… towards the Land of the Purple Heather
(just a reminder that to get full benefit of the photos, just tap or click on each image to enlarge to your liking!)
After three weeks back home, Elaine rejoined Bob and Pipistrelle on 19th July at Howth Marina, flying from Southampton to Dublin, from the warmth of Southern England to the rain on the Emerald Isle!
A quick weather check and conversation with local sailors the following morning confirmed there was no time to linger in Howth if we were to catch the ‘window’ and start heading northwards. So we slipped our lines at lunchtime and set off towards Bangor, Northern Ireland from where it would be ideal to cross to Scotland. At a distance of 90nm, Bangor was just an overnight sail away. All began well if a little damp with a couple of rainbows thrown in, and of course there was plenty of shipping around in the Irish Sea on our night watches. The wind and heavy rain came up on the approach to Bangor early the next morning, with visibility of about 100 m, so we anchored in Ballyholme Bay, preferring to enter the nearby marina in calmer conditions the following day.
We stayed for a couple of days and did a bit of local exploration on foot around what was once a popular Victorian seaside resort and still an attractive town, but unfortunately did not have time to venture into Belfast as we needed to press on northwards.
Judging the right time to leave Bangor on a favourable tide and get round the Mull of Kintyre with its fierce current in our favour demanded some thought. We wanted to get to Ardminish on the island of Gigha in a day, a new destination for us and the most southerly island of the Inner Hebrides. Once safely at anchor, we both agreed how delightful it was to be back in the land of the purple heather after eight years, despite or because of the weather!
We were fortunate to walk around the local Achamore Gardens on a bright, rainless day. Unfortunately, now no longer manicured, they are still colourful and have belonged to the local community since 2002. The house is separately owned and currently for sale for anyone who would like a 14 bedroomed mansion in a peaceful location for the price of an expensive flat in London.
From Gigha we crossed to Craighouse on Jura, and moored in the shadow of the small whisky distillery and hotel where we had dinner one evening. Here we reminisced about our two visits to the island as part of the Classic Malts Cruise eight years ago when we visited the distillery and enjoyed a private ‘nosing’ or tasting on board Pipistrelle.
Working our way north, we had a lively sail to Crinan where we anchored in the protected bay just west of the Canal entrance and used the dinghy to get ashore. Watching the yachts in the sea lock gave us a few pointers and tips for handling Pipistrelle in our upcoming transit of the Caledonian Canal, and walking along the scenic towpath we saw just how narrow the Canal is in places. Highly recommended comes the Seafood Bar of the Crinan Hotel with its fresh seafood dishes and cosy atmosphere overlooking the Canal.
And so on up to Oban Marina on the island of Kerrera. A fairly tricky sail taking the inshore route which we did, weighing anchor at dawn to get the current through the Dorus Mor, on up between Scarba and Luing, past Fladda, the island of Seil and the Sound of Kerrera to the marina opposite the town of Oban. With precision navigation required most of the way, the tablet showing our position on the Navionics chart was firmly in its holder in the cockpit.
What a friendly welcome we received on Kerrera! The marina has changed hands since we were last there, new owners having taken over just four months previously. They are succeeding in turning it around from neglect. The team is multi-talented, from being on reception, to driving the complementary ferry shuttle to get us from the island to the North Pier in town, taking lines for arriving yachts, working behind the bar in the small restaurant or waiting at table in the evening, which all gives it a family feel.
As with the Seafood Bar at Crinan, we followed the recommendation of sailing friends to have a meal at the Seafood Temple in Oban. We weren’t disappointed! Within walking distance of the town, this tiny family run restaurant is located in what used to be the park pavilion (aka facilities!) with glorious sea views and serves fresh top quality Scottish seafood – a delicious treat! As was the pre-dinner drink we enjoyed at the Manor House Hotel.
The Classic Malts Cruise started here with a reception at the distillery and parade of sail around Oban Harbour. This time we booked a distillery tour, a tasting and a few purchases once Edvard and Lars had joined us.
To look back on our Scottish adventures of 2008 go to:
The Mull Circumnavigation and of course, most importantly