Islands and lighthouses – part 2

Eilean an Naoimh lighthouse
Eilean an Naoimh lighthouse

My crazy island and lighthouse-bagging week continued last week with a trip out to the Garvellachs. We were on a fishing boat that day, so it wasn’t so easy to land on many of the islands in this group. While Bob went off, I stayed on the boat. I did leave the boat on one of the islands though, Eileach an Naoimh, as it is home to a lighthouse. It may only be a “flat pack-style” structure, but it is actually in great surroundings. The walk to the lighthouse was a bit of a struggle for me with various terrains to cross and a few ups and downs. But we got there eventually. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite (I’m unlikely to say that about any “flat pack” lighthouse), but it was a good place to visit and there is a fair amount of history on the island too.

Fladda lighthouse
Fladda lighthouse

After the group had reached the high points on a few more islands, we stopped off at Fladda. We’d seen the lighthouse on the way out that morning and it was a welcome relief to visit an island, which didn’t involve leaping off or onto the boat at a very precise moment when the swell was just right! The island seemed very deserted, which meant we could wander freely around and get to the tower. By this point the rest of the group were very aware of my lighthouse fascination and a number of discussions took place about them. I think a few of these island and hill-baggers are developing their own fondness for lighthouses!

The Northern Lighthouse Board's vessel Pole Star
The Northern Lighthouse Board’s vessel Pole Star

I was delighted to discover that the following day one of the cancelled trips from the previous week would be going ahead. I’d been particularly excited about this one as it involved visiting a lighthouse that I thought I’d be unlikely ever to see in real life. I should have known better really as I probably would have said the same about North Rona, but Bob knew the right people to get us there! Dubh Artach is one of the iconic rock lighthouses of Britain and sits 18 miles south-west of Mull and the prospect of being able to see is close up was an opportunity I couldn’t miss (even if it did mean abandoning our little boy with his grandparents for another whole day). As the sea conditions had been very calm so far that week, we were all secretly hopeful that we’d be able to land on the rock and properly “bag” the lighthouse, but we were also aware that even when conditions were flat calm around Oban and some of the Inner Hebrides, it’s unlikely that it will be the same at Dubh Artach. As we left Oban that morning we spotted a boat that looked similar to the Northern Lighthouse Board’s Pharos ship, which we’d seen earlier in the week. I was able to get access to the web and discovered that it was another of their vessels, Pole Star. Apparently this one doesn’t spend as much time in Oban as Pharos, so we were fortunate to be able to see it.

Dubh Artach lighthouse
Dubh Artach lighthouse

On the way out Dubh Artach it was clear that the sea conditions were changing and the gentle, but increasing bumpiness was sending everyone else to sleep! When we got close, the crew from Coastal Connection prepared the dinghy and Bob and I got in with a couple of others. We spotted some steps leading up the lighthouse and there appeared to be a platform at the bottom, which looked like it could be a good spot to get off – except for the fact that it was covered in seaweed. While, at times, it seemed calm enough for us to approach, it was quickly changing and in no time the platform was submerged. We made a couple of attempts to get close enough and Bob managed to get a foot on the rock, but we had to pull back as the dinghy was at risk of tipping us out. I’d already made a decision not to attempt the landing and it seemed that the others were in agreement. We went back to the boat and others went for a closer look while we enjoyed the view from a safe distance. In the end we abandoned the attempt to land, but I was delighted that I’d been so close. Cameron, the skipper, took us for a spin around the lighthouse before we headed on to continue with the day’s agenda.

Our next island was Nave island, off of the north coast of Islay. While there were no lighthouses, it was a nice stroll up to the high point, with fantastic 360 degree views. We then landed on the beach on Oronsay. As Bob had already been to the high point and we’d both wandered along the Strand from Colonsay at low tide last year, we decided to have a walk along the white sandy beach instead. Our final island for the day was Colonsay. Again, we’d been here last year and had both successfully managed the high point and the lighthouse (which we saw again as we approached and left Scalasaig), so we spend the afternoon at the Colonsay Hotel in their beer garden! A great end to a great day!

Fingal's Cave on Staffa
Fingal’s Cave on Staffa

Just to complete the week, I went with my parents on a boat trip to Lunga – one of the Treshnish islands – and Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave. The puffins on Lunga were amazing. They are so used to people being around that they come very close. It would be easy to pass a few hours there. Fingal’s Cave was incredible and indescribable really. I don’t think any words can really describe it. Just go there and see for yourself! My dad also spotted a golden eagle on Staffa, following a sea eagle glimpse on the way to Lunga, so he was happy too!

We have more lighthouse visits to come this weekend, so another post is to follow! It’s definitely lighthouse-bagging season! 🙂

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