walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter


Postby DonnyW » Wed Sep 08, 2010 7:56 pm

Route description: Sandaig (Camusfearna)

Date walked: 08/09/2010

Distance: 4 km

7 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Its funny how some things remain in our memories even though the event itself was not very important or traumatic? One such memory I have is reading Gavin Maxwell’s book Ring of Bright Water for my school O Grade exams. At 16 years of age, I seem to recall struggling to get to grips with the book even though my mother broke it down into simple language and highlighted the important passages in preparation for my exam. Her assistance and perseverance must have paid off as I passed my English exams.

Half a centaury later I still remember the book and the author’s name, even if the chapters have faded in my memory with the passage of time. It was a book about the author living alone at a place called Camusfearna on the west coast of Scotland with his pet otters. Ever since I discovered that Camusfearna was at Sandaig near Glenelg, I had wanted to visit the place for myself.

I achieved that personal ambition this month by spending a week wild camping alone, near the place Gavin Maxwell wrote his book. It was a little along the coast so that I could experience the beauty and solitude of the area he must have known, and not be disturbed by the many visitors to his memorial site. I tried to live off the land as much as possible by eating the fish that I caught in the sea, the mussels collected from the shores and the wild berries found in the forests.

The weather was a mixed bag the first day I parked my car at the start of the forest road that leads to Sandaig. For me, it suited the atmosphere of the area. The forest commission are cutting trees in the area so perhaps they have temporary removed any sign posts to Sandaig as the start was not very clear but I found it easily by referring to the OS map. It was Sunday so there was no workers to be seen. The route follows the well made forestry road for the first half mile.



Image

At the only junction on the forestry road, I saw a little sign pointing saying Sandaig so I knew I was on the right track. A few hundred yards later another little sign pointed down this track through the trees. The path steepened as it started to descend.

Image

Less than a mile from the main road I caught my first glimpse of Sandaig Islands and the sandy beach of Sandaig. I could feel the appeal of the area and its surroundings already.

Image

After a final steep descent the path reaches sea level at the river that Gavin’s otters played in. To cross the river to the memorial site involved crossing by a primitive rope bridge. It looked worse than it was to cross. By taking things slowly and keeping a loose hold on the top rope, the bottom rope was thick enough to hold my weight, not stretch to water level and be wide enough to balance on.

Image

Once across the river I found the memorial to Edal, one of his three otters. It sits under a huge tree which would have been there when the otter was alive.

Image

Fifty yards away is another memorial where Gavin Maxwell himself is buried. Its on the site where his cottage stood

Image

Following the river into the woods I found the waterfall where the otters used to swim and slide down the falls.

Image

A couple of hundred yards away is another old cottage but it was is Maxwells which was destroyed in a fire.

Image

Re-crossing the rope bridge I then made my way to the Sandaig Islands at the end of the bay. I climbed the rocks were Maxwell used to sit and watch his world go by. The tide was almost full in.

Image

The water looked almost tropical in colour with the sandy bottom giving the sea a green sheen.

Image

If the tide is out as in this photo.. be careful not to get stuck on the various islands and rocks if the tide comes in while you are exploring.

Image


Although I didn’t have my own pet otter, I had high hopes of seeing a wild one in the area. In a small bay near wher I stayed and not too far from the site of Gavin Maxwell’s house, I found the first signs of otter life. A collection of broken crab shells piled on a rock. Crab is a favourite food of the otter.

Image

Although Scottish otters often hunt in the sea, they are not true sea otters. They like to live beside a source of fresh water so they can wash the salt from their fur. Not far from the broken crab shells I found a small stream running to the sea. Sure enough, there were more signs of otter life, one had scratched the sand, perhaps while having a long stretch after preening in the stream. It looked fresh so I didn’t think it was too far away.

Image

I launched my inflatable boat and sat at sea watching for more signs of the otter. I have found that wildlife don’t seem to notice my presence so much when Im in the boat on the water. Perhaps its because Im low down.. sitting at almost water level that they don’t associate the shape with a human ? I didn’t have long to wait until some movement caught my eye. What is it ? Yup..looks like my luck was in. Now ..just turn around a bit and smile for the camera

Image

Then in a flash ..the otter was gone again. Something had spooked it. Perhaps it caught a scent of my fishy breath ? Regardless.. I was happy.. I had just glimpsed what I came to see. A wild Camusfearna otter.

Image

I must confess that although I read Ring of Bright water many years ago..I didn’t really enjoy the book. However I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Camusfearna living much like Maxwell would have done and the experience has added a new dimension to my memories of reading the book almost 50 years ago.
User avatar
DonnyW
 
Posts: 478
Joined: Dec 18, 2009

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby gammy leg walker » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:17 pm

What a brilliant report and pictures,glad this report has been moved to walk reports Scotland so more people on this form can read,must be an early contender for walk report of the month :D :D
User avatar
gammy leg walker
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 3348
Munros:262   Corbetts:7
Grahams:4   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:2   
Islands:7
Joined: Jan 30, 2010
Location: Central Region
Walk wish-list

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby graeme84 » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:27 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:What a brilliant report and pictures,glad this report has been moved to walk reports Scotland so more people on this form can read,must be an early contender for walk report of the month :D :D


it would be more of a contender for "inspirational, getting away from it all, report of the month" or something a bit more catchier :? .Anyway agreed that was a brilliant read
User avatar
graeme84
 
Posts: 13
Munros:37   Corbetts:7
Grahams:5   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:4   Hewitts:12
Wainwrights:22   
Joined: May 1, 2009
Location: Durham

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby fedupofuserids » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:29 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:must be an early contender for walk report of the month :D :D


ditto

Fab report & photos
fedupofuserids
 
Posts: 835
Joined: Mar 24, 2010

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby DonnyW » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:38 pm

Thanks for your kind comments folk..but wow..when I re read it..Im not surprised I failed my English Higher..my grammer and spelling is terrible.. oh...and the book I had to read for it was even worse... Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon..funny ..but I never wanted to visit that area :lol:
User avatar
DonnyW
 
Posts: 478
Joined: Dec 18, 2009

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby Merry-walker » Wed Sep 08, 2010 9:21 pm

Ahhhh, lurvly lil otters.... the views are great too :D Absolutely Fan-dabulous report!!! I wouldn't have the nerve to wild camp, I need my caravan, and microwave, and humungous amounts of food.
User avatar
Merry-walker
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 1771
Munros:65   Corbetts:53
Grahams:12   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:5   
Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Location: Scotland

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby petejkenny » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:20 pm

What a great report - good work getting a sighting of the otter.
I do know one or two people in the general area and I'm afraid Gavin Maxwell evokes mixed responses there!Have a read of his biography for more details.
I guess like most iconic/charismatic/driven people he was also a bit of a ... well fill it in for yourself!
Anyway I think the lack of signs etc is pretty deliberate -otherwise there'd be a "Ring of Bright water" trail and a tea room/gift shop at sandaig selling model otters!
petejkenny
 
Posts: 36
Munros:282   Corbetts:5
Grahams:1   
Sub 2000:7   Hewitts:9
Wainwrights:16   Islands:24
Joined: Jan 26, 2009

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby Essan » Sat Sep 11, 2010 2:31 pm

petejkenny wrote:I guess like most iconic/charismatic/driven people he was also a bit of a ... well fill it in for yourself!


Aye, I hear Mike Tomkies was like that too.

Excellent account and great photos Donny :thumbup:
User avatar
Essan
 
Posts: 542
Munros:98   Corbetts:52
Grahams:7   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:4   Hewitts:88
Wainwrights:24   Islands:5
Joined: Jul 1, 2010
Location: Evesham, Worcs

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby 2dalmatians » Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:24 pm

Absolutely superb report. really liked pictures, 3, 7 and 11 too, simply stunning!
User avatar
2dalmatians
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 341
Munros:38   Corbetts:3
Grahams:2   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:7   
Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Location: Stirling

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby kerrera » Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:54 pm

DonnyW wrote:Thanks for your kind comments folk..but wow..when I re read it..Im not surprised I failed my English Higher..my grammer and spelling is terrible.. oh...and the book I had to read for it was even worse... Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon..funny ..but I never wanted to visit that area :lol:


Great report.

I went to Sandaig in 1980, the cottage looks the same. It's an amazing place. I read Highland River by Gunn.
kerrera
Scrambler
 
Posts: 219
Munros:45   Corbetts:14
Sub 2000:19   
Joined: Jun 17, 2009
Location: Fort William

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby gammy leg walker » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm

Just read this one again for the umteenth time,never tire of reading it.
User avatar
gammy leg walker
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 3348
Munros:262   Corbetts:7
Grahams:4   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:2   
Islands:7
Joined: Jan 30, 2010
Location: Central Region
Walk wish-list

Re: Sandaig and the Ring of Bright W'otter

Postby electricfly » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:39 pm

Going for a wee wild camp and climb of Beinn Sgritheall mid March so was brushing up on my Maxwell facts and remembered this from the Valster... 8)

...get yer hankies at the ready. :cry:



so always remember, if nobody else can... ...Doonican! :wink:
User avatar
electricfly
 
Posts: 1657
Munros:282   Corbetts:29
Grahams:7   
Sub 2000:7   Hewitts:5
Wainwrights:6   
Joined: Mar 19, 2012

7 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).



Walkhighlands community forum is advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Brucebob, Mikem244, OutdoorIntrigue, PeteR and 72 guests