just under the Ardtornish estate. An impressive manor home with beautiful grounds was open for the public to explore. Fortunately, there was very little public and we seemed to have the place to mostly ourselves. The estate now is open to guests to rent out rooms and they provide deer stalking and salmon and trout fishing on their 35,000 acres. By the looks of things there was plenty of vacancy. Beautiful gardens and woodland walks made up our next day before making the very short hop to Oban where we would be depositing the Bennet Clan.
We spent our last evening having pub grub at the local inn. The Bennett Odyssey was a success, we were blessed with not only fine weather, but picture perfect anchorages, fantastic company, and a ton of laughs.