Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Day on the Isle of Eigg

Wednesday 19th September

A pleasant day on the Isle of Eigg climbing An Sgurr followed by a pushchair walk along one of the island's only roads.

Distance: 16km; Ascent: 490m; Mainly Sunny and Dry; Solo (An Sgurr) / with Lynsey and Isabel (rest of walk)

We could see the Isles of Eigg and Rum from the windows of the apartment we were staying at in Morar for the week, so we decided that it would be nice to take a trip over to one of them.  Studying the various ferry timetables for today, the best option appeared to be to take the small passenger ferry service across from Arisaig to Eigg for the day as that would give us 5 hours on Eigg, which would give us time to explore some of the island.

Our boat to Eigg in Arisaig (with Eigg in the distance)
The boat left Arisaig at 11am and sailed out over the calm waters of Loch nan Ceall, where we spotted a sea eagle perched on one of the many rocky islets that littered these coastal waters.  After 15 minutes or so we passed the headland that had been sheltering us, and the crossing suddenly became rougher.  I suspect that the relatively small size of the boat (certainly compared to Calmac ferries!) may have made it feel choppier than it actually was!

The highest point on Eigg is an awe inspiring peak called An Sgurr, which I have been wanting to climb ever since first seeing a photo of it, many years ago, in the SMC guidebook: "The Corbetts & Other Scottish Hills".  If you have a copy of the book to hand, turn to page 256 and you'll see what I mean (alternatively my photo below is an almost identical view of it to that in the book!)  As we were on Eigg today, Lynsey had kindly offered to look after Isabel for a couple of hours to allow me to go and climb it :-)

An Sgurr
We landed on Eigg at the pier in Galmisdale at around midday and, whilst Lynsey and Isabel headed into the tearoom for lunch, I began my ascent in earnest.  The first kilometre or so was on vehicle tracks until shortly after passing the house in the photo above I picked up a narrow eroded path up over the moorland.

The views got more and more impressive as I ascended up towards the imposing sheer cliffs that barred the way up to the summit.  Luckily however there is an easiest route up the hill along it's west ridge!  The path traversed the boggy northern slopes of the hill, with good views up to the intriguing pitchstone rock.  After a few hundred metres of traversing, the path ascended up to a bealach on the ridge from where there were good views across the sea towards Muck and the mainland.

Interesting rock
More interesting rock
Intermittent easy scrambling over the lumpy pitchstone rock brought me to the cylindrical trig point on the summit of An Sgurr (Marilyn).  There were excellent views from up here, especially across to Rum, Skye, the mainland and of course the rest of Eigg too.  And I had the summit to myself too :-)

Trig point on the summit of An Sgurr, with Rum and Skye in the background
A heavy shower was fast approaching over the sea to the west, and so after a quick visit to the unmarked true summit (~25m from the trig point) I descended 20m or so for a quick lunch stop before donning my waterproofs just in time!

True summit of An Sgurr
Retracing my steps westwards along the ridge in the rain, I passed several other day walkers heading towards the summit.  Shortly before I left the ridge, the rain stopped and there were excellent views across to the Rum Cuillin.

The Rum Cuillin from slopes of An Sgurr
Cliffs of An Sgurr Cliffs of An Sgurr
After stopping to have a final close up look at the impressive eastern end of An Sgurr, I descended back down through some pleasant woodland to find Lynsey and Isabel on the pier in Galmisdale.

Pleasant woodland track near Galmisdale
Galmisdale Point and Eilean Chathastail
It was now 3pm, but our ferry back to Arisaig wasn't due to leave until 5pm so we decided to go and explore some more of the island.  We followed the quiet road northwards towards Cleadale.  Soon after 4pm we turned round having reached approximately the centre of the island, from where there were excellent views.

Standing stone near the summit of the road
We returned to Galmisdale in plenty of time for the boat, which meant that I had enough time to pick up a cake from the tearoom.  The journey back to Arisaig was smoother than this mornings, and we were back on the mainland at 6pm after a fantastic day on Eigg.  I shall have to return some other time to explore more of the island!

Galmisdale beach and pier
Added 27/09/12 - Here's a link to my Social Hiking map of the walk

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 19/09/12, (from 26/09/12)

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