Oban to Dunstaffnage – Section 4 | Day 6

Oban’s St Moluag is to cruise in company with the two Loch Awe skiffs, Mingulay and Cruachan, who were keen to row on some salty water, with an evening departure for the workers (and the tide) on this reorganised bank holiday for VE Day. The three skiffs were to row this in two legs, the first 7km on Friday evening from Oban to Dunstaffnage (red track) and the second, 20km, from Dunstaffnage to Port Appin on Saturday (yellow track).

Looking northwest across Oban Harbour, Lismore and Mull in the distance
A ferry entering the harbour, with the island of Kerrera behind
Ganavan Sands (photo, WalkHighland)

St Moluag leaves the slip and rows across Oban Harbour, watching out for the frequent CalMac car ferries out to the islands, through the northern entrance inside Maiden Island. The Loch Awe skiffs Mingulay and Cruachan launch at Ganavan Sands to make up the flotilla, passing a fishfarm and entering Dunstaffnage Bay between the Castle on Rubha Garbh and Eilean Mor.

The SAMS campus and Dunstaffnage Castle on the peninsula; Lynn of Lorn and the hills of Mull behind, looking back towards Ganavan (photo, SAMS)
Dunstaffnage means fort from the Celtic ‘Dun’ and ‘staffnage’ meaning mast or staff from the Norse. So this bay, where the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), Dunstaffnage Marina and Alba Sailing are based, most probably has an ancient seafaring history. (See the Scottish Historical Review here)

The skiffs overnight at the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) slipway at Dunstaffnage, where a number of the Oban crew work or study.

We planned to join with Historic Environment Scotland for an event based at Dunstaffnage Castle. The castle dates back to the 13th century, making it one of Scotland’s oldest stone castles; it was built by the MacDougall lords of Lorn, and has been held since the 15th century by the Clan Campbell.

Dunstaffnage Marina, from SAMS, looking towards Ben Cruachan

The bay at Dunstaffnage is also the site of a UK Meteorological Office long-term climate monitoring site. This has been recording meteorological data since the early 1970s. Shown below is a timeseries of the monthly averaged maximum temperatures over the past 47 years. The global warming signal is remarkably clear: the straight-line warming is 1.31°C. At the latitudes of Oban, we are warming at a rate faster than the global average because we are impacted by the much more rapid warming taking place in the Arctic. This Arctic amplification occurs because the sea-ice is disappearing, exposing the dark sea-water which efficiently absorbs solar radiation, a positive feedback, which accelerates the melting ice, causing more warming.

Timeseries of the monthly averaged maximum temperatures at the UK Met. Office long-term climate monitoring station at Dunstaffnage. The monthly data have been smoothed (red line), and the long-term climate warming is indicated by the straight line (black). The warming is 1.31°C over 47 years. The 95% confidence intervals of the linear fit are shown by the dashed black lines.