Rum and Whisky

A potentially strenuous week of sea kayaking around the Small Isles became a much more laid-back holiday due to the high winds that disrupted our original plans. Although we paddled on 6 out of 7 days they were only short journeys to get to some of the idyllic beach-side campsites that this part of Scotland can offer.

Among the skerries off Arisaig

The fact that tourist vehicles are not allowed on any of the isles will give you some idea of what to expect. Eigg is the most populated with about 100 residents. It is a community run island, and very welcoming and friendly. An Sgurr (393m), the island’s dominant feature, is an absolute must-do hill walk – an outstanding ascent with spectacular views.

The mountains of Rum & Skye from An Sgurr, Eigg

Thanks to a retired wildlife ranger who lived near our camp we could get up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and revised ferry timetables. So, the following morning we risked the waves and the wind to get back to the harbour and return to Mallaig on the mainland via the ferry.

Harbour ramp at Loch Scresort, Rum

Later in the week we got the ferry to Rum (a bargain at just over £8.00 return including our loaded sea kayaks for a 1hr 15min crossing). By contrast the people here were less welcoming (except the helpful ferry man and the energetic Kinloch Castle tour guide). Perhaps thousands of tourists and a National Nature Reserve with a herd of over 1500 red deer don’t mix, but we were glad to escape Kinloch and paddle around to Caves Bay on the east coast. We stayed on this isolated beach for 2 nights, where plenty of driftwood, food and whisky ensured hours of contentment sat on the beach by the fire. Tracks on the beach in the morning suggested that we were visited overnight by both an otter and red deer. During the day, we walked along the coast to the famous bothy called Dibidil before striking up into the hills where a golden eagle and many red deer graced us with their presence. Heard but not seen were the burrowing Manx shearwaters. Some 120,000 pairs live high on the mountain and only venture out to feed in the middle of the night. From the top of Rum’s highest mountain, Askival (812m) it was obvious that a complete traverse of the Cuillin of Rum would be a sporty scramble and would have to wait for a return visit.

Caves Bay, Rum

Perhaps our most usual wildlife sighting was what we first thought were dolphins and then porpoises. However, Martin made the crucial observation that they did not have fins! As we got closer it became apparent that they were young common seals ‘porpoising’ along. Not something either of us had witnessed before.

So, no midges, dramas or epics. Just a very satisfying paddling holiday.

Rum and whisky


By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
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