Sunshine and calm seas in Argyll

Argyll is a beautiful part of Scotland, that’s for sure, and never moreso than in Autumn when it’s beautiful tree-lined roads and coastline completely change the colour of the landscape. It also helps when the sun is shining as it very much was yesterday.

We were due to visit Lismore and had a little time to kill so a stop off at Port Appin to see Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse seemed appropriate. It was high tide too, which would give a bit of a different perspective from the last time we were there when we walked out to the light at low tide. It’s very easy to fall in love with this area and the little lighthouse is an important part of the local landscape.

Sgeir Bhuidhe from the approach road to Port Appin

Die hard lighthouse fans will have heard of its rather amusing history, when it was painted to look like Mr Blobby as a protest by a member of the local community during the period when the Northern Lighthouse Board were looking to replace it with one of the IKEA flat-pack lights. I do love a flat-pack lighthouse, but even I would have been devastated by the loss of a lovely little tower if I’d lived in Port Appin at the time.

Thankfully a compromise was reached and a replacement modern round tower was installed, and it’s one of my favourite type too. There is so much to love about this one, including the fact that ‘Sgeir Bhuidhe’ translates as ‘Yellow Rocks’ due to the lichen growing on the rocks, which is evident in these pictures that Joe took. Yellow also happens to be my favourite colour.

Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse on the ‘yellow rocks’

Bob wandered off to find a point that would allow him to fly Joe without breaking any of the rules that apply to the use of drones. I knew he would get some excellent shots because it was a wonderful location anyway, but with the calm water and bright skies it seemed perfect.

Sunlight on the water at Sgeir Bhuidhe
Sgeir Bhuide from the south
Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse from above
Port Appin

Meanwhile I took a different route. Firstly I stopped off to revisit the old lighthouse lantern. Another arrangement made between the local community and Northern Lighthouse Board was that the lantern from the old tower could stay in the area and the community have installed some information boards inside it. These boards cover local history, biodiversity and the island of Lismore, which can be seen just across the water. More importantly though it has a panel about the lighthouse and it’s history. It’s really quite clever how they have done it.

The lantern from the previous Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse
The lighthouse exhibition in the old lantern

From here I took a walk along the road until I reached the pebble beach where I cut down to the sea. It was so incredibly calm with just the sound of the little waves lapping at the shoreline and the small birds singing from somewhere nearby. It’s such a calming place and somewhere that nature takes over and you can’t fail to be affected by it. I could have spent so much longer there and hope to sometime.

This time though there was a ferry to catch. I’d gazed across the water at Lismore and now it was time to go there. Lismore could be quite deceptive for any new lighthouse bagger. Lismore lighthouse must surely be on Lismore you might think, but in fact it’s on a smaller island, Eilean Musdile, just to the south west of Lismore itself. However, we still hoped we would find something of interest relating to the lighthouse at the Gaelic Heritage Centre.

Lismore was a new island for both of us and after the fairly short ferry crossing we headed towards the southern end of the island. After finding a suitable place to stop the car Bob set off to reach the island high point, which he managed to reach after negotiating the river, walls, fences and a row of cows just before the high point. Once he was back we set off to find the Heritage Centre. It’s a great building. Very modern and a nice contrast to the little blackhouse (if they call them that in these parts too) next door. The blackhouse is an exhibit now, kitted out as it would have been many years ago.

The blackhouse on Lismore

The Centre itself has a lot going for it. It contains a big room with the exhibition panels as well as a shop and a cafe. The exhibition gives a fascinating insight into the island, its history and many other aspects. I found the information about the flora and fauna quite interesting. Lismore is known as The Great Garden, which is how its Gaelic name Lios Mor translates. It is home to 200 species of wildflower and 18 species of butterfly, so it certainly lives up to its name.

Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre

Further around the exhibition we spotted some information about Lismore lighthouse and, interestingly, the old telescope from the lighthouse, which is engraved with ‘Lismore Lighthouse (Signalmen)’. A special little artefact. There was also a lovely lighthouse design by the local children on one of the windows.

The children’s lighthouse design on the window

Standing outside on the balcony in the sunshine, we ate lunch before continuing to explore a bit more of the island. Heading up to the arrival point for those travelling on the foot passenger only ferry from Port Appin, we were able to get more views of Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse. Before concluding our visit to the island and heading back to the ferry, we even managed to buy a Danish pastry from the little phone box!

The view from Lismore towards Port Appin

The phone box with with cake

It had been a fantastic day, very much helped by the weather. It’s good to be out and enjoy the outdoors while we can as we don’t know when that might need to stop again. One more post for this weekend to come 🙂

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! 🙂

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! 🙂