Isle of EiggYou are Here: Scotland; Lochaber; Isle of Eigg
The Isle of Eigg is one of the Small Isles off to the west of Mallaig, and South of the Isle of Skye. I have spent many long hours sitting on the shore at Traigh near Arisaig staring out to the west and looking at the isles of Eigg and Rum (Muck and Canna are generally hidden). I have also looked down on the tantalising sight of these islands from the heights of the Cuillin on Skye, seen them shimmering in the water from the ferry to Tiree, and seen their snow capped peaks from Ardnamurchan. But, until today, I had never set foot on any of them.
The MV Loch NevisThe MV Loch Nevis is the Calmac Ferry that sails to the Small Isles from Mallaig. It is the cheapest and most comfortable way of visiting these beautiful patches of land that lie in the sparkling blue Sea of the Hebrides. You can't take a car across, not that there would be much point anyway as you can walk around all but Rum in just a few hours, and Rum doesn't exactly have tarred roads! There were a fair few bikes on the ferry though, and coming back a number of kayaks/canoes too.
It was a little grey as we pulled out of Mallaig, but the sun was shining on the islands through some patches of blue sky, and as the ferry headed west, the blue sky was growing. Ahead were the isles of Rum and Eigg, off to the right the majestic Cuillin slowly revealed themselves from behind Sleat and to the left was the beautiful coast between Mallaig and Arisaig, followed by the long west-pointing finger of Ardnamurchan. There was a steady breeze as we sailed on, but the cloud was peeling back, and the sun getting warmer. A few dolphins were spotted, and lots of birds, and then after just over an hour the ferry started to pull into the new pier on Eigg.
GalmisdaleGalmisdale is the small village on Eigg's eastern shore. Perhaps village is a little strong, it is more a scattering of cottages on the hillside around the bay. However, it is also the island's ferry port, and the new home of its shop, cafe and craft centre. In other words, anyone arriving on Eigg has these facilities immediately at their disposal, which in these potentially fragile economies can only be a good thing!
The new pier stretches out across the bay, full at high tide, but a huge expanse of sand at low tide, to find deeper water beyond the beach. It was obviously a major engineering job to construct several hundred metres of causeway terminating in a slipway for the ferry to land at. There is also a large pool beyond to allow the ferry to turn and reverse up to the pier, as it is does not have a bow door.
After a brief visit to the shop, we set off along the shore road while most of the other visitors started climbing up through the village to tackle the amazing rocky outcrop that gives Eigg its distinctive profile - the Sgorr. Mum didn't think she was up to the stiff climb, however, so we had decided to take the road across the island and visit Laig Bay at Cleadale on the western shore. With the sun getting hotter and hotter in the blue sky above, we set off along the road that curves round the back of the bay and soon after starts the climb up to the saddle through the middle of the island.
Crossing EiggThe easiest way to describe Eigg's shape is that it is like a pringle. To the South the Sgorr rears up, while to the north the land lifts up above great cliffs to a similar height. Through the middle is a green valley which carries the island road. After climbing steeply up from the shore, the gradient decreases as the road winds gently up and across the island. The first place we came to worth investigating was the Victorian church, hidden amongst trees behind a grassy swathe. It is a very small and simple building, as befits a small island congregation, but somehow it is a very pretty place. Ther road continued to climb, before reaching a junction with the road down to Kildonan. This is pretty much the middle of the island, and just beyond is the island's school, with specatcular views east to the mainland.
Beyond the school is the old shop, now a small museum of the island, and describing its green aspirations. Much of this is done through artwork and projectwork from the school, making it a unique place, worth lingering for a few minutes. Opposite the musuem is the island's first shop, once a Co-op, now just a private house. Again, the site in the middle of the island is obvious! Beyond the museum, the road undulates across open country, fenced in by no more than bracken and brambles, with the view west to Rum growing larger with every step...
Cleadale & Laig BayThen, suddenly, just past a derelict tractor the land ahead drops away and the view opens out. Beneath you are the scattered houses that make up Cleadale, with the land then dropping to the shore, hiding the huge beach of Laig Bay in the process. Beyond the shore, the greeny-blue sea stretches across to the jagged peaks of Rum which rise serenly from the water, not stopping until they have passed 6, 7 or even 8 hundred metres! It is a beautiful view which only gets better as you drop steeply down the Bealach Clith into the southern edge of the village. This seems to be the more populated end of the island, and with a view like that you can see why. Above the village, the jagged cliffs soar up, often vertical to the plateau like northern end of the island.
We made our way down to the beach, where I ran around snapping a couple of dozen or more photos of the beach, the waves crashing in and Rum, not to mention the cattle that were relaxing in the sunshine, before it was time to turn and head back. I could easily have spent a couple of hours or so in this beautiful spot, but the ferry wouldn't wait, so reluctantly we tore ourselves away and turned back for Galmisdale.