Chapter 11: Aug 15 - Loch Nevis to Loch Drum Bhuidhe
August 15th - Loch Nevis. Bright cold morning. Last night there was quite a scatter of wind from the north, so after dinner a kedge was laid. It put an end to Pandora's ceaseless prowling, as though she were a tiger in a cage, and gradually it laid the wind as well. Maureen cooked the duck which had been secured with such fine strategy on the part of Smab. The feast with all its proper accompaniments even to on orange souffle was a succes d'estime - though we all lamented the absence of Mollie and missed her cheery infectious peals of girlish laughter.
Breakfast and the washing up being over anchor was aweigh at 8.40 and Mallaig was reached at 9.30.
As I have frequently remarked and shall often do so again; there is a charming variety about Scottish scenery. No two places are alike. Wherever we have been, distinctive features differentiate them all. The salient qualities of Loch Nevis are freshness, purity, brilliancy of colour, ethereality of air and harmony of shape. It lends itself to the atmospheric changes, which like woman souvent varient. Now a rainbow, now a squall. The colours are blue, turqoise, amethyst, topaz and sometimes ruby when the sun rises or sets. These are aqueous tints - water colours in fact. The mundane or terrestrial tones are umber and sepia and often black on the deeper sides of the mountain slopes and glens, and brilliant greens and yellows where the sun lights on the haughs and margins of the loch. A prevailing note is pink where the rocks outcrop on the sgurrs and scarps. The eileanan which cluster below Glas Choille are gay with the lighter tints. Flowers, shells and shingle and the little bays of whitest sand are the purest objects in nature. No wonder they call it the Loch of Heaven. Yet what a contrast to Loch Hourn the fairest gem of them all.
Here in the open sea, for Eigg now covers rainy Rum as we head for Ardnamurchan, we dance and curtsey to the swell, sparkling and rippled, as it is, in the westing breeze. All Morar, Knoydart, Moidart, all southern Skye, by the Small Isles down to Ardnamurchan lies clear and definitive. The points of land are miraged off so that their bases are invisible and they seem like the prows of prehistoric vessels. A long time ago on these same Hebridean waters I remember a clear distant vision of what seemed like whale shaped islands on the horizon. Very gradually as we steamed north they merged into the one long island of South Uist, with, may be, Barra at its western tail.
My astonishing luck with Ardnamurchan still held, we glided by its shimmering sandy beaches in a flat calm, and making good time of it sailed most statelily into Tobermory at the tides lowest ebb. We made fast to the pier our deck being about twelve feet below the planking. There was urgent business to be done, wires to be sent, and what not, so we called on the most agile member of the crew to do her stuff. A rope was heaved aloft and made fast to a bollard and Maureen swarmed up it like a cat burglar. It was a tricky and awkward business getting over the great quay beam which jutted out beyond the edge of the pier, but several helpful dockwallopers gave her a hand and a haul up. For a moment she lay like a dead fish on the pier, but soon regaining her breath ejaculated "I am not so young as I was". "What sixty?" says her heaver or haulier. Disdaining a retort she dashed off to the post office while we took the opportunity to water ship with more of that 'Old Mull'. Maureen's re-embarkation was no less sensational. Somehow she clambered down to the lowest strut of the pier, while the Skipper did one of his best bits of manoeuvring and collected the dauntless little frail. He then backed away from the pier and, circling out into the bay, the ensign was dipped to the admiring audience and we dieselled off to Loch Drum Bhuidhe at the mouth of Loch Sunart.
In Drum Bhuidhe we were indeed, not for the first time this trip, far from the madding crowd. The only sign of life were some charming gulls. A fastidiously marked, grey and sepia coloured, very young herring gull was being much chased about by its common elder cousins. It seemed quite unconcerned, showed no umbrage and retaliated in form. They were very different from the Mallaig hawks whose company is thrust upon you willy nilly and who have no manners at all. As I have noted before they can imitate any animal, bird or noise from a screech owl to a cow or a yapping fox terrier. There was a screech owl in Drum Bhuidhe wood from whom doubtless they had learnt the trick.
It was a flat calm night and lovely beyond description. The water was clear and translucent and the sky blue. The colours on Carna and the Sunart and Morven Hills were of red, gold and deep blue. A nearly full moon lit up a scene of fairyland, but of course that was after the sun had set.