The Garvellachs – 16th June, 2022 - By Norman Wares
The Garvellachs, in Scottish Gaelic: An Garbh Eileaicha, the ‘rough islands’ or Isles of the Sea are a chain of four small islands lying north of Isle of Jura at the entrance to the Firth of Lorne, An Linne Latharnach, and situated between the Isle of Lunga to the southeast and Mull to the north, and about four miles west of the Isle of Luing.
This trip was planned to fit neatly into the middle of the week between the Summer Isles, and another Sanda island trip. We used the Farsain Cruises boat operating from Craobh Haven, which had previously been skippered for many years by Duncan who has since retired.
After a late Covid call-off, 9 of us set sail in high spirits, but as we motored through the treacherous tidal race known as The Grey Dogs, between Lunga and Scarba it became obvious that the sea swell was such that it might not be possible to land on many of our target islands. Tony, the new skipper said that this was the first time he had failed to land people on Eileach an Naoimh, which was a disappointment to all, and this continued as we sailed past the other islands vainly searching for suitable landing spots, not helped by a brisk South wind and a falling Spring tide.
Eventually, we made landfall on Eilean Dubh Mor thanks to excellent rope work by Calum and Jonathan, who were first on land. The boat crew was amused at the sight of all 9 baggers cheerfully scampering through bracken and blackened heather roots. With both tops bagged a decision had to be made on where it would be possible to go next and we settled on Lunga, which again needed a few attempts for all to disembark over the bow. The Sib of Bidein na h’ Iolaire was successfully bagged by those 7 who hadn’t been previously.
After another abortive attempt at rocky Guirasdeal, Tony offered to return to Naoimh, and we were delighted to find that the swell was reduced and we could land. This is the most interesting island in the group, with the ruins of a 6th-century monastery to explore on the way to the South West top and nearby trig pillar. The ridge walk to the main top follows some spectacular cliffs and was a fitting end to our adventure. It was somewhat galling to look over to nearby Garbh Eileach which would have enabled Jon Metcalf to log his final (excluding St Kilda) Haswell-Smith island, and where I had intended to offer whisky and shortbread on the occasion of my 2000th Hump, but that’s typical of island bagging where the Scottish weather can be unpredictable.
Despite landing on only 3 islands, everyone agreed it had been a grand day out – the wind kept the rain clouds away and we enjoyed the camaraderie of like-minded baggers. The missing islands will still be there should anybody wish to return!
The Summer Isles - 13th to 14th June, 2022
Jim Bloomer arranged a successful SIB bagging trip to the Summer Isles departing from Ullapool.
Photos: Denise McLellan.