Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Some stink over the sobriquet of a stunning shell sand strand in Iona.

We paddled north across the expanse of Camas Cuil an t-Saimh on the west coast of Iona. This is commonly translated as "bay (or beach) at the back of the ocean" which sounds delightfully romantic and tourist guides love it. However, Roddy (who was the last native Gaelic speaker in our family) said it was much more likely to be "bay with a stink at its back". He said the Gaels were not known for using much romance or imagination in naming places. The word "saimh" is much more often used to mean "stink" than "sea" which is an unusual use of the word. Roddy also said if it was used to mean sea it would be used to describe a fishy smelling sea. Given the huge piles of rotting seaweed at the back of the bays I have a feeling Roddy is right.

We all spotted the splash of white sand at Port Pollarain (Port of the Dunlin) and it looked a great place to stop for luncheon, indeed I had stopped here for such in 2007. However, based on past experience, I had other ideas. I thought I could do better.

 So I led the way through a maze of skerries to the...

 ...simply stunning Port Ban (white port). Despite the beauty of the surroundings, I was initially somewhat disappointed. On my last visit...

...this is what we found. Our caddies had travelled ahead, by a variety of means, and assembled our social and refreshment tents prior to our arrival on this pristine cockleshell sand beach. Why, they had even scoured far and wide for some small pieces of driftwood just so that we might enjoy a little late night incendiary activity.

 On this day our support team had badly let us down and as we paddled one by...

 ...one over crystal clear turquoise water we had to content ourselves not with tents of...

 ...pleasure but with a totally...

 ...empty beach!!! Oh the hardship!

 At first we wandered about somewhat lost but we soon settled down to enjoy a view of...

...unparalleled beauty. As the others tucked into their sandwiches (rather than the hoped for canapes) I even went for a short swim. No wonder St Columba chose Iona, this really is Heaven on Earth.

PS Note the crescent of stinky seaweed at the back of the bay!

9 comments:

  1. Wow so beautiful. That must have been somewhat of a climb to get those pictures.

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    1. Thank you Deckbagz. I have bad news but went the long way round the back which was just a gentle grassy slope. Ian is like a mountain goat and tackled it head on! :o)

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  2. Thank you thank you thank yow what a way to lift Referendum blues this morning. These photos are truly wonderful. Dorothy.

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    1. Well thank you Dorothy and I hope your vote is safely in. :o)

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    1. Thank you Anon more Wow to come. :o)

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  4. Hi Douglas what a fascinating story about the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. I can add my own story to this. As a lad I spent several summer holidays crewing for my grandfather in his yacht which was somewhat similar to Wild Rose in your photos. We visited Iona several times and often went swimming in the bays on the west coast. My grandfather who was originally from North Uist and did not learn English until he started school told me the exact same thing about what the Gaelic name meant as your relative Roddy has told you. As I have never learned Gaelic, I thought my grandfather was just winding me up. Sadly my grandfather died many years ago but now it makes sense. I last visited Iona about 40 years ago but took up sea kayaking last year when I retired. It will be a while before I feel confident enough to undertake such trips as this or the one round the Small Isles on your Facebook page. However thank you for the inspiration. Iain.

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    1. Hi Iain, Roddy was from Benbecula but his family were originally from Grenitote and Solas on North Uist. Are you a MacAuley by any chance if so your grandfather and Roddy were possibly related. My wife's father's aunt was a schoolteacher in Cill Eireabhagh on Benbecula and was 101 when she died recently. She didn't speak English until she was seven. She also translated the Gaelic as the "bay with the stink at its back".

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    2. Hi Douglas yes I am from a family of MacAuleys (GF) and MacDonalds (GM) on my mum's side who were from the Sollas/Middlequarter area of North Uist. Though I am a McAndrew on my dad's side. Looks like we are distant relatives! :-)

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