Sunday, May 01, 2016

Corpach Bay to a stag do at Shian Bay, Jura

 We had hardly left Corpach Bay before...

 ...we came across another stunning beach backed by a huge dune system at Traigh a' Mhiadair. (beach of the meadow). The dune system is enclosed by a wall of steep cliffs and the rabbits here are all black.

In a rock arch at the south end of the beach, the environmental artist Julie Brook lived and worked for a year between 1993 and 1994.

 The northeasterly breeze began to pick up and to the north the distant hills and mountains of Mull looked magnificent in the clear air.

 However it was the amazing cost of Jura which held our attention.

 The only other sign of human life on this stretch of coast was the creel boat Challenger SY46 from Skye.

 As we passed beach after beach, the Paps of Jura...

 ...gradually came into view.

 The sea became shallower as we approached Shian Island and...

 ...the clear water made it look like the reefs were...

 ...just inches from our keels.

 Our sails sped us on under a glorious blue sky which was broken only by...

 ...a pair of honking greylag geese.

 We were now within the reef system which guards Shian Bay (stormy bay).

...the turquoise water in this bay was stunning. Ian and I were tempted to stop for a swim and second breakfast.

However, there was still a cold breeze so while Mike enjoyed his lunch with a view to Colonsay, Ian and I had a quick, actually very quick, dip in a pool of the Sruthan Glac na h-Atha (burn of the narrow valley by the drying kiln). Feeling very refreshed I enjoyed the view with Mike while Ian went beachcombing.

He was delighted when he found an antler from a stag. Unfortunately it was not one of a pair but... became a feature of Ian's back deck for the rest of the trip!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dead beat and washed up at Corpach Bay, Jura.

Well in need of a break, we were delighted to find a breach in the NW cliffs of Jura at Corpach Bay.

The name tells a little of the history of this lonely spot. "Corpach" means place of the corpse and it was here that the people of Kintyre, Jura and Islay would leave the corpses of the deceased if it was too stormy to cross to the burial isles of Oronsay and Iona. Caves near Ruantallain to the SW were mostly used for the passage to Oronsay to the south of Colonsay. The caves at Corpach Bay were used for the passage to Iona. One of the largest is called Corpach Challuim-chille which loosely translated means place of the the corpse of the church of St Columba.

 Anyway after our hard paddle through the Corryvreckan the previous day and our early start, we were feeling dead beat and so where better too rest than Corpach Bay?

 After swapping paddles over, (we are currently comparative testing the excellent new VE Voyager paddle) we...

 ...unpacked our second breakfast things...

 ...and made our way up the beach.

Corpach Bay was easy to land on when we visited but it is often exposed to heavy surf and I would not like to meet these boulders in a loaded boat being driven in by surf.

 We could hardly belive how quickly the swell had dropped as less than 48 hours previously, the ferries were not running.

 I  thought this boulder buried in the sand looked a bit like a misshapen skull.

 Anyway, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and what a spot...

 ...we had found for second breakfast. Ian and briefly considered a quick swim in the sea as a wash up but a chill wind from the north had picked up. We were not the only ones to be washed up on Corpach Bay...

...these lobster pots and cobbles from the beach had been washed up by winter storms and were now left lying well inland from the beach.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Exceeding expectations on the NW coat of Jura.

We had a big day ahead of us so we rose before dawn at Glengarrisdale in NW Jura. The dawn light spread through the Gulf of Corryvreckan which separates Jura from the dark brooding cliffs of its northern neighbour, Scarba.

 After cleaning up the bothy fire and having our breakfast we had carried our things to the shore and...

 ...were on the water by eight am. The tide was rapidly emptying the bay so there was a bit of catch up involved as we carried each loaded bout to the water's edge.

 It was great to be floating and weightless again after the heavy work on land. It was a perfect day with a blue sky, light breeze and a dropping swell.

 We waved goodbye to our new friends, Tom and Frances, who were watching the sunrise from the rocks at the entrance to the bay.

 On a last look through the Corryvreckan, we spotted the still snow streaked...

 ...summit of Ben Cruachan some 54km away to the NE.

 Ahead the NW coast of Jura stretched away in a series of bold headlands to distant Islay on the horizon. The series of cliffs, headlands and deep rocky bays gives no landing for 10km until they are breached at Corpach Bay.

 Above our heads we spotted the first of many mimetoliths on Jura..Iguana Rock.

The island of Jura has always been one of the least populated in the Hebrides. This is due to it being formed mostly of metamorphic quartzite interspersed with igneous basalt dykes. It produces a thin acidic soil, which is not conducive to agriculture.

 As we travelled SW we left the stronger tides of the Corryvreckan area behind and it was a pleasure to...

 ...take our time enjoying the views of the bold headlands... the early morning light.

 Sometimes we entered the deep shade below the cliffs and were surprised to see...

 ...goats scrambling along ledges above precipitous drops.

To our right, the low outline of Colonsay beckoned. It was within reach being just 15km away. We would have had time to explore Oronsay then catch the 18:15 ferry down to Port Askaig in the Sound of Islay. Both Ian and Mike had expressed an interest in visiting Colonsay during pre-trip planning. But as I expected, they had both already been captivated by Jura and had decided to spend time exploring this wonderful coastline instead.

We soon came to the first raised beach of quartzite cobbles. Ian and Mike started snapping away with their cameras but I told them they would see plenty more!

 We passed a wreck of a dinghy which had been tossed high above the beach by winter storms.

 We were so glad to be here in such benign conditions, just two days previously the ferries had been storm bound!

The coast is riddled with caves. This now dry sea cave has a waterfall running down its back, The burn enters it through an ancient blow hole in its roof.

We had an exciting moment when a white tailed sea eagle rose from a skerry just a few metres beyond us then perched on the clifftop after just a few lazy beats of its wings.

Low tide reveals many offshore skerries with long passages running parallel to the shore. Some were blind and we had to retrace our wakes but fortunately this one lead through a tight gap to open water beyond. My goodness we needed a break to take it all in!