Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Guest Post: In the Hebrides with Wolfgang, by Nick Cooper

When a friend of mine realised I did a spot of outdoor writing and photography he happened upon this little journal of mine and enjoyed reading it. When he told me he was heading to the Hebrides for a bit of walking and photography, I offered him my Canon 17-40 f/4L for his 60D. He responded by asking if he could show some of his photos on the Journeyman Traveller. I suggested he go one better and here is his story.

Thanks, Nick.

A quick dash to the Hebrides for four days walking with Wolfgang who had flown in from Bavaria. From London to Oban took 11 hours. In fact, just in time to watch the 14.00hrs boat sail. Chip shop and provisions, into the reserve queue for the 16.00 and on Mull in our cottage by 17.40.

The plan had been for climbing a couple of the highest points and some gentler walking, maybe camping on Ulva and an extended walk there. On Mull Beinn Fhada (707 m) there is a wondrous ridge walk into the heart of the hills of the Southern shore of Loch na Keal. Not as high as Ben More (966 m), the only Munro on the island and the only other Munro on any of the Western Isles saving Skye, but Beinn Fhada has more variety. Ben More has the triumph though.

In the event, the rainbow we spotted our first day was not the sign of a respite from the rain we had hoped for. A low pressure system off the North East of Scotland brought in an occluded front that drew rain across the West Coast and into every gap between layers of clothes, eyelets of boots, down the back of our necks until it mattered no longer. The cloud was low too. Too low to reasonably enjoy the prospect of either those peaks as there were no views to be had.
We kept it simple. 

To Ulva, for some peace and quiet. As we were set down the boat man pointed out the Golden Eagles soaring on what light thermals they had discovered and we turned towards the path for the South side. I always visit. It used to be populated with several settlements, the home of the “Father” of Australia, Lachlan Macquarie and a destination for Boswell and Johnson. Its tranquillity is startling. Beach and Pine woods full of light and drawing us over the moss and up towards the peak.

The wind blew from our minds all thoughts of working life, almost all thoughts at all and I found myself clinging to the trig point on Bein Chreagach, only 313 m. On other days I have stood rooted, looking at the panorama of the hills, Treshnish Islands, Ulva ferry and back towards Mull. Wolfgang leaned into the wind and stayed floating in its force at an abrupt and jaunty angle.

Then heading back down towards Ulva ferry once more. The boat house sells excellent beer, which is where I found my Bavarian friend before I got there, naturally. The next day we walked Treshnish point. Once famous for the rocks and arches being used as counterpoint to the action for the film Eye of the Needle, starring Donald Sutherland (1981). 8 miles, so really just a gentle look around as the rain stayed off for an afternoon.

From the carefully ordered and well kempt buildings at Treshnish, that has every appearance of self sustaining bliss we followed the path to the headland. In the sun a school of Dolphins plunged into the waves, feeding. We followed this sight along the coast as our path took us along the raised beach and back into Loch Tuath. The Treshnish basked in gun metal and silver light. Over time the Treshnish Isles have served many purposes, no doubt. One we enjoyed was spotting where the top of Dutchman’s Cap is in line with the cliffs of the Southern most tip of Lunga, for it marks the site of the hidden cave that housed the illicit Whiskey still, in the cliffs below our path. Then, the next small bay is where the path turns up the cliffs to deserted villages of Crackhaig and Glac Gugairidh. If you know where to look and have let the Islands perform this other rite. That left three more days.

We filled them with reading and talking. Wandering the cliffs and shore. We gathered fine golden Chantrelle. In Bavaria they grow in May. Pfifferling or Eierschwammerl to Wolfgang. He telephoned his mother who lives near Pegnitz in Bayern that evening for her recipe; with boiled potatoes, scrambled eggs and caraway.

Thank you Frau Höcht, thank you, again, Mull.

1 comment:

  1. Looks beautiful, a place to go on my "to do" list......