Cicerone author, Peter Edwards, got in touch after returning from a recent research trip to several of the Small Isles in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.
Despite some challenging and unseasonable weather, Peter – along with his wife, Fiona, and their labrador, Dougal – managed to complete a number of excellent routes for his forthcoming guidebook Walking on Rum and the Small Isles.
Their trip got off to a bumpy start with a rollercoaster ferry journey from Mallaig to Canna and the situation deterioated when Peter and Fiona’s tent was blown into the sea while they were off walking on their second day on the island.
Happily, most of their gear was rescued by Julie, wife of Stewart Connor, the island’s National Trust for Scotland warden. Julie, Stewart and friends then found a spare tent and sleeping bags for the refugees and a minor catastrophe was transformed into a convivial social event.
Thereafter, the weather was a mixed affair, but Peter, Fiona and Dougal hugely enjoyed the trip, which saw them visit the isles of Canna, Eigg and Muck. Among the routes they walked was a ‘circumperambulation’ of Canna, taking in that island’s magnificent coastline of towering cliffs, where they watched sea eagles circling in lazy arcs above the Sea of the Hebrides.
A fine route up and around the unmistakable pitchstone monolith of An Sgurr on Eigg in perfect conditions saw the sun cream used for the first time, and a walk around the small but perfectly formed isle of Muck – the very essence of an island idyll – was rewarded with a fine meal of steamed langoustine washed down with a pint of Glenfinnan Gold ale in the garden of the excellent Port Mòr Hotel. As Peter describes it:
It was a fantastic week, despite the mishap with the tent; I’m constantly amazed by the sheer natural beauty of these islands with their sparkling white sand beaches, amethyst and aquamarine seas, towering basalt cliffs, jagged volcanic peaks and magnificent wildlife. The inhabitants of the Small Isles are a friendly lot too.
Having made three week-long trips to Rum earlier this year, it was good to actually be looking onto that island’s magnificent mountain ridge – the Rum Cuillin – from a variety of different vantage points.
The one mystery that remains to me after all the time I’ve spent among these islands is the relatively small number of visitors there are. The often unpredictable weather in the Hebrides is surely a factor, but for people who love the outdoors, a bit of weather is something to embrace, especially when the pay-off is having the sublimely beautiful natural environment of the Western Isles all to yourself.
Walking on Rum and the Small Isles is due to be published next Spring