The weather forecast for this week looked exceptionally good. I therefore booked some last-minute leave to go and ascend An Sgurr on Eigg. In exceptionally good weather, it is worth doing exceptionally good hills!
Despite visiting Rum on two previous occasions, I had not set foot on neighbouring Eigg. I had twice previously hoped to visit Eigg but failed to secure accommodation on both occasions. This time was no different, so I decided to go regardless and use my tent.
On reviewing the Calmac Small Isles timetable, I found that I could spend one day on Eigg, the following day on Canna and then return to Mallaig on day three. This would allow me to ascend Carn a'Ghaill on Canna, as well as An Sgurr and Sgorr an Fharaidh on Eigg.
I set off from home at 4:30am on Thursday, destination Mallaig. The weather was perfect from the outset and remained so throughout the trip
On arrival at Mallaig, after parking in the large car park, I purchased my tickets. Mallaig to Eigg (5 Day Saver Return) and Mallaig to Canna (5 Day Saver Return). Total cost:
I then sat enjoying the sunshine waiting to ‘set sail’.
Lochnevis (Loch Nibheis) berthed at Mallaig:
The 1Hr 15Min journey time passed very quickly. A full cooked breakfast aboard the Lochnevis set me up with energy for the day, as it would only be camping rations in the evening.
Eigg from on-board the Lochnevis just beyond Mallaig:
As we approached Eigg, I took a couple of zoom shots of the two Eigg Marilyns, Sgorr an Fharaidh of Beinn Bhuidhe and An Sgurr.
Sgorr an Fharaidh of Beinn Bhuidhe (zoom):
An Sgurr must be one of the most distinctive small hills in Scotland!
An Sgurr (zoom):
On arriving in Eigg, I set off with my large, heavy pack towards An Sgurr.
Hills: An Sgurr (Eigg), Sgorr an Fharaidh (Eigg) and Carn a'Ghaill (Canna)
Dates: Thu 24th May 2012 to Sat 26th May 2012
Company: Just myself
After walking along the pier, I reached a standing stone erected to commemorate the community buy-out of Eigg.
Welcome to the Isle of Eigg:
Looking back to the pier:
Beyond the stone, I followed a way-marked trail towards An Sgurr. Follow the small circles of red paint to reach An Sgurr.
As I entered the forest it was sensory overload. As well as fantastic views, I was accompanied through the forest by a song thrush singing beautiful melodies and a strong fragrance from lots of bluebells and what I think are ramsons (wild garlic).
Lovely walk through forest towards An Sgurr:
On exiting the forest, I got the classic view of An Sgurr that I have seen on numerous internet reports.
Heading for An Sgurr:
Beyond the house, I took a left-turn along a vehicle track and soon thereafter took a right-turn to follow an eroded path up the hill.
Apart from Sron Uladal in Harris, I can think of no other Scottish rock face as impressive as ‘the Nose’ of An Sgurr.
Information about An Sgurr:
“An Sgurr is the highest hill on the Inner Hebridean island of Eigg. It was formed around 58 million years ago; the result of one of the last eruptions of a volcano, the core of which now forms the Isle of Rum. Thick viscous pitchstone lava flowed out, filling a river valley. The lava cooled and formed column-like structures, similar to those at Giant's Causeway. The surrounding basalt was softer than the pitchstone, and hence the valley became inverted, with the pitchstone withstanding the erosion far better than the surrounding rock.”
An Sgurr (South face):
Looking back towards Galmisdale:
The Nose of An Sgurr has been climbed but it is seriously hard. E8 !!!!!
“The Nose” of An Sgurr:
However, there is a chink in its armour. Continue to follow the eroded path and it will take you to a bealach across An Sgurr.
I thought the view from the bealach was particularly nice.
I decided to leave my camping gear at the bealach as I would be coming back the same way. It was good to lighten the load for a while
View from bealach:
Isle of Muck from bealach:
It was at the bealach that I put hand to rock for the first time. The pitchstone is very rough like the Gabbro on Skye; it is excellent for scrambling.
From the bealach, you can continue to follow the small circles of red paint up the hill, or choose as much, or as little, scrambling as you want.
Final ascent of An Sgurr:
The views from the summit were quite good.
Looking towards Beinn Bhuidhe and the Bay of Laig from the summit of An Sgurr:
After a brief chat with a couple at the summit, I returned to the bealach to collect my camping gear and then returned back to the vehicle track beside the house.
Loch nam Ban Mora and the Rum Cuillin during the descent:
Looking back to An Sgurr:
On reaching the track, I followed it North to reach the main tarmac road running from Galmisdale to Cleadale.
By now, I was starting to feel the heat and my 1.5l of water was already finished.
An Cruachan from standing stone:
I continued along the road past the Primary School and on to the “Old Shop” museum. After having a look around the museum I noticed a sign at the door of the house opposite. “Home Made Italian Ice Cream”. I thought, “I’ll have some of that!”
Eigg Primary School:
“Old Shop” Museum:
The ice cream was absolutely delicious. The woman selling the ice cream also
offered to fill my water bottle, which I gratefully accepted. I said that I
would give them a mention in this report:
Approaching Cleadale, below Beinn Bhuidhe:
As I walked towards Cleadale, I decided that I would pitch the tent beside one of the beaches prior to ascending the next hill. On reaching the Bay of Laig, which is the largest and nicest beach, I could see numerous cattle standing down on the sand. Pitching a tent in the same field as cattle wasn’t an option so I continued on to reach Camas Sgiotaig
(the Singing Sands).
Looking back to An Sgurr across the Bay of Laig:
A lovely room with a view and only 5 seconds from the beach
Wild camp at Camas Sgiotaig (the Singing Sands):
Wild camp at Camas Sgiotaig (the Singing Sands):
View behind tent, Dunan Thalasgair in background:
After pitching the tent, I set off to ascend Dunan Thalasgair and then make my way along the ridge to the actual summit Sgorr an Fharaidh.
Heading for Dunan Thalasgair:
The ascent of Dunan Thalasgair was quite straight-forward as there is a grassy track that zig-zags its way up it.
Looking along the Western escarpment of Beinn Bhuidhe:
An Sgurr and Bay of Laig from ascent of Dunan Thalasgair:
On reaching the wide ridge, it was nice to look across to Skye.
Skye from the wide ridge of Beinn Bhuidhe:
A short distance before reaching the trig point on Dunan Thalasgair, I had to climb over a barbed-wire fence. A stile on this ridge would be good!
Dunan Thalasgair trig point, summit about 1km in distance:
From the trig point, I continued on approximately 1km to reach Sgorr an Fharaidh, the summit of Beinn Bhuidhe.
Approaching the summit, Sgorr an Fharaidh:
From the summit, I returned back the way I came to descend back to Camas Sgiotaig. The escarpment looks fairly impenetrable from below, except at both ends.
Looking back towards Dunan Thalasgair from the summit, Sgorr an Fharaidh:
By the time I reached the tent, my water was again empty and I was exhausted with the heat. After a wash in the sea, I used my Katadyn filter to filter some water from a nearby burn.
After wandering about the beach, I settled down for the night. Alarm set for 06:30 to allow time to re-pack everything and walk back to the pier.
Post-sunset view from tent:
The following morning, I returned to the pier and caught the ferry back to Mallaig. On reaching Mallaig, I stayed on the ferry for the trip across to Rum and onto my next destination Canna.
On board the Lochnevis, destination Canna:
During the crossing from Rum to Canna, I witnessed one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. A large whale jumped completely out of the water and landed with a huge splash. I had my camera in my hand but it was powered off and the lens cap was on so no photo
I took a few photos before I disembarked at Canna pier.
Looking towards ‘my beach’ with Carn a’Ghaill in background:
Approaching Canna pier:
On reaching Canna, I set off with my large pack hoping to find somewhere to set up camp before ascending the hill.
Welcome to Canna:
St. Columba’s Church:
From researching the internet, before setting off, I knew there was some camping beside the old ruin castle. I asked at the restaurant about places to camp and it was confirmed that it was a beautiful location beside the old castle.
On reaching the camping area, I was very impressed with the location. My only worry was a bull in the field next door. I checked the fence was secure and the gate shut before pitching up.
Pitch near the ruin castle:
The beach beside the camping area is really nice and clean.
Beach – one-minute from tent:
Once the tent was pitched, I set off for the hill. It was already 16:45 so quite a late start!
From the camping area, I walked past the restaurant and then along to the next house, with red phone box, where I followed a track leading uphill.
I didn’t take the best route through the fields at the bottom. On seeing a gate on your right it is best to go through it.
Looking back from ascent of lower slopes of Carn a’Ghaill:
Once past the initial difficulties, caused by missing the gate, I followed a grassy track up the hill. I must have passed several hundred rabbits during my ascent. Canna is currently infested with rabbits. No wonder it features strongly on the restaurant menu.
On seeing a route up through a sandstone crag, I took it.
Ascent of Carn a’Ghaill:
Looking back towards Sanday:
On reaching the broad, flat plateau a small bird flew out from literally under my feet. I guessed there was a nest there. Not sure what type of bird.
Nest in heather:
The walk to the summit was fine apart from the incredible heat and lots of midge. I reckon this hill would be a bogfest in wet weather.
Rum from the summit of Carn a’Ghaill:
At the summit, the heat must have been getting to me to be waving my hands in the air
Some eejit at the summit:
From the summit, I returned via the same route except near the base where I correctly made for the gate.
On the way back, I stopped for a meal at the restaurant. I had a lovely meal of Scallops and Stornoway Black Pudding.
Sure beats camping rations.
Gille Brighde (Oystercatcher) restaurant:
Nice meal in the Gille Brighde:
After dining, I spent around an hour just pottering about at the beach.
My beach (spot the tent above):
I woke up around 06:00 in the morning, so no sunrise photos but still a nice view.
Early morning view from tent:
After packing up the tent, I made my way back round to the pier to wait for the Calmac ferry.
The Lochnevis coming back to take me away:
The ferry ‘set sail’ for Muck, then Eigg before returning to Mallaig. It was nice to sail round the West coast of Rum, seeing Bloodstone Hill, Orval, etc.
Rum from on-board the Lochnevis:
During the voyage back, I spotted countless dolphins and also some Minke whale.
Muck, Rum, Skye and Eigg:
I will definitely return to these islands given the opportunity