Monday, 6 September 2010

Hebridean Holiday - Part 2 - Isle of Mingulay

It was my birthday while we were staying on Barra and my birthday treat was a boat trip to Mingulay. This is the most southerly but one of the Outer Hebrides chain of islands and was inhabited up until 1912 when the population level dropped too low to be sustainable.

The weather that day was wonderful - warm and sunny with just a light breeze. The sea was almost mirror calm. We set off in the M.V. Boy James at 10am from the slipway in Castlebay. When I say "we" I mean me, the skipper, Donald Macleod and the other holiday makers - my husband elected to stay on shore because he really doesn't like small boats.

About an hour into the sail we slowed right down to watch basking sharks. I had seen them in the distance in the past but never as close as this - just about 10 feet away these massive 30 foot long plankton eating sharks were quite a sight.

Wind and tide were in our favour and the skipper was able to take us right round the west coast of the island past some spectacular cliffs and through a narrow channel spanned by a natural arch.

On the east coast of the island there is a lovely sandy beach and we disembarked on the rocks at the north end of the beach for 3 hours on shore. I set off uphill across the narrowest part of the island to Eagle Cliff. Unfortunately the eagles were not to be seen that day, but the cliffs were perhaps even more spectacular when seen from the top. I sat up there to eat my picnic lunch but soon had to start walking again to escape the midges.

I walked along the ridge of the hills for a while getting the most of the midge-moving breeze before heading back down to the beach.
The remains of the village are still clearly visible as are the lazybeds field system that were in use a century ago. I took lots of photographs, including quite a few wild flowers that I will use for the basis of some new designs for our "moor and machair" range of floral designs on our bags and purses.

There were more sharks on the way back to Barra, plus lots of seabirds to watch and it seemed no time at all before we were back on shore.

What a wonderful day out - possibly the most memorable birthday I have ever had, topped of by a meal at the Craigard Hotel - in their conservatory dining room overlooking the bay while the sun set slowly in the west.

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