Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world and I would like to introduce you to some of my top locations. This month the focus will be on the Treshnish group consisting of islands and rocky outcrops. More information on all Scottish islands can be found in the island bible “The Scottish Islands” by Hamish Haswell Smith.
Just a few miles to the west of Mull, the archipelago of Treshnish lie in a turquoise sea that even tropical islands would find hard to beat (save the temperature). Now uninhabited, these islands are home to large seabird colonies and the month of May is the best time to visit with guillemots, fulmar razorbill, and of course the endearing puffin.
Lunga is the easiest to land on and is the highest, providing magnificent views stretching over the sea to Rum in the North with Iona and Jura’s peaks in the South. Nestling under the hill amidst the braken lie the ruins of old “Black Houses” once home to Donald Campbell who, with his family left in 1824 – the group is now owned by National Trust Scotland. The evocative Bac Mor or Dutchmans Cap, the distinct shape formed by an ancient volcano cone, with the flat plain surround was created from glassy lava fields. I have sailed round Bac Mor a number of times but there seems to be no real safe place to land. Rocky shores strewn with kelp along with the constant surge of the sea coming in from the Atlantic makes scrambling ashore quite tricky. Perhaps this year the weather will be calm enough to allow some of us to scramble ashore and reach the top.
Fladda is just like its name, a flat volcanic plateau where sea caves ring to the song of the seals who’s eerie mournful cry seems to belong here in this deserted and desolate place. The surrounding waters are teeming with puffins , thousands of them, fishing for sand eels in the clear waters. Puffin numbers are on the decline, either because of overfishing, or climate change, every year we notice fewer numbers.
Close to the Mull shore, Cairn na Burgh More believed to be where the monks of Iona buried their library for safety during the reformation of1560 – this treasure has never been recovered, but should you find them, these wonderfully illustrated books would be worth millions. Up on the top of the island lie the remains of a medieval castle and a chapel. There is a story stating that Maclean of Lochbuie was imprisoned on the isle for feuding. For company he was accompanied by the ugliest woman on Mull, but this did not stop him giving forth a son who won back his title! It is also believed that the castle is where the Maclean clans unwanted wives were imprisoned.
Lunga remains a favourite anchorage due to the tranquility of the place. The flora and fauna , chattering sea birds, vibrant colours of wild flowers, bluebells and pinks clinging to black cliffs on a warm May day, makes the island feel like a little bit of heaven. It is not all good news though, the ever present plastic pollution is rife and last year Owain and I struggled ashore at the far end of the island to collect the waste visible on the beach. We found drinks cans from America and Canada, large swathes of fishing nets, fish boxes and fenders, the pair of us carried as much as we could but it was hard to get the dinghy close enough to the shore to gather the rest to take back to Oban. It is so daunting to see the amount of damage we humans have done and the size of the operation needed to make things right for nature once more.