Just a typical Sunday evening RIB ride

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I am now better located to visit the abundance of lighthouses on the islands surrounding Scotland and here is a perfect example.

On Sunday morning, shortly after agreeing that we would head over to Wick to catch one of the regular wildlife boat tours that sail around Duncansby Head, Bob received a call from Caithness Seacoast to say that they would be heading out to Muckle Skerry that evening. Previously, while I was living in London and needed to head back on a Sunday afternoon/evening, we would have had to turn the opportunity down and hope for a future Saturday trip to go ahead. With my recent relocation to the north coast we can now be a lot more flexible and change our plans, particularly when it means bagging a new lighthouse!

Muckle Skerry sits about 7.3km (4.5 miles) north east of Duncansby Head (the most north easterly point on mainland UK) and is the largest of the four uninhabited islands that make up the Pentland Skerries. Pentland Skerries lighthouse is on the north of Muckle Skerry and is partnered with another tower (without the light room and optic).

As we left home we saw the rain clouds moving in, but we were suitably attired in our waterproofs with hats and gloves at the ready. Anyone who has read my previous posts will probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of getting about by RIB, but it is essential that I tolerate them in order to fulfil my lighthouse-bagging ambitions. We had been reliably informed as well by Caithness Seacoast that the sea conditions were calm as they would not run to the island if it was rough. This was useful information and very welcome!

A lighthouse-esque beacon in Wick harbour
A lighthouse-esque beacon in Wick harbour

Being as self-sufficient and well-rehearsed in these boat trips as we are, we were equipped enough to only require the lifejackets from Caithness Seacoast and not the full waterproof suits. We climbed into the RIB with Bob choosing prime position at the front (luckily it was calm). The ride out was beautiful even though my poor face was being pelted with high-speed rain (this was enhanced by the speed of the RIB, it wasn’t actually high-speed). We enjoyed the views of the two beacons in Wick harbour (one of which we’d popped to quickly for a photo shortly before we left) on our way out and were greeting by Noss Head lighthouse a short while later. Duncansby sea stacks followed where we stopped for a while to get some pictures (and enable Bob to assess his climbing routes!) before moving on to see Duncansby Head lighthouse perched on top of the cliff. At the same time we were able to see the change in the sea condition straight ahead of us as the Atlantic hit the North Sea. Fortunately we veered east at this point!

Ben Barvas on Little Skerry
Ben Barvas on Little Skerry

We were treated to views of the three other islands that make up the Pentland Skerries before we arrived at Muckle Skerry itself. Louther Skerry and Clettack Skerry at high tide are little more than clusters of rock that barely appear above the surface of the water. Little Skerry, however, was particularly interesting as the remains of Ben Barvas, which was wrecked on the island in 1964, are still very evident. The crew of the ship were all rescued thankfully and you can see a reconstruction of the events on the day of the wreck on YouTube.

We soon arrived at Muckle Skerry and shuffled off of the boat using the sections of carpet put down on top of the seaweed by the Caithness Seacoast staff to prevent us from slipping. We made it to safety up onto the island and we could immediately see the lighthouse, so off we went.

Pentland Skerries lighthouse
Pentland Skerries lighthouse

We bagged the lighthouse successfully and enjoyed the views of it from numerous angles and took in the surrounding geology (as well as an egg shell I saw laying on the ground and became quite fond of). When we arrived there had been dull clouds hanging around, but as the rain stopped the sky cleared and we could see more easily back over to Duncansby Head and then across to the other islands towards mainland Orkney. We recalled a boat trip we had been on over to Orkney and how we had seen the Pentland Skerries lighthouse in the distance. Accessing the island isn’t easy, but where there’s a will there’s a way and Bob always has the will with these things!

Sun setting over Wick harbour
Sun setting over Wick harbour

On the trip back to Wick we took a more direct route and Bob said he thinks its the longest journey he’s ever taken on a RIB. After the soaking from the rain I was feeling quite cold and so there were some pictures taken of me looking decidedly grumpy before Bob realised he wasn’t likely to get a smile out of me! There was consolation though as we saw Duncansby Head and Noss Head lighthouses in action on the way back. Beautiful!

The harbour looked wonderful when we arrived back as the sun was setting and the lights were all on. A beautiful end to a really interesting and enjoyable trip. I would recommend taking to ride out to anyone who enjoys coastal scenery, doesn’t mind a RIB ride every now and then, and likes a lighthouse (of course)! 🙂

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