Holiday to Mingulay^

Places, technique, kayaks, safety, the sea...
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Mark R
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Holiday to Mingulay^

Post by Mark R » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:11 pm

Just got back...

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Last edited by Mark R on Fri Jun 09, 2006 12:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Dave Thomas » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:44 pm

Now that's what I call wallpaper ....

Looking forward to seeing some more.

Dave Thomas

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Post by Chas C » Sun Jun 04, 2006 9:23 pm

Is that Google Earth looking down on to the Russian tundra ??.

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Post by CaileanMac » Sun Jun 04, 2006 9:23 pm

MarkR,

Is it your take on 'modern' sea kayak art? ;-)

Looking forward to hearing about your trip to the Barra Head Islands.

CaileanMac

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Post by Mark R » Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:18 pm

I'll dig through the photos in due course (not great, in any case) but here's a summary of our last week...

We had planned for months back to try and get to Mingulay, which has fascinated me for a while. For those who don't know, there is a chain of uninhabited islands at the very southern tip of the Outer Hebrides, sometimes called the 'Bishop's Isles'. People abandoned the islands about 100 years ago. Mingulay is the biggest. Although there are no huge crossings to get to these isles, they are very much exposed and out on a limb.

However, it became obvious that the weather was going to be pretty poor, and we almost cancelled our trip. We finally decided to go anyway, remembering a great holiday that we had in the Western Isles ten years ago...it would be nice just to get back out there.

Friday night...snuck out of work early and we made the mad dash north, sleeping in the car at Gretna Services.

Saturday...left the car in the Tescos carpark at Oban and caught the ferry to Barra. I didn't think it was that rough, but Heather kept running to the toilets. We wheeled the boats off the boat at Castlebay and camped outside the Police Station. This didn't stop some local kid chucking Heather's boat in a ditch. Not much for teenagers to do on Barra, I guess.

Sunday...the weather was really poor, stiff winds from the west. We walked up Heaval (highest point on Barra) and then loaded up for the epic crossing to the other side of Castle Bay, all of one mile away. It took the best part of an hour to edge around the bay, but at the other end we camped on our own beach and island; a piddly turfed rock called 'Uinessan' (I think), connected to Vatersay by sand at low tide.

Monday...the winds shifted to the north, and it was bloody freezing. We walked around the island of Vatersay in blazing sunshine whilst dressed up in winter hillwalking gear. We did not launch that day. My birthday.

Tuesday...the north wind eased slightly, and finally we got out of sight of Castlebay. In the afternoon we launched and crossed to Sandray, the first of the Bishop's Isles. We knew that there was going to be a lull in the weather the next day (before the winds shifted around to SW Force 6-7) and that this evening would be our one chance to get to Mingulay. We tried to cross to the next island, Pabbay. The wind was stiff and cold, the sea was heaving, and the tides were flowing...quite a serious crossing and boy, did it ever feel wild and lonely out there! On the plus side, Heather was paddling awesomely well and we were determined. However, two thirds of the way across, the VHF crackled to life with an updated weather forecast from Stornoway Coastguard. It was not a good forecast, and with the fate of the Wirral paddlers (spent a week stuck on Pabbay the previous month) very much in mind, we turned back and camped on Sandray. Our chance to reach Mingulay had passed.

Wednesday...the day dawned fine and clear, with light winds, not according with the forecast at all. We made a snap decision to just go for it - all the way there and back in one day - so packed quickly and headed south. We reached Mingulay easily, and it was simply awesome, everything we hoped for. The 800 foot cliffs, the thousands of puffins, the deserted village...we spent a few hours exploring and then launched for the return journey. We obviously had to get all the way back to Castlebay, and we had to stay ahead of the nasty new weather coming in. It was a long cold paddle as the rain, cloud and wind closed in, but assisted by rising winds from the SW. We made it! Heather insisted on a hot shower after twenty miles of open ocean, so we checked in at the hostel.

Thursday...horrid weather for paddling, so we bussed around Barra and went walking. Surreally, we were adopted by the hostel dog for a day who hopped on and off the buses with us. In the evening, we took the ferry back to Oban.

Friday...we hoped to go visit the Garvellachs as an overnight trip, but it was too windy. Instead we set off to day paddle around Lunga (opposite Seil and Luing) but had to turn back from the west side of the island, too windy and choppy.

Saturday...we headed south and got drunk to celebrate the birthday of a friend in Oxfordshire. Etc.


We may have encountered lousy paddling conditions in the past week, but perversely, that almost made us appreciate our trip more. We really feel that we 'earned' our short visit to Mingulay, and frankly, we're quite proud that we pulled it off. The Bishop's Isles are among the loveliest places we've been privileged to visit, and we've visited a few...
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Post by Mark R » Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:26 pm

These are the Bishops Isles...

Image

Bigger version.

The foreground is Castlebay on the island of Barra (population c1500). Spot the castle.

The two headlands behind that are the island of Vatersay (tiny isle of Uinessan is far left), population 100.

Then, going backwards towards the horizon...Sandray, Pabbay, Mingulay, Berneray, population zero.

After that is Brazil...
Last edited by Mark R on Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Jim » Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:32 pm

Sounds great!

I think I have concluded now that sea kayaking is mainly about taking a week to go and sit at a good location where you can make the most of whatever good days nature decides to let you have, and for the rest of the time - kick back, enjoy yourself, get some rest, do some planning or hiking or whatever. It really is your own time to make of what you will, the office certainly won't be calling you up and even if they try - what can you really do, nothing!

Peversely I really enjoy a good storm and/or high winds, as long as my shelter is sound and I'm merely an observer.....

As for that Monday, we were in a relatively much more sheltered spot but headed south in those northerlies - I recorded 17.5 kmph on open water with no significant tide and I'm pretty sure I was stern ruddering at the time. It was wild, we nearly regretted aiming for a lee shore, something which remembered to cross my mind just after we kicked off from the last point of shelter and had committed ourselves!

Must make it to the western isles sometime soon!

JIM

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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:18 am

Hello Mark, glad you had a good time despite the weather and well done on getting to Mingulay! So near, yet so far.


When we go to the outer hebrides we go from Skye to North Uist and take the car so that gives some flexibility once you are over there as you can drive south or north on the 200km chain. Last year we had intended going to attempt the Mingulay trip but the weather was force 6/7 in Barra but only 4/5 in Harris/Lewis, so we headed north.

Douglas

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Post by Helen M » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:49 am

Looks a fantastic place. We were lucky enough to get 5 good days out in North Uist last year before the Force 8+ closed in. Maybe this year we'll make it further down. Wednesday was one of our best paddling days on Mull too. Made it out to Staffa. Those wee weather widows makes it all worthwhile.

H - x

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Post by Zoe Newsam » Mon Jun 05, 2006 8:41 am

:0) Awesome.


Happy Birthday Mark...
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Post by Mark R » Mon Jun 05, 2006 7:23 pm

Photos now at http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/mingulay

Diehards only - they are what they are, I'm afraid. Artistic endeavour was not high on our mission priority list, had we even enjoyed the conditions to permit it.
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Post by CaptainSensible » Mon Jun 05, 2006 7:33 pm

Art be stuffed! I value photographs for information/reference and those are fine (even the arty ones)

Did you get permission before publishing the "Heather stuffing her face" pic?

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Post by Mark R » Mon Jun 05, 2006 9:54 pm

zoenewsam wrote:Happy Birthday Mark...
Thanks. What a marvellous place to celebrate my 25th!


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Post by Zoe Newsam » Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:18 pm

Lovely photos, as ever- you went to some of the same places we did. I was completely blown away by Mingulay too, and would love to go back. We had the good fortune to be able to camp on the island & paddle around it- an experience I'll never forget. I felt very priveleged.

I seem to remember there's a local legend about a sleeping woman whose silhouette can be seen looking south from Barra towards the Barra Head islands. You can sort of see the shape in this shot:

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Post by Helen M » Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:23 pm

Umm .. Mark .. Olay do a fantastic anti wrinkle type stuff. You are, obviously, not using it! Now 35 I could have accepted. 25 is too hard to believe!

But what a fantastic place to spend your birthday. My birhtday in Feb kinda goes unoticed! Very cold! Think I need a second birthday (like the Queen) in ... umm June/July/Agust (covering all options!)

Second birthday everyone? In fantastic weather ... OK .. idea .. floating birthdays!

Think we should all have proper b'day and floating b'day - we choose date of special day!

Mine would have been 31 May and getting out to Staffa in good weather! Umm .. so far this year! Maybe wait till end of year to decide? What do people think?

H - x

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Post by Mark R » Mon Jun 05, 2006 11:14 pm

zoenewsam wrote:I seem to remember there's a local legend about a sleeping woman whose silhouette can be seen looking south from Barra towards the Barra Head islands.
Last time we were out that way, we heard something similar (from some daftly intense new agey types) about the skyline viewed from the Callanish stones. Apparently it solved the whole mystery of the stones, provided you turned up on the correct day for astronomical alignments, and also did something or other with sheep's skulls. No, really.
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Post by Jim » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:06 am

They say that the hills on Arran (the entire ridge) look like a sleeping giant, and the same goes for the Old Man of Coniston, it's how the hill got it's name. I guess it's a bit like looking for shapes in clouds, they are there if you look hard enough!

Helen - those aren't age wrinkles, they are teaching wrinkles! All those ancient teachers you had at school who you kept expecting to retire or drop dead were actually only in their 20's or 30's!

Still the holidays make up for it!

JIM

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Post by DannyT » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:49 pm

MarkR wrote: The foreground is Castlebay on the island of Barra (population c1500). Spot the castle.
Isnt that where they filmed some of the Monty Python Series? I recall being there before, But cant remember it very well.

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Post by Mark R » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:00 pm

DannyT wrote:Isnt that where they filmed some of the Monty Python Series? I recall being there before, But cant remember it very well.
I don't know about that, but they did film 'Whisky Galore' there.

Obviously I've seen the Ealing comedy many times, and I read the book years ago. All jolly good clean fun!

It was somewhat depressing then, to learn the true story last week...19 men of Eriskay were sent to the mainland and convicted of offences related to the missing cargo of the SS Politician, some serving prison terms.
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Post by Mark R » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:56 pm

Just a postscript to our trip. Two good books describe the Bishop's Isles.

I read this whilst out there, it's basically a run through the archeology of Barra and the Bishop's Isles, giving some insight into the piles of rocks littering the isles. Readable but not completely lightweight, not if words like 'mesolithic' aren't part of your normal dialogue, anyway.

What I really wanted to read was this, but it is out of print and the copy which I ordered before going on holiday never arrived (Baltic Bookshop in Stornoway were out of stock). I have now finally found a copy via http://www.abebooks.co.uk which wasn't cheap, and was seemingly their only copy. It's pretty good from what I have read of it so far, and is basically an essential read if you want to get your head around what you see on the isles. Does anybody know where else it might be available?
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Mingulay

Post by Chris W » Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:49 am

The joys of modern technology- I received Mark's text from the Outer Hebrides whilst sat on a boat in Ha Long Bay!

I had no idea where Mingulay was- it's all starting to make sense now. I remember looking southwards at the islands from the top of that hill on Barra. We only got as far as Sandray- I'd dearly loved to have continued southwards- we had the weather conditions but not the right group!

Chris W.

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Re: Mingulay

Post by Mark R » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:11 am

Knees wrote:The joys of modern technology- I received Mark's text from the Outer Hebrides whilst sat on a boat in Ha Long Bay!
Actually, I texted you from the ferry whilst passing Mull - there was no mobile reception on Barra or the isles.

Communication was a bit of an issue, actually...obviously phones were no use (I often use them for Shipping/ Inshore forecasts). Once past Vatersay, we only got very infrequent contact with the CG via VHF (we could sometimes hear their weather reports but they couldn't ever hear us).

In other words, you are on your own out there...
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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:19 am

MarkR>
In other words, you are on your own out there...
Not so many fishermen to see flares either, after my first visit to the west of the Outer Hebrides, I bought an EPIRB.

Douglas

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Re: Mingulay

Post by Dave Thomas » Fri Jun 09, 2006 9:25 am

... phones were no use .... very infrequent contact with the CG via VHF (we could sometimes hear their weather reports but they couldn't ever hear us) ..... not so many fishermen to see flares either ....
Sobering thoughts! I long for the right group and the right weather window to come together to explore the area - hopefully right out to and including Barra Head. But this highlights still more what a committing trip it is - not only what the geography, weather and tides throw at you, but the remoteness.

Can hardly wait!

Dave Thomas

edited for spelling!
Last edited by Dave Thomas on Fri Jun 09, 2006 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Chris W » Fri Jun 09, 2006 10:03 am

Ah, my mistake Mark. No signal? You surprise me. Presumably you're referring to Barra and the islands to the south and not the entire Outer Hebrides...

Chris W.

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Re: Mingulay

Post by Zoe Newsam » Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:56 pm

MarkR wrote:
Communication was a bit of an issue, actually...obviously phones were no use (I often use them for Shipping/ Inshore forecasts). Once past Vatersay, we only got very infrequent contact with the CG via VHF (we could sometimes hear their weather reports but they couldn't ever hear us).

In other words, you are on your own out there...
We experienced the same thing 2 years ago. We even tried relaying a call to the CG via a tourist boat that was anchored in Mingulay Bay for a while during the evening we camped on Mingulay- they couldn't hear us either: presumably they switch off the VHF as the know there are no relays in the area.
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Mobile Phone Coverage

Post by JHMAC » Sat Jun 10, 2006 6:01 am

Hello Mark, unlucky with the weeks weather but still a great experience I'm sure. Castlebay has no mobile phone coverage yet, but a fair bit of Barra has, infact within a mile of leaving Castlebay going round the west side you can pick up a full strength signal.

Howard

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Post by Mark R » Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:41 pm

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Post by Mark R » Mon Jun 19, 2006 9:15 pm

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Post by Mark R » Tue Jun 27, 2006 10:38 pm

I am writing a touring guide for 'Paddles'. I know various folk here know the area, so...any comments on the draft below please?* Particularly let me know if I've transposed north and south, that sort of thing...it wouldn't be the first time and I have no desire to send anybody off to their doom. Any general comments welcome.


*If you read this now, you must promise to go get a subscription
to 'Paddles' in recompense. Unless you think it's dross.

Cheers,

Mark Rainsley
--------



Paddles Touring Guide – Mingulay and the Bishop’s Isles

What care we though, white the Minch is?
What care we for wind or weather?
Let her go boys; every inch is
Sailing homeward to Mingulay.

Mingulay Boat song, composed 1938


Mingulay? Bishop’s Isles? What? Where? Mingulay is the largest of the Bishop’s Isles, which are themselves the southernmost outliers of the Outer Hebrides. Viewed on a map, the Outer Hebrides resemble a curving spine of some prehistoric dinosaur. The Bishop’s Isles form the tail, flicking out into the open expanses of the Sea of the Hebrides. For sea kayakers, these Isles represent nothing short of wish fulfilment; superlative scenery and wildlife, and even better, the chance to paddle right out to the most exposed and remote margins of Britain.

Most folk will have heard of the island of St Kilda, world famous for its inaccessibility, immense cliffs and huge sea bird populations; perhaps even more famous for being inhabited against all odds until final abandonment in the 1930s. Mingulay is a much less well known, but bears close similarity. Like St Kilda it is difficult to visit and is guarded on three sides by cloud-reaching cliffs harbouring a huge sea bird population. Like St Kilda, it had a well-established community which departed early in the twentieth century, leaving a deserted settlement. Unlike St Kilda however, today it remains uninhabited year-round.

Paddling south from the large inhabited Isle of Barra, there are five main islands. Vatersay is reached first, and is populated and connected to Barra by causeway. Next is Sandray, then Pabbay, then Mingulay and finally Berneray. After this there is only ocean…the Isles have gone by various names, but ‘Bishop’s Isles’ is most common and stems from their sixteenth century ownership by the Bishop of the Isles.

Getting Out There

The Edge of the World doesn’t come easily, quickly or cheaply. Your starting point is the mainland port of Oban. Those familiar with Scotland’s west coast will need no introduction to the ferry company of Caledonian MacBrayne. As the rhyme goes,
“The Good Lord above made the Earth and all that it contains
Except the Western Isles, for they are all MacBrayne's”
Calmac sail to Castlebay on Barra most days of the week, taking about six hours. The latter half of the voyage is across the exposed waters of the Minch strait, whence over-the-side up-chucking may be encountered. Taking a car is expensive and unnecessary. Calmac charge about £20 each way for foot passengers and another £5 for you to carry or ‘trolley’ your sea kayak right onto the car deck. Don’t drag your heels, they’ll close the ramp before you can say, “But we have another kayak…” On arrival you can launch right into the water beside the ferry, or camp outside the Police Station (no, really). Castlebay has a good supermarket and is the place to stock up for your trip. There are no more shops southwest of here, until you reach Brazil!

Island Hopping

The Isles form a chain, each being no further than two miles apart from one another. From Castlebay direct to Mingulay is only twelve miles. They are however exposed to wind and swell from all sides, and can generate strong tidal flows in the Sounds between them. Before setting out, you need several guaranteed days of calm weather and seas. Spare a thought for the group of sea kayakers from northwest England who spent an unscheduled week stuck on Pabbay in May of this year, before being extricated by the Castlebay lifeboat. The Isles may be very near to Castlebay, but if the weather turns against you, ‘near’ becomes a relative concept.

Outside communication is tricky. There is no mobile phone reception from Castlebay southwards (teenagers in your group will slowly go insane). VHF radios will be able to pick up Stornoway Coastguard’s useful weather and maritime safety bulletins, but these get harder to receive when sheltered among the Isles. Contacting them yourself is a lost cause with handheld VHF. The seas are quiet, with only the occasional fishing boat to be seen. It’s very, very, lonely out there. This is why you came, right?

The Locals

Perhaps it isn’t quite so lonely and quiet. The Isles may not be inhabited by humans, but they have plenty of lively residents. Seals and porpoise are common in the surrounding waters, and encounters with whales aren’t unheard of. Heading south from Barra, the skies become increasingly crammed with sea birds. Cormorants and Shags (Shags are the thinner, greener ones) fish from every rock above the surface. Both Common and Black Guillemots are there (no, we didn’t know there were two types, either) and the Isles are home to 15% of Europe’s population of (aptly named) Razorbills. Skuas nest on the hills of Mingulay and fiercely harass anyone unfortunate enough to wander into their territory…known as ‘Bonxies’ these birds deserve ‘ASBO’s. Gannets dive-bomb the seas with their daunting speed and mass. The nauseatingly cute Puffin, everybody’s favourite sea bird…spotting your first pair of puffins on the paddle south is always exciting. Very soon after, the novelty has worn off and the skies are so thick with the little blighters that you can literally swat them out of the air with a random swing of the paddle. Some numbers follow, spare a thought for the fellow who had to count them; the Isles support 10 000 puffins, 45 000 razorbills, 60 000 guillemots. Take a clothes peg.

A further thought…perhaps the most numerous locals are that most deadly and evil of all beasties, the Scottish midge. Take a head net? The good news is that days when the breeze drops enough for the little devils to fly freely are rare indeed!

Vatersay

Vatersay is linked by causeway to Barra. It is only a mile from Castlebay, with a population of about 90. It forms the southern edge of the bay and its sandy coves could be your first stop-off from Castlebay. If you find yourself on Vatersay with time to kill, explore the beaches and dunes which link the two halves of the Isles in a 500 metre wide strip. The glorious white beaches here (like all of those in the region) are composed from ground down seashells. Nestled among the dunes is a memorial marking the mass grave of 350 passengers of the ‘Annie Jane’. These emigrants were sailing to the New World in 1853, when a storm wrecked the ship in the bay. Also to be found among the dunes are the remains of old cars and household appliances, an unfortunately common sight in the inhabited parts of the Western Isles. Another nearby wreck is the hefty chunks of a Catalina flying boat which crashed in WWII. Heading south of Vatersay, this is it…you are now leaving the inhabited world behind.

Sandray

Sandray is only a mile from Vatersay across the Sound of Sandray, and is aptly named. The entire eastern part of the island is composed of massive sand dunes. There are no major cliffs on Sandray, but the indented coast is well worth exploring. If you have time to explore inland, try crossing the island by the central valley and ‘bealach’ (pass), or perhaps ascend to the dramatic ruins of a galleried ‘dun’ (fort) perched on the west flanks of Cairn Ghaltair, the highest hill. Although Sandray is the nearest of the uninhabited Isles to Barra, it is oddly the least visited. Spend a night in gloomy Glen Mor, camped among the scattered and broken remnants of past settlements; if you don’t feel spooked, you are braver folk than us.

Pabbay

Pabbay is reached by a more serious three mile crossing, directly exposed to the Atlantic swell. The best landing spot is Bagh Ban, the almost Caribbean white sands on the eastern side. Behind the beach are yet more dunes. A rocky burial mound has a metre-long decorated stone laid upon it; this Pictish inscribed stone is almost unique to the Western Isles, being more usually found in far-away Orkney and Shetland. Pabbay’s west coast is much more impressive than Sandray’s, should the weather be obliging enough. The highlight is the ‘Arch Wall’, an enormous overhanging cliff of smooth granite.

Mingulay

From Pabbay, it is two miles further across Caolas Mhiughlaigh (the Sound of Mingulay) to Mingulay itself. The excitement mounts as you approach the landing beach on the eastern coast. The skies thicken with puffins from the colony on the northern edge of the bay, and the resident seal colony swim out to greet you. Keep a lookout for the tide races which can sometimes make approaching the Isle awkward, and be aware that landing and launching may be a problem with swell from the east.

Was it worth all the fuss? Yes. You are stepping into another world, one in which time has largely stood still since the last islanders left in 1912. Among the dunes facing the beach is the village, which is remarkably intact. The thick walls of abandoned blackhouses stand proud against the encroaching sand, slowly but inexorably engulfing the whole settlement. Two larger buildings stand behind the village; the Priest’s house had its roof blown clean off in the ‘90s and is now ruinous, whilst the schoolhouse has been re-roofed and is used by occasional visiting shepherds.

Behind the village, the fields are still – inexplicably – clearly delineated and clear of weeds, and the remnants of an old mill decay beside the main burn. Heading up the hill towards the obvious gap between hills, a genuinely heart stopping sight awaits those with enough energy left to ascend all the way. As you close on the cleft, you feel the musty breeze rising from the western side of Mingulay, and carried on it is the screeching noise and dank stench of a billion defecating auks. You have reached the cleft of Bulnacraig. Directly below your feet – you are standing on an overhang! - are eight hundred feet of air, a vertigo-inducing void hemmed in by some of the largest and sheerest cliffs in Europe. You’ve never seen anything like this.

If you have a window of windless weather, you’ll want to camp here and explore further. The best of all possible worlds would be, calm enough seas for the paddle around Mingulay and Berneray. Unsurpassable caves, clefts, stacks…incredible beyond description. As you pass the three hundred foot high stack of Lianamuil, think of the villagers who regularly climbed it in order to add seabird to their stews. This paddle offers simply the most staggering sights that the U.K.’s (World’s?) coast can offer. Go see.

Berneray

Berneray is the final island, mainly notable for the Barra Head lighthouse which sits atop the south facing cliffs. Landing is awkward due to the lack of a beach, but a small jetty can be reached a mile across the Sound of Berneray from Mingulay. A track winds up to the lighthouse, beside which the remains of Dun Briste (much depleted for the lighthouse construction) can be explored. Should it be possible, the paddle around Barra Head, the exposed side of Berneray, is a final treat. This is the place. The World ends here.

Not Ready Yet?

The paddles described here are best suited to experienced sea kayakers, or at least, groups supervised by those who know what they’re doing. If you want to sample the fantastic sea kayaking of the area without the commitment, a visit is still recommended. The coasts and beaches of Barra offer many sheltered options for day trips with civilisation still in sight. Those wanting to dip their toes under supervision may want to contact Clearwater Paddling (www.clearwaterpaddling.com) who have a base in Castlebay and run guided trips. Even if you don’t feel up to the paddle to Mingulay, a day trip there on a local fishing boat is recommended…see the Tourist Office near the ferry terminal.

Tides

The tide begins flowing east between the Isles 5 hours and 5 minutes after High Water at Ullapool. It begins flowing west 1 hour and 40 minutes before High Water at Ullapool. In the Sounds of Sandray and Mingulay, the tide flow reaches 3 knots at springs. In the Sound of Pabbay, the tide reaches 4 knots. The east-going flows are stronger and tidal races can be encountered at the eastern end of each sound.

Berneray is slightly different. In the Sound of Berneray and south of Berneray, tide flows reach 2.5 knots. The tide begins flowing east 6 hours before High Water at Ullapool, and flows east for 4 hours and 15 minutes. It begins flowing west 1 hour and 45 minutes before High Water at Ullapool, and flows west for 8 hours and 15 minutes.

Further Reading

‘Western Isles Pilot’ by Martin Lawrence, Imray Norie books
‘Mingulay’ by Ben Buxton – unfortunately out of print and hard to find!
‘Barra and the Bishop’s Isles, Living on the Margin’ by Keith Branigan and Patrick Foster
‘The Scottish Islands’ by Hamish Haswell-Smith
‘Admiralty Chart 2769, Barra Head to Greian Head’ – detailed chart of the Isles
‘Imray Chart C65, Crinan to Mallaig and Barra’ – overview chart
Ordnance Survey Explorer 452 – Barra & Vatersay
‘Scottish Sea Kayaking’ by Doug Cooper and George Reid

Useful Websites

www.calmac.co.uk - ferries
www.lonely-isles.com – great intro
http://www.nts-seabirds.org.uk/properti ... gulay.aspx - birdlife
www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk/mingulay - photos.
www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk/forum - advice
http://web.ukonline.co.uk/mountains/barra5.htm - photos
www.isleofbarra.com – contacts for boat charters, accommodation, etc.


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