26thJune. After a leisurely breakfast and a morning swim for Ben and Sally (brrr!), we spent most of the day exploring Tanera Mor, the largest of the Summer Isles. It is well known for having its own post office and authority to issue its own stamps; there’s a beautiful collection of first day covers on display, dating back to the 1970s, with the latest from 2016. Tanera Mor has no permanent residents and the holiday cottages were strangely empty.
The island is going through a transition: having been sold recently it is being developed as a holiday and event destination. We learned that 140 construction workers are normally on the island (they were on holiday while we were there) and several new roads have been created, joining up three ‘communities’ of holiday homes being built. In the middle of the island we came across a building clearly designed to be a big party venue, and on the shore there is a bar and reception building. A lot of recycled materials have been used, such as corrugated iron for buildings and a large numbers of wooden barrels placed decoratively around. It is good to see investment being put into the island, but the way in which it is being developed seems out of character with the island’s wild simplicity. The new buildings are in multiple styles, often made with beautiful stone but with little connection to local heritage. The coastline and hills, however, remain as they always have been, and several of our party climbed to the top of the island to enjoy the amazing view. You can see Jonathan’s photos on Facebook here.
Later in the afternoon we set off south again and motored in the still evening to an anchorage at Mellon Charles, just inside Loch Ewe on the north shore. In the clear light we could see the outline of the outer Hebrides and (more clearly) the distinctive shape of the Shiant Isles, mid-way between Skye and Lewis.
The following morning, we set off for a 30 mile trip towards Skye. We motored out of the loch because we needed to catch the tide round Rubha Reidh, the headland at the south entrance to Loch Ewe. Once round the headland, the wind was gentle and from the north, so we put out our gennaker and made good progress.
The wind strengthened and we switched sails to use the jib. It was sunny and we could see the mountains on the mainland and, as we travelled south, the Cuillins on Skye came into view. We approached Rona, the northerly of two islands separated by a narrow sound, aiming for Acarseid Mhor (‘big harbour’) on the west side. It required careful navigation to enter, round an island, then avoiding drying rocks on both sides of the channel, before entering a small bay surrounded by wooded slopes and sheltered by Harbour Island in the middle. We prepared to anchor but found the bay has four new visitor moorings (making five in total) so we picked up the one remaining buoy and had a late lunch on deck in the sunshine – only the second time we’ve been able to do that in this voyage! Then after some vigorous pumping of the dinghy and some dithering about how many layers of clothing to wear, we went ashore to explore.
The Island of Rona may appear tiny on the map, but its cliffs, hills and harbours give it a sense of presence and it once had a significant population. There’s a deserted village on the island, and a lodge which is occupied by the island ‘caretaker’ who offers ‘crew suppers’ ashore and will sell you venison culled from the island (we spotted a red deer). A couple of houses in the village were converted to holiday homes some years ago, and recently a couple of simple wooden lodges have been built overlooking the harbour. Otherwise the island is as it always was and the development that has been done is in keeping – in contrast to Tanera Mor.
We walked up the one steep road on the island and down towards the ruined village, built around ‘Dry Harbour’, another sheltered landing place. As we turned to look back at Nova it was clear we were in one of the most beautiful anchorages we have ever been in. We were seeing it at its best: blazing sunshine, haze and mountains in all directions capped with shapely clouds. We explored the ruined cottages and admired the nicely converted ‘mission house’. (You can see more photos here).
On our way back we turned off the main road heading for ‘church cave’. We followed a fairly tortuous (but well marked) route across a boggy hillside and then on and on down a steep path. Finally, assisted by a rope ‘handrail’, we arrived at a magnificent sea-cave, overlooking the Inner Sound and mainland. Inside were stones set out as pews, a font made from a ring of stones and a cross on the ground made from pebbles. The cave had been used as a church until 1912 and it felt a privilege to have made the long walk there from the village, treading the same path as countless islanders in the past, walking to their place of worship.
- Distance: 18NM + 30NM. Motored 3 hours (to Loch Ewe), Motored 1 hr, sailed 5h
- Wind: negligible, N/NW 3-4
ABOUT THIS BLOG
On our passage ‘Around These Islands’ Anne is writing about each trip, and Jonathan is writing some more ‘technical’ blogs, from our perspective as ordinary cruising sailors. We are sharing what we’ve learned, and welcome your thoughts too. Please remember that this blog – and your comments – are public.
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