Some birthday lighthouse bags

Eilean Ban lighthouse

My birthday present this year from Bob was a few days staying in the lighthouse cottage on Eilean Ban, a small island underneath the bridge across to Skye. We’d previously only spent a couple of days on Skye (together, anyway), so the cottage was a good base for exploring the island a bit more – and for seeing a bit more of the lighthouse on the island itself, of course.

We arrived the day before my birthday and had a walk around the island, visiting the lighthouse and meeting Lesley, the warden on duty for the Eilean Ban Trust. She told us about the significance of the island in the life of Gavin Maxwell who wrote the book Ring of Bright Water about his experience with otters on Scottish islands. Neither of us had heard about Gavin Maxwell before, so it was interesting to find out that there was more background to the island than the lighthouse (although a lighthouse is always enough of a draw for me!)

On my birthday we stopped off at the Eilean Ban Trust’s Bright Water Visitor Centre in Kyleakin. A lot of the information there centres on Gavin Maxwell, but there was also some details on the history of the lighthouse. There were some old pictures of the lighthouse before the Skye Bridge was built and it looked considerably bigger (at 70 foot tall) than it does now, being dwarfed by the bridge these days. The lighthouse was built in 1857 and was discontinued in 1993, but it continues to be used as a day mark, so fortunately it is important that its condition is maintained. Lesley told us that she would be running a tour that evening, which would involve going into the lighthouse, so we immediately signed up to join that.

Eilean a’ Chait lighthouse

That afternoon we headed to Plockton. We’d noticed on the OS map that there was a lighthouse on Eilean a’ Chait, a small island north of Plockton, that we’d not been able to see from the mainland. Bob had done some research and thought that a trip with Calum’s Seal Trips might help us to see it. He wasn’t wrong as, when Calum heard that we were interested in the lighthouse, he managed to get us as close as he could to it.

We arrived back in time to meet Lesley and she showed us around the island, including inside the Bothy where they have a lot of information about the lighthouse and our little man and I were able to get the first stamp in our lighthouse passports! Apparently it was the first time their stamp had been used! It was great to get to the top of the lighthouse and see the importance of the structure without it being overshadowed by the bridge. I’d definitely recommend a tour to anyone in the area. That evening we went for dinner at Seumas’ Bar at the Sligachan Hotel.

Eyre Point lighthouse on Raasay

The following day we decided to make the most of the (relatively) nice weather so we headed across to Raasay, an island off of the east coast of Skye. As soon as we arrived our first priority was to reach the lighthouse at Eyre Point at the south of the island. Although the lighthouse was nothing out of the ordinary (one of the modern “Ikea flat pack” style models, as we call them), there were some fantastic views towards the mountains on Skye. We then drove north to experience Calum’s Road. Calum’s Road, one and three quarter miles in length, was built by Calum MacLeod and his brother between 1949 and 1952 after unsuccessfully campaigning for years for a road to allow easier access to and from the north of the island. Calum was also a Local Assistant Keeper at Rona lighthouse. Calum was awarded the British Empire Medal for making sure supplies regularly reached Rona lighthouse – due to his building of the road.

The steep drop at the summit of Dun Caan
The steep drop at the summit of Dun Caan

We then parked up next to the main road for a walk up to the highest point on Raasay, Dun Caan. It’s a really interesting hill that stands out alongside the others from Skye due to the flat appearance of its summit. There were some great views on the way up and a rather scary drop on one side of the summit where the land drops away just next to the trig point. We stopped off at Raasay House for tea and cake before catching the ferry back to Skye. We had a quick run over to see the Cuillins from Elgol before heading back to our accommodation.

We returned to Elgol the following day where we managed to take the last three places on the Bella Jane, which sails out into Loch Coruisk towards the Cuillins. The weather wasn’t great and the tops of some of the hills were in the clouds, but there were still some pretty impressive sights. Such a beautiful place and some amazing views on the drive there too. We had a lovely lunch at Elgol Shop. After leaving Skye, we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle and had a look around. It was nice to finally go in as it is an iconic building and the subject of many people’s holiday pictures during a visit to Scotland.

We had a great few days and look forward to some more visits to Skye in the future, particularly as there are still a couple of lighthouses to be visited there, including Waternish Point, which is fairly remote.

More lighthouse visit news to follow soon 🙂

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