Thursday, 8 July 2010

Loch Ailort and the abandoned Peanmeanach village

It had been another hectic week at work so as soon as it was over I packed the inflatable boat into the car and headed north. I didn’t care where I was going, I just wanted away from computers and ringing phones. As I travelled north, I kept thinking of my recent journey to Arisaig so decided to head back that way. This time however I stopped at Loch Ailort instead of Loch Nan Ceall.

Arriving at the loch side around 21.00 hours I found a suitable lay by to park so I could sleep in the car overnight. It was a lovely calm evening and was the first time this year that the midges started to bother me. I was at the waters edge setting up my fishing rod when they descended in a black cloud. Fortunately the midge repellent stopped them biting but it was uncomfortable feeling them crawl over my face. I must invest in a midge net for my hat.

The sun soon soothed my itches with its golden touch. It was the best sunset I have witnessed this year.

Long after the sun had set, the afterglow still illuminated the sky, in fact it never really got dark that night. I love those long days and short light nights of June. Winter was long forgotten

I slept in the car until the sun started to rise and was dressed and ready to go at 4am. That’s when I took this photo of the islands of Eilean nan Gobhar and Sger Ghlas which are at the mouth of Loch Ailort. I was planning on exploring the larger of the two as the OS map shows it had two forts built on it.

I drove a couple of miles back to Alisary on the south shore of Loch Ailort because I wanted to explore the internal loch first and there was a reasonable park place with a launch point for the boat. Half an hour later it was inflated and in the water ready to go. There was still not a breath of wind and the tide was almost out. I had a happy heart as I set off to see places that I had never seen before.

I rowed across to the northern shores where there is no road. I was hoping to see an otter or two and some seals. As I drifted behind the island of Eilean Buide I discovered this abandoned fishing boat. With the Scottish fishing industry in decline, many have been abandoned round our shores. I guess it a sign of the times, just like many crofts and small highland villages were abandoned a few decades before.

As the fishing fleets declined, more and more seafood farms have appeared. I guess the locals have to earn a pound or two some way. I rowed down the line of buoys which support the ropes where the mussels grow. There were quite a few farms in the loch and little sign of seals. I couldn’t help wonder if there was a connection ?

Continuing west along the coast, I passed through the narrows between the mainland and Eilean nam Bairneach. I ate my breakfast as the boat drifted slowly through. When the tide turns, the current here will be as strong as a river.

As I went, I tried to note where rocks were that may be semi submerged on my return journey. I didn’t want a tear in the inflatable by hitting one. These two gulls look more at home here than scrabbling on the rubbish tips of the mainland.

I reached the abandoned village of Peanmeanach. The remaining croft which used to be the Post Office is now a bothy. The village was last inhabited around the 1940’s so it is not from the highland clearances. I guess it was just too isolated and hard to make a living. There were a couple of tents outside the village so I decided to continue to the next bay to land. I didn’t want to disturb their wilderness experience.

The waters around the coast are crystal clear, unlike the Firth of Forth or the Clyde which always look murky to me. There is a lovely sandy beach in front of this ruined croft

The cement stone walls prove its quite a recent croft

The view from the window was something to die for, I wondered who on earth would want to leave that view behind but I guess it’s a different story come winter ?

Next I set my sights on the Island of Eilean nan Gobhar, There was no tidal flow so it was an easy row across on the flat calm sea.

As I approached the island I had an sneaky feeling I was being watched.
Yup.. it was not a watch dog ..but this large gray seal that was keeping a close eye on me.

I landed on the Island and climbed to the highest point. Its only 40 meter high but what a view. I found the remains of the fort walls. I had read that it was a vitrified fort and wondered what that meant. When I say the remaining walls I discovered that it looked as though the stones were cemented together with lava. It turns out that around 2000 years ago, the fort builders built huge fires around the stone walls to melt the rocks together.

This is a view of the smaller island of Sger Ghlas. The only interest on it for me, was a few seabirds

A couple of cormorants were watching everything that passed their way

While these two mooning heron gulls were less interested in my progress

A little off shore of the islands ..I drifted with the fishing line down and caught my supper .. a Pollack of edible size. No mackerel were found ..I guess they have not arrived yet ?

I headed back for the mainland and rowed along the rocky coast. I saw every inch of the sea bed..the water was so clear.

I landed on a lovely sandy beach for lunch. I was now at my half way mark for this journey.

There was not a footprint to be seen in the sand. Not many people will visit this beach. You can just make out my boat at the end of the sands to give some scale to the beach

As I was having lunch..I couldn’t believe the sea fog which started to engulf everything. At one point I could only see around 50 yards in front of me. I headed for the launching point by following the coast when I could see it. I also made good use of my compass and map. Yup..even at sea you have to know how to navigate.

It wasn't until I was I was almost back at the launch point that the fog started to clear

When I landed, it was a lovely sunny day again

Then by the time I had deflated the boat and packed everything away, the fog was returning in the Sound of Arisaig.

Ah matter..I was heading for home and I had a great day.


Alex said...

It was very interesting discovering your blog.I also have small inflatable and done the Eilean nan Gobhar / secret beach trip about 4 years ago.Scientists have tried to recreate the vitreous wall technique to this day without success would you believe.!
Being a bit of a fearty and a non swimmer I don`t get out on the boat as often as I should do but after looking at your blog that may well change.still paranoid about the outboard packing in though.!

Alex said...

Try as I might it refuses to let me follow your blog.will try again later...


Donny Wilcox said...

Hi Alex.. Im kind of new to this blog thing so I cant help in how to follow it..but hopefully you can. Its nice seeing someone else with a small inflatable. I know your feelings about the outboard letting you down and thats why I carry the two now.