Scotland 07/18 | Mist & Rain on the Sandaig Islands

It was an early awakening, followed by a wander down to the water while Callum slept on. The tide was almost at the exact same point that we left it the previous evening and you will all be pleased to hear… no stranded jellyfish this time!

I positioned myself on the larger rock, which sat much further out in the water. With my legs dangling over the edge I watched as the water rolled up the shore and away again, there wasn’t a sound other than songbirds and the repetitive motion of the sea. The sky was overcast with a silvery shimmer to it, heavy clouds hung over the tops, pouring and dispersing into the lacklustre sky, the water was far less bright than the previous day but still offered glimpses of that aqua-blue within its movement. Every so often a wave would come in with more power than the rest and splash up the rocks, catching my feet before returning to its calmer demeanor.

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Callum woke up and after a couple of chapters we started our day right with sausage and mushroom baguettes on the beach, Carnivore Cal was joined me in having the meat free version this particular morning (pork stored in a warm van with no refrigeration would probably not bode well!) Moving on to venture further north, we had to head back through Fort William and decided to stop in at the Glenfinnan Monument (NTS) on our way past. It was a typical tourist attraction, busier than the places we usually frequent on these trips, but still worth a nosey.

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There is a short walk up a small hillock, from the top you and look down onto the monument and the water which stretches out behind it as well as looking into the hills, across to the Glenfinnan viaduct. We were lucky with our timing, just as we arrived we could hear the Jacobite steam train approaching and got to catch a glimpse of it heading over the viaduct – it’s always nice to see those postcard scenes in real life! Another short meander down to the shore and the monument and we were ready to move on, leaving the crowds behind.

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We swiftly made our way north-west towards Glenelg and what a great route to drive – forests, lochs and mountains galore! It was overcast but bright with a lot to look at as we drove – we did manage to get stuck behind a couple of painfully slow motorhomes on route and had to do some nifty overtaking (I realise moaning about motorhomes may seem a little hypocritical whilst sat in my campervan, however ours is a nippy wee thing and drives much like a car!) Twisting and turning we continued our journey and before reaching the crossing onto Skye, we drove west over the Mam Ratagan Pass to one of our favourite little fishing villages.

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This pass is another fun road to drive; a single track surrounded either side by towering trees. Climbing steeply it offers fantastic views over the Five Sisters from the top. After this it drops down the other side, winding as it had on the way up, amidst the same trees until you reach the low land and the village beneath. Coming over the top we realised the bad weather had been brooding on the other side of the hills, dropping down and heading towards the coast the clouds thickened, dropped to head height and the drizzle set in. Perfect weather for a walk!

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We headed out on the old forestry commission tracks, which would make up the main basis for the walk. The felling here had been done some time ago and this particular tree graveyard had had time for a little re-gen. The stumps and other debris sported mosses and lichens; and bracken had grown up around it all in swathes, although messy it was green and alive. The track undulates quite dramatically but was mostly downhill on the way to the Islands we were going to explore today. We passed through a small patch of native woodland, with some ruined dry stone walls tucked in the shadows and then out onto a stretch of long grass, leading down to the sand.

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The day was still wet, grey and unappealing, which meant there was nobody else around. Sandaig Islands are a cluster of about 5 mounds of land, connected to each other and the mainland during low tide but appear to be their own small land masses at high tide. The tide was on its way in when we got down to them, but we had plenty of time to explore. We had to cross a fairly deep stream to get onto the first of the islands and I nimbly made it across one section, Callum was dubious and continued to search for a safer crossing but ended up coming back and using my spot any way.

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The first island is covered in small boulders leading up to the grassy bank, a small copse of trees sits on one side of the cresent shaped bay with rocks and shrubs on the other. Over the bank you dip down to cross over to the next island, the sandy crossing is obviously only covered by a small depth of water and acts as trap, it was covered in shells. Mostly the same types, but so many that it was hard to walk without crunching over them. On the sheltered side there was another sandy bay, however the water was moving in calmly (unlike the other side which had the help of the wind), it was washed in gloomy green colours and the seaweed swayed back and forth in the calming motion.

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Heading up the next bank, which had thistles and other wild flowers growing on it, we looked down onto the next crossing which was more rock than sand. The tide had come in a fair way and was already lapping the edges of the islands ahead of us and we decided that we had gone far enough, lest we end up stuck out there in the rain for the next 12 hours!

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Heading back we noticed a small tent tucked away in the trees, it looked like it had been there a while and our curiosity got the better of us. After  hearing no answer, we decided to have a look inside and I couldn’t help but get the horrible gut feeling that there was a good chance we were about to uncover something gruesome and macabre. Fortunately no such thing happened, although it had been left completely intact, roll mat inflated and light still hanging from the ceiling, which was a little eerie considering it had been there so long that bracken had started growing in and around it.

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After walking along what was left of the beach, and heading over to what looked like a cave (but turned out to be a far less exciting overhang) we retraced our steps and headed back across the sand, through the woodlands, up the wide gravel tracks and back to the van – pleasantly soaked but not as wet as I thought we would be considering. We dried off and decided to find somewhere to camp, after a drive we found a cool spot with a big sea view, a wide expanse of water to the horizon with the edge of Skye to one side. Unfortunately the mist hung around all evening, but came in waves, so visibility would improve and then worsen with every glance. Due to the dreary weather it darkened much earlier, but it was dry and we were able to doze off with the door open for a while – watching the lighthouse flash on and off through the gloom.

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