Marhofn 171.09 - May 2007

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Western Isles Excursions, May 2006

Phil Cooper

Just the one bagging trip in 2006, but some trip! All the charter-boat Marilyn islands in the Outer Hebrides (St Kilda excluded) were visited in a two-week spree with numerous RHB folk, on a tour ably organised by Brent Lynam. For me, highlights were:

In the second week the planned Pabbay (north) and Scarp trips were initially cancelled, due to high winds and heavy seas, and a possible deal with a local boatman to take us to Seaforth Island had fallen through. However, arrangements were made with some fish farmers, and by lunchtime the baggers were away in two boat-loads to visit Seaforth Island and thence to Pairc on the east side of the loch, where we disembarked to ascend Caiteseal. Only Alison, Alan Dawson and I were up for the longish walk out of this superbly remote area, over Ciopeagal Bheag, Beinn Mhor, Muaitheabhal and Guaineamol to Seaforth Head, where Alan had left his car in the morning (AD: thanks to Pete Milne for the lift back to Ardvourlie). We were so happy at having salvaged a superb afternoon's walk, in good conditions, from a day starting only with disappointment.

The Shiants day was like no other island trip. I opted for the longest available stay on the island and a voyage from Stornoway, with seven of us on the RIB (rigid inflatable boat). Intermediate trips during the day brought others from and to Leumrabhagh. Alison, Tony Whitehead and I struggled up the steep ascent to the Garbh Eilean plateau (assisted by hand-signal directions from Jon Metcalf down on the beach) and on to the summit, Mullach Buidhe.

We then made our way down steep grassy slopes on the east side, leading to a boulder-field inhabited by vast colonies of seabirds, including northern fulmar, great skua, great black-backed gull, herring gull, European shag, Atlantic puffin, common guillemot and razorbill - thanks Tony. There we were on 1 June, the first permitted public access day as the nesting season drew to a close, and the last entry in the bothy book was the previous July. A pleasant stroll on the peninsula of Eilean an Taighe, with its 125m Yeaman, almost concluded a brilliant outing, but not before fishing lessons from the skipper and an exciting, bumpier and wetter return sailing to Stornoway.

Just in time, the swell running onto Horgabost beach settled, and on the last day the group took the short RIB ride to Taransay, thus completing ten out of ten small Marilyn islands in the Outer Hebrides, plus 33 on the bigger islands.

Kathy and I enjoyed some superb camper van coastal parking spots, the most stunning being Horgabost beach and Berneray. Two weeks after sailing from Oban to Castlebay on Barra, we returned via Tarbert and Uig and thence to Fort Augustus for the annual RHB meet, where Brent was justly awarded an MBE: Master of Boat Excursions. A final Marilyn visit to Burach raised my holiday (and annual) total to 44.

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