Exploring the Isle of Eigg (& Mallaig)

Route: The Sgurr of Eigg

Sub 2000s: An Sgurr (Eigg)

Date walked: 16/09/2018

Distance: 26km

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And the caves and Kildonan walk

I finally found time to write this report, probably closer to my next trip to Scotland than this one.
After our previous walk that was cut short (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=86671&p=390953#p390953) our group of five Belgian friends decided to do a long hike on the second day we were on the Isle of Eigg. Otherwise we wouldn't have walked enough on our walking holiday. We had arrived on Eigg the day before after staying a night in Fort William. Our crossing was in a very small ferry (one for whale spotting) because the normal one was in repair, sadly enough a lot of people had to sit outside on the open deck in the rain.


Arriving on Eigg

Our plan for the day was limited to "we'll climb the Sgurr and after that we'll see what we do".

(walkhighlands route: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/islands/an-sgurr.shtml)
So that is what we did. The path was very straightforward until we arrived at the ridge. To get on it a little bit of easy scrambling is required, however it had been raining and the rock surface was very slippery. Care is needed when ascending or descending this part in wet weather. After that we arrived on the ridge. It doesn't really look like a ridge, its more like a small bumpy moorland plateau. The edge of the ridge is some distance from the path and considerably lower. To get to the top we had to cross some boggy parts and there were a few short and easy scrambles on which you didn't want to fall. When we reached the summit there were some fabulous views. Even on the the top there isn't really a feeling of exposure, the ground doesn't drop right away, it isn't as scary as it looks from below. I must confess I was a bit disappointed by this.


To An Sgurr!


Map pic found!


Jaap at the top

On the top we decided to go down again to Galmisdale, there was a vague plan to cross the moorland to Laig Bay but this was quickly abandoned. Back on the roadside some of us wanted to go and take a look at the wind farm. From our view from the Sgurr, Laig bay had looked like a nice place for some chilling.


The Sgurr of Eigg from the wind farm

(walkhighlands route: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/islands/laig.shtml)

After our wind farm adventure we walked there via the main road. The taxi driver that we had seen multiple times the day before crossed us again, as did some people we recognised from the ferry. We had our lunch next to small bridge on the road. After eating our group passed an old standing stone in the moorland right before the primary school. The small museum we encountered later was unlocked so we stopped to have a look. The walk onward was relaxed and we joked around. When the road took a turn and started to descend a bit the first magnificent views of Rum and Cleadale could be seen.


Alec being silly at the school


Rum from the road to Cleadale

Leaving the main road in Cleadale we took a field track to the beach. To get on the beach we got through the dunes first and hopped over a small stream. The water was too cold to swim but we enjoyed the views and held some sword fighting competitions with the kelp/ seaweed. After that we moved on and walked towards Laig farm. The track next to the beach was littered with old rusty farm equipment.


Rum from the beach


Rusty farm stuff


group pic

Laig farm is probably my dream home, it's a charming building on an elevated position with some fabulous views of the jagged peaks of Rum and the Cleadalecliffs. The small stream nearby and the old trees surrounding it made it very picturesque as well. Continuing towards the Bealach we passed the hydro power hut and the Giants foot Lochan. The rocky pass to get on the moorland and forest is fairly impressive but also very wet. The walk through the heather is boggy as well and we encountered the first (and last) midges. The Sgurr and the moorland we initially planned to cross could be seen from the path.


Laig Farm


The cliffs above Cleadale from the farm


the pass to the moorland

Reaching the forest track we turned left, back onto the road. We decided to take the same way back to our tents and get our torches to explore the caves. Our camping place was next to a small stream at Galmisdale Bay (at the camping icon on the OS maps). It's a lovely place to put up your tent: quiet and beautiful and not that far from to the pub.


Our camping spot

We followed the walkhighlands route: (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/islands/caves-eigg.shtml)

Once we had our torches, we set out to find these caves. We had a bit of trouble finding the right path to the cliffs and finding the right kissing gate at one of the fences. Apart from that, the route we had to follow was very clear. The walk above is the cliffs is short but very rewarding with some nice views on the island before the coast. We headed down the steps and found the massacre cave to the left of us without any trouble. To be honest I didn't quite understand the route description and thought it would be more difficult. Although there is a warning sign we decided to go inside. We first needed to crawl through a narrow channel but after that the cave suddenly opens up. I was glad we brought our torches because it was pitch dark inside (surprise surprise 8) ). The cave is quite long and you can walk it all the way down until you reach the end. We didn't stay inside very long although it was very cool and moved on to the cathedral cave.


The coast on the path to the caves


Entrance of the massacre cave


Inside the massacre cave (I quite like this picture)

Luckily it was low tide and we could reach the cave by following the cliffs on the rocky beach. I wasn't too impressed by this one, sure the entrance is big but that's about it. The cave was full of litter and remains of an old campfire. We decided to call it a day and walked back to our camping place. We made our evening meal in the ferry terminal and played some cards in the pub while trying to understand the bearded locals, they were talking about Brexit (it was very clear the islanders are remainers, not at least because of the Scotland/EU flag waving outside). I was a bit surprised by these guys, one old man was sleeping outside on a bench in the rain and the rest were drinking a lot of Tennents next to the pub, but not inside the pub. In general, there was a real fishing and island atmosphere.

Day three on Eigg:

Our initial plan was to hop on the ferry on day three (Monday) to Rum and stay there until Wednesday. I had a some nice long walks planned there. However the weather was becoming increasingly bad and storm Ali would soon delight us with his presence. We were afraid we would be trapped on Rum for another two days and we couldn't risk that because of our train schedule. Instead we decided to go back to the mainland and keep us busy there for another two days.

But first we made another small walk to Kildonan church.
We followed the walkhighlands route but returned the same way: (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/islands/kildonnan.shtml)

We set out in the morning at our camp site and sort of made our way through the fields and bracken. Somehow we ended up in the right place to climb over the fence to get to the path following the coast. Following this path could be a bit tricky in places because of the slippery stones in the wooded area. We got back on the road and arrived a few minutes later at the ruined St Donnan church. The churchyard is a nice and quiet place with some old graves and some war graves. There is a fine carved cross but sadly enough the top that was already broken off is now split in two as well. Inside the ruined church there is an old Sheela-na-gig carving displayed in a box. We decided not to go on but instead turned back the same way we came because of the rain and the fact we had to board a ferry in some time.


The broken carved cross


Church and graveyard


Graveyard again

When we arrived at our camping spot we saw that there was a larger CalMac ferry moored. We didn't understand that because it shouldn't have been there according to the timetables. We walked to the port to ask when the ferry would leave and where a bit surprised when they said it would leave in an hour, nearly two hours ahead of schedule and wouldn't even stop at Rum. We hurried back to our camping site, threw everything in our rucksacks and ran back to the port. When we boarded the ferry everyone was completely soaked and a bit under cooled because of the non-stop rain. This time we didn't have to make the crossing in a small boat and everyone could sit inside. However it was still not the right boat. In the ferry a friendly dutch guy explained me how I needed to turn my wet gloves back inside in when he had heard me swearing in dutch because they were inside out. Wednesday it turned out the ferries indeed didn't sail because of the storm and we would have been trapped on Rum. We were glad we took the right decision.

I really liked the Isle of Eigg, it is a beautiful and authentic place with a real island atmosphere. Especially the variety of the landscape was surprising. There are cliffs, moorlands, two big hills, croft land and beaches. I would like to come back there but Rum now has priority.

Back in Mallaig we booked in into a hostel because we didn't want to search a wildcamping spot. The day after we walked with our gear to Loch an Nostarie through the moors above Mallaig. The path disappeared and we got lost in the fog. We had to walk on a compass bearing and as result we had to climb some high deerfences. We were soaked again when we reached the lake and we didn't find a dry place to camp so we decided to book another night in the hostel (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/lochnostarie.shtml). The rest of the day and the day after (train back was on Thursday morning) we explored the village (and we played pokemon go and other non productive things, it was storming anyway). We also walked to Mallaig Bheag after dropping our stuff back at the hostel (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/mallaig.shtml). One of us bought a yellow sailor jacket and we saw a car crash in a window. Mallaig isn't a big place so in the end we were a bit bored but I did like the village. Pro Tip: The secondhand book store in the hostel is a real gem when stranded in Mallaig! Probably one of the coziest bookstores I've ever been to.

Thanks for reading.


Loch an Nostarie


Mallaig from above



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Location: Belgium

Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Sub 2000: 1
Islands: 1

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Trips: 2
Distance: 51 km
Ascent: 1078m
Sub2000s: 1


Trips: 2
Distance: 37 km
Ascent: 1464m
Munros: 1

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