‘You could never tire of this view’ – is an expression that we are all familiar with, especially on this trip.
However the fact that, in 1837, the William Nicol left Isle Ornsay for New South Wales with 322 emigrants on board including 70 families from Sleat is a stark reminder that life here has not always been benign. The wildness of the landscape and weather signified a life here that was harsh, marginal and at times unforgiving. Any draw that the views may have had on those people was insufficient to deter them from embarking on a long and uncertain voyage which had, at journey’s end, a promise of better things.
We were not however tiring of the views – the magnificent surroundings accompanied by the aroma of our breakfast of locally-smoked kippers being gently heated in butter formed another new memory for us.
Our plan for the day was to make it as far as Glenelg and the following day onward from there to Kyle. At 7 miles and 6 miles respectively these are not great distances but there are plenty of places to stop and explore and there would be some shuttling to and fro’ for our shore worriers especially as it was our plan to try to get everyone on the water – a passenger in each skiff and four in ‘The Pirate’ – so that we could pay a visit to Sandaig and the Sandaig Islands.
Sandaig – known as ‘the Jewel in the Crown of Sleat – is also the location for Gavin Maxwell’s ‘Camusfearna’ in his otter story Ring of Bright Water. It is simply stunning and there’s a great chance that we might indeed catch a glimpse of otters; we have seen otters at various locations on our trip but always when we were on the water and on the move.
Some of us did get to see a family of otters scurrying across the rocks, they are a reasonably common here and even though we’ve seen them a number of times their industry and apparent curiosity gladdens the heart. Those of us from the South West do not get the opportunity to see them very often.
We spent a relaxing time at Sandaig, in no particular rush as this was the penultimate day of this particular section and tomorrow we would be busy not just with rowing but with packing up and preparing for our respective homeward journeys.
Onward then to Glenelg, the plan is to beach here overnight and then to get back across the sound using ‘The Pirate’ so that we could pick up our vehicles which had been left on the far shore. We had not wanted to risk queuing for the Kylerhea ferry, however it is the last remaining turntable ferry in use in this part of the world so we were keen to have a look at it.
Our planning today had involved some concerted discussion about tide times and tidal flows. The southern part of the Sound of Sleat is not affected by any great tidal movement. However, as the sound narrows into the bottleneck at Kylerhea the flow can reach 8 knots at peak flow. We needed relatively slack water for the crossing back to Skye and everything had been geared timewise around this. We would leave the full ‘cork out of a bottle’ rowing experience until tomorrow. Right now ‘cork out of a bottle’ had a different meaning for our thirsty contingent.
Once safely back on Skye some of us decided to investigate the otter hide at Kylerhea, something we’d not encountered before.
Our patience was rewarded – we watched a family for about 20 minutes – scouring the shore for pickings before they moved on. Time then to head on back to the campsite.
Another big day achieved! More to look forward to tomorrow but mixed feelings, for some it would be time to say farewell to new-found friends. Rich memories to be treasured.