uklighthousetour

One crazy lady and a bizarre obsession = an ongoing tour of the best lighthouses the UK has to offer

Islands and lighthouses – part 1

Following our week in Tobermory, we moved on to Appin where we stayed at one of Appin Holiday Homes’ lodges. Our plans to be in this area at this time were based on the annual meeting of the Marilyn-baggers (those who climb hills with a drop of 150 metres or more on all sides) and a number of associated boat trips. Many of these hill-baggers are now becoming more interested in reaching island high points thanks to Hamish Haswell-Smith’s book on the ‘The Scottish Islands’ and Alan Holmes’ Significant Islands of Britain (SIBs). The interesting thing about Alan’s list is that he has an additional category for SIBlets, which are islands that don’t quite meet the SIB criteria, but are home to a point of interest, such as a lighthouse. Alan himself organised the numerous boat trips that took place around this annual meeting.

The beacon at Port Appin

The beacon at Port Appin

Due to the poor weather I’d not been able to go on two of the four trips I was booked on during our week on Mull, but conditions were due to improve considerably for our week in Appin. Fortunately Alan had managed to rearrange the trips for the second week, so I didn’t have to miss out on any of the new lighthouses we were hoping to see.

Before the first boat trip, Bob and I took my dad along to Port Appin for a walk out to the beacon on the tidal rocks there. This structure has a rather vibrant past as the ‘Mr Blobby lighthouse‘. As with all tidal islands, we didn’t have much time there at all, but it was a peaceful place to be, made even better by the good weather.

Lismore lighthouse on Eilean Musdile

Lismore lighthouse on Eilean Musdile

On the Monday we headed off on a trip with a very exciting first stop. We’d passed Eilean Musdile, a small island off of the south of Lismore a couple of times the previous week. We were planning a visit to Lismore itself and assumed that we’d be able to get across the small channel between the islands at low tide, but we’d been told that it’s not quite so easy. So it was fortunate that we’d signed up to join the trip that landed on Eilean Musdile. We were taken there by Coastal Connection who are based in Oban and regularly run the owners of the island out there and back. We landed on a small jetty and just a minute later reached the gate to the lighthouse complex. The owners are very kind and permit visitors into the grounds of the lighthouse, so we wandered in and strolled along the very pleasant winding walled pathway that leads to the lighthouse. While the lighthouse looks amazing from the sea, it looks even better close up and the island has a wonderful feel about it. If we’d had longer I would have happily spent more time there. We had a little while to explore though and walked across a bridge which allowed the lighthouse keepers more land during their stay there and was used for bringing in materials.

Hyskeir lighthouse

Hyskeir lighthouse

The following day was my favourite of the trips. Although I’d been aware of Hyskeir lighthouse on the island of Oigh Sgeir (the Scottish Gaelic version of the name), I’d never paid it more attention than any other, but it very much deserves it. It is 8 miles west of Rhum and is a fantastic little island. The lighthouse is stunning, as beautiful as so many of the Stevenson structures are. This one has the added benefit of feeling remote, but not too far out and with amazing views in any direction. On the way to the island we passed by Eileanan Glasa lighthouse (between Mull and the mainland), Eilean nan Gall which we’d seen the week before, as well as Ardnamurchan lighthouse. It’s only when you either drive it or take a boat alongside the Ardnamurchan peninsula that you really just how long it is. We also saw some dolphins leaping out of the water alongside us. After landing on the island we all inspected the lighthouse and I discovered that many there had a vague interest in lighthouses too – although not quite to the same level as mine! We then followed a broken path along to the island high point where we could see minke whales slowly passing through the sea. It was such a fantastic place to visit and I wouldn’t hesitate if there was an opportunity to go back again.

Eigg lighthouse

Eigg lighthouse

Our next island of the day was a small island off of Eigg, Eilean Chathastail, which is home to Eigg lighthouse. It was a bit of a climb (for me anyway) to get up from the rocks we were dropped off at, but it was well worth it. The lighthouse itself pales in comparison to the big Stevenson buildings, like Hyskeir, but it was great to stand at the lighthouse and gaze at the views while the hill-baggers went off to do what they do best. Again, the island felt remote, but had a very calming feel. After leaving Eilean Chathastail, we stopped at Eilean nan Each where we all enjoyed a stroll up to the high point. We finished off the day with a visit to Muck itself. Two of us remained on the boat while the rest set off from one side of the island to walk across the hills to the other side. We were delighted to be able to get off at the main harbour on Muck and find a small 24-hour craft shop and a fantastic tea room, which boasted an impressive menu considering its location.

Overall it was a wonderful day and definitely one I will remember fondly for many years to come. More islands and lighthouses to come in the next post! 🙂

Leave a comment »

A week on Mull

Two weeks ago we spent some time on Mull, staying in Tobermory. As soon as we left Oban on the ferry the lighthouse viewings began, with a glimpse of Dunollie beacon, just north of Oban, and the stunning Lismore lighthouse (more on that one in the next post).

Rubha nan Gall lighthouse

Rubha nan Gall lighthouse

On our first full day we decided to risk getting a soaking by walking to Rubha nan Gall lighthouse to the north of Tobermory. Shortly after leaving the road and heading through the trees, we came across a sign telling us that the path ahead was closed. It was clear that no one had really taken much notice of the sign, so we pretended we hadn’t seen it and continued along the coastal route, which proved to be particularly muddy and narrow in places. It was quite a picturesque walk and we were fortunate not to be rained on. As we approached the lighthouse I remarked on how similar it looked to Eilean Ban lighthouse where we had stayed just a few weeks before. It’s not only the lighthouse that’s similar, but the access bridge as well. Unfortunately a high locked gate prevented us from reaching the tower, but we got some great views anyway from the pier leading to it. We spent a while sitting on the pier and enjoyed the emerging sun while we could, with views across to the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The walk back was equally enjoyable.

When we returned to Tobermory we stopped off at the town’s museum, where we found out about the story of Neptune II that set off on a 100 mile overnight journey from one port to another in Newfoundland in 1929. The ship was caught in a storm which caused them to endure a 48 day, 3,000 mile journey, during which they came across the lighthouses at Skerryvore, Dubh Artach and Ardnamurchan before setting foot on land again. We also found a little more information about the Rubha nan Gall lighthouse at the aquarium in Tobermory.

The observation tower on Erraid, with windows looking out towards Dubh Artach and Skerryvore

The observation tower on Erraid, with windows looking out towards Dubh Artach and Skerryvore

We spent an afternoon walking across to Erraid, a tidal island, and exploring the island. Erraid was used as a base for construction of the Dubh Artach lighthouse, including the quarrying of the granite for the tower. While the lighthouse was in operation, the keepers and their families lived on Erraid and the observation tower was also constructed. We visited the tower and were able to get a distance glance of Dubh Artach lighthouse (more on this one too in another post coming soon). Robert Louis Stevenson visited the island while his father was involved in constructing the lighthouse and set his novella ‘The Merry Men’ there as well as a chapter in ‘Kidnapped’. It’s a fantastic little island and even more enjoyable with the knowledge that you need to get back before the tide turns!

The beacon at Dunollie

The beacon at Dunollie

Our final day on Mull was spent visiting Iona. On our return journey to Oban we noticed the Northern Lighthouse Board’s maintenance vessel, Pharos (which we had previously seen at Bell Rock and on our way out to St Kilda), parked up a short distance from the Oban ferry terminal. We took a drive up and noticed that the Northern Lighthouse Board have a terminal there, which is a base for their vessels, but also where passengers for the Hebridean Princess alight. On our way north to Appin, our base for the following week, we stopped to look at the Dunollie beacon a bit closer up.

The following week was a blur of boat trips, remote lighthouses and sunshine. More on this to follow soon! 🙂

Leave a comment »