Chapter 6: Aug 8 - Loch Creran to Loch Scresort, Rum
August 8th - Loch Creran towards Tobermory. I am always sorry to leave Loch Creran and the vicinity of its most attractive ferry house. There by the ferry slip one meets the pilgrims who hope some time and some day to make the passage of the ferry. They live in hope for the ferryman lives on the northern shore in another little white house by another Slip. The ferry is two miles across and they are all most apt to forget that it is a ferry, much to the discomfiture of the King's lieges who desire to proceed to Appin, Glencoe and other historical, romantic and delectable places.
This, I am compelled to admit was a cold grey morning; there had been RAIN three times underlined in the night. We pushed out through the maze of rocks and swirling tides at the entrance to the loch and made across to the Lismore shore which we hugged closely to take full advantage of the south-going stream. One cannot move through that region without taking note of its exceptional beauties even in this land of excellence and perfection. Everything that one sees is fascinating to the eye as one threads one's way between the islets and the wild untamed shores of Lismore (The Great Garden).
Eilean Dubh, the islet that I call the left portal of Loch Linnhe, is a steep greenwood stack with precipitous sides surrounded by lesser eminences. There are black bouldery rocks amid the green turf. The whole insula is surrounded by grey blue shelving rock with an almost black edging and at the sea edge there is bright yellow weed turning to umber at the lower tide. When the sun shines this is a picture and when it doesn't it is still a picture. The ruins and the waterfall of the little clachan sheltered by trees; the hough below the heughs of Fiart at the south east corner of Lismore hold the eye till we passed the last of the Stirk skerries on which a 'bunch' of seals, black, white, grey and murrey coloured were taking their post breakfast nap - on not exactly a day to bask, which is what they usually do. Birds of all sorts seem very scarce, August is a bit late for them, though where they would find a better spot is a mystery.
Sea is now much flatter than on our passage from Spelve to Kerrera. A few moments of roll as we turned beam on at Lismore Light, otherwise an almost even keel. Some of the ship's party seem to prefer it so. For me I care no hoot. We are a good party: you should see us after the evening washup. Yes sir, I mean washup not worship you mitigated owl. You should see us then. We have discovered a new game called consequences productive of almost inordinate mirth. Lexicon was tried but there were an insufficient number of intellectuals for it to succeed, though mind you it is a good game.
The Sound of Mull was rich in waterfalls and the weather improved and soon after noon we fetched up alongside MacBrayne's pier at Tobermory. The Skipper had been overhauling and adjusting and cleaning the Gardner Diesel to some effect, for the little engine turned over an excellent screw and brought us along at over six knots.
At Tobermory we filled the tanks with fresh coffee coloured Tobermory water, the same they used for Old Mull of happy and alcoholic memory. We also took in Oil of Diesel. There too a shore party bought stores, despatched mail and havered with the inhabitants. It is a social and kindly little burgh. Charles MacLean supplied us with Diesel and Calor and pleasant gossip. He was a 'Duart' and Maureen hailed him as a kinsman.
We cast off at 2.15 and passing Runa Gal proceeded in fairing weather (we had almost been drowned out and washed away in Tobermory) towards the Plowman Rock, which could be seen clear of the point and Ardnanurchan. It is an entrancing passage. You leave Bloody Bay, scene of ancient highland villainies, and the bold cliffs of Mull, whereon Glengorm Castle is a conspicuous object and cross the Sound in a long diagonal. Away down on the starboard quarter lies Loch Sunart with Ben Hiant and MacLean's Nose at its mouth, Beinn Laga half way up and Ben Resipol at its head. These are three very shapely mountains, standing up bold and black against a background of sinister dark cloud, which was even a cheering sight as it showed we had left the rain behind. Indeed the further west one goes in a south west wind, the finer the weather becomes. The moisture laden Gulf Stream breezes play on the mountains of Caledonia, which are colder than they. They are condensed into rain and plenty of it; but as Maury tells us, when the aqueous vapour borne by the winds is converted into rain, the latent heat is released, warming the air. The air rises, leaving a partial vacuum, which the winds again make haste to fill. "First the rain and then the wind..."
Now we had Mingary Castle and Kilchoan village abeam and soon we came to the cliffs of Ardnamurchan which are worth going many leagues to see. Some call them the 'Leonora Crags' from the legend of the young romantic who wrote his lady's name in the sand which the waves washed out. He tried again higher up the beach but the relentless sea surged up and washed that out too. Exasperated with the transiency of sand, he scaled the mighty cliffs behind him and when he had reached a satisfactory altitude, he carved in very deep letters indeed the loved name LEONORA and when he had completed the job to his approval he said "I should like to see the wave that will wash that out".
As we admired these precipices dark and most impressive, white waterfalls threaded their way dawn tortuous gullies and gorges and then plunged headlong into the sea. Aboard, the gulls planed and swooped in circles about us as we fed them with crusts and unlamented fish. A pair of gannets sailed most rhythmically and harmoniously along the face of the cliff. Theirs is the poetry of flight. Atlantic breakers crashed into white spume and froth over the Plowman Rock and soon we raised the lighthouse on its long ichthyosaurus like tongue of iron rock. Westmost Ho! Rapidly and successively Canna, Rum, Muck and Eigg crane into view and we rolled along with the great ocean swell behind us, and on our port quarter. I steered for a spell from Ardnamurchan into the Sound of Eigg, where we had a temporary lee from the Isle of Muck and then rolled out again into the Sound of Rum where we are now heading for Loch Scresort. That unmistakeable island of Eigg looks as like as Tweedledee from the west as it does like Tweedledum from the east and here on my port beam rise those stately giants Askival, Ashival, and Hallival of the most exclusive island of Rum.
When we anchored in Scresort at 7.15 p.m. having run about fifty four miles from Creran the aspect of the place was enchanting and sublime. White houses of superior architectural quality were dotted about here and there amid pine coppices. The red sandstone castle, a long two storeyed pretentious structure seemed a superfluity. A couple of drifters lay to anchor at the head of the loch, which was otherwise devoid of craft, Scresort being generally an unchancy and uneasy anchorage. On the south the ridge rose steeply to the shoulder of Halleval whose impressive peak towered high amid the wild surroundings. White skeins of silken cataracts and falls threaded the gray brown green slopes and the sound of rushing waters made sweet music. Loch Scresort lies broad open to the cast commanding a segment of the grandest scenery in Scotland. To the north across the sunlit waters were the Coolins and the eye travelled from height to height to Marsco, Blaven and Ben Cailleach in Skye, then Ben Screel above Loch Hourn, then the Five Sisters of Kintail, Beinn nan Eun, Carn Mairi, Laorben of Knoydart, Beinn na Ciche and so to the mountains of Morar. Eigg was just obscured by the south seapoint of the loch. A brilliant rainbow persisted for two or three hours until near sunset, its northern end illuminating the dark rain clouds which hung about the Coolins. We lay bathed in sunshine while Skye and the Mainland were drenched with storms; but for us the deluge at night and even till morning and not over yet.