Eigg

Our wonderful record with the weather continued today. The forecast was for rain, it had rained overnight, and was overcast when we woke. It is overcast now and there have been clouds all day but our trip to Eigg was not rain affected.

The weather at breakfast time did not look promising for a ferry ride to an island where we planned to explore on foot. It had not improved by the time we set out at 8:30 am with Majella driving for an hour trip to Mallaig where we would catch the ferry to Eigg. We arrived in Mallaig about 9:30 am, found a parking space some distance from the ferry terminal and walked back to town via a coffee shop. Majella’s DIY hot chocolate was a new experience. It came as hot milk in a tall glass mug with a block of chocolate on a wooden spatula and a small tub of whipped cream. It did not reach the heights of Cocoa Mountain but seemed to be more than satisfactory.

DSC_5961After coffee and hot chocolate we walked on to the ferry terminal, bought tickets, and boarded for the 10:15 am departure. Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) runs vehicular ferries to multiple island destinations off the west coast of Scotland. The small isles ferry route runs on a timetable that varies by day of the week and Thursday was the only day that would work for us to get to Eigg and back. As we left the harbour and Eigg came into view the sky seemed to be clearing in that direction. At least the clouds were lifting there whereas, in the other direction toward Skye we could see squalls.

DSC_5968As seems typical in this part of the world, the hour and a bit required for the 16 or so km journey was plenty of time for the weather to change. As we approached Eigg the clouds descended and rain squalls appeared. I had been in and out of the cabin, standing round the corner from the front of the ferry out of the worst of the wind, to take photos. I could see the rain coming our way and was back inside before it came tumbling down. The rain did not last long but it had us wondering what weather conditions we might meet on the island.

DSC_5973As we drew nearer to Eigg, the weather changed again. The clouds lfted, except from the tallest point An Sgurr, blue sky appeared, and there was sunlight on parts of the island. It was a much more hopeful prospect than had appeared as we left Mallaig. The ferry docked, we disembarked, and walked along the pier to the store at the end as the ferry headed off to the next island, Muck.

Our visit to the Isle of Eigg was at the suggestion of Glen Postle. He and his wife, Sonia, had stayed there for some days during one of his several periods of working with colleagues at Stirling University. Glen was very taken with the eco-friendly approach being taken by the residents. Eigg has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Last century it was in private hands but a cooperative of residents with wider support arranged to buy it in 1997 and have committed to making it as sustainable as possible using renewable energy and other appropriate technologies.

We had no firm plans for our time on Eigg and were conscious that the ferry would be back and boarding for the return journey at 1:00 pm, just 90 minutes later. Majella had been in conversation with a woman from Raasay, an island further north, during the last part of the trip. The woman was on her first trip to Eigg, despite being of a similar age to us, and had an interest in archaeology and history. The Massacre Cave was mentioned in conversation and the map at the store suggested it should be within our small radius for exploration.

DSC_5987There are few roads on Eigg and the map suggested that the first on the left led to a track to the Massacre Cave. We set off with the intention of walking for no more than 30 minutes before turning back so as to not miss the ferry. The cave is named for a ghastly event in which members of Clan MacLeod killed the entire population of Clan MacDonald on Eigg. The MacDonalds were hiding in a cave to escape the MacLeods but were discovered and the MacLeods lit a fire at the entrance to the cave so that the MacDonalds were all asphyxiated. Reading the description of the hidden cave later I think we were standing above it rather than looking at the entrance but we did get to right vicinity before turning back.

DSC_5999We had lunch, leek and tattie soup for Majella and ham salad roll for me, at the store before boarding the ferry to return to Mallaig. By that time the cloud had lifted and we had a good view of the island, including the An Sgurr peak, as we departed.

Back in Mallaig, Majella browsed a knitwear shop featuring items made by two women working at knitting machines in the store. She was very taken with a coat but moved on. We had coffee and then walked back to the car. As we left town the rain began to sprinkle on the windscreen. We really had our timing right today.

A few kilometres along the road to Fort William Majella began to regret not having bought the coat when she could. However, no amount of encouragment on my part could persuade her to turn back so we drove on back to tackle the laundry.

In the early evening we drove into town to look around and ate steaks with chips and salad at a local café. Tomorrow morning we move on to new places. We have been comfortable here at Farrow Apartments. It has the facilities we need and the location has been ideal for our trips further west.