A splendid sea journey with a bonus lesser-spotted Marilyn

Sub 2000s: Càrn Ghaltair (Sandray)

Date walked: 14/04/2023

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 39km

Ascent: 207m

Well despite being a tremendously enthusiastic hill bagger for the last 12 years, I've never actually posted a walk report on WH.
And TBH I would never have expected to be posting one as part of a much anticipated sea kayaking trip to the Outer Hebrides.
I absolutely love the Outer Hebs, and I've made a habit over recent years of visiting in the most unseemly of weathers and often in January - with ridiculously short days, frequent storms, and most importantly, very few competing visitors.
I've had some hugely memorable trips up the Harris Grahams and Corbett, fabulous coastal walks, tidal islands, breath-taking beach strolls, and an all-in-all antidote to any seasonal mood depression.
Who could not love these islands?

But this trip had an extra draw.
This was a guided trip, and we would be meeting on Barra.
Plan A would be to execute a 7 day/6 night wild camping trip from Castlebay exploring the southern islands of the Outer Hebs.
This would be a perfect practice trip for a longer and much more committing 10 day kayak camping trip I was hoping to complete in July in Greenland - a trip that has now been in the planning for over a year.
But in addition, it would allow me to finally visit Barra.
An island I have wanted to visit for so long!
My great uncle - Dr Cameron Roy Innes - was the single handed GP on the island for 11 years in the 1960s.
He was the only doctor on the island, and as a doctor myself I simply can't imagine being in such a situation.
I have wanted for years to see the island and try to imagine working there in such isolation.

And so off we set, boarding the ferry for a 5 hour journey over to Castlebay. We had met our two guides and fellow paddlers prior to boarding and spent the journey discussing potential trip plans.
Setting off from Oban on the ferry

Arriving on Barra

The most splendid Dunard Youth Hostel in Castlebay

The Castlebay medical practice - but I'm not sure if this is where my uncle actually worked so many years ago

A meal at the Craigard hotel on the first evening

Unfortunately, and also possibly predictably given our location, the weather gods were not in support of a 6 night wild camp.
The weather over our first few days was ferocious, with torrential rain and gusting winds.
Our first day was spent abandoning kayaking altogether and making a quick dash up Heabhal - the high point of Barra - before retreating to the cafe at the Eriskay ferry port for coffee and cake.
No paddling at all on day 1 - just a ferociously windy trip to the summit of Heabhal

We extended our stay in the most excellent Dunard Hostel and managed a few testing kayak day trips around the island, with the hostel providing warmth and comfort in the evenings as the storms blew through.
Exploring Kisimul castle and the coast north of Castlebay on day 2

But finally the weather seemed to break,
On day 5 we managed to paddle out to a stunning golden beach on Vattersay and set up camp.
Finally on day 5 the weather improves and we can head off to Vatersay to set up camp



Otter prints in the sand? we never spotted any!

This provided an incredible base for two fantastic day trips.
The first was an anticlockwise circuit of Sandray, through some interesting sea states with truly outstanding views of all of the small islands south of Barra - the Bishop Isles.
After setting up camp we took our trip around Sandray - with a lunch stop on this stunning beach on the east side


More rain showers in the evening

A beautiful sunset from our campsite

The second was a slightly longer trip in glorious sunshine. clockwise around firstly Pabbay - with a beautiful first lunch stop on a stunning golden beach that we shared with well over 100 seals.
Lunch stop on Pabbay - sharing the beach with a huge colony of seals at the far end



We then continued around to the west of Pabbay through some huge confused waters to reach another beach on Sandray where we stopped for an extended break.
Second lunch stop of Sandray with an opportunity for a bonus hill climb

The guide looked set to relax and told us we had at least an hour.
A quick check of the map revealed that the high point of Sandray at 207m was a mere mile from the beach.
Why spend the hour relaxing when a trig point could be claimed?
And so three of us set off upwards in all of our very unbreathable kayak gear to claim the Marilyn - a rarely visited top on the list.
We stood at the summit in drysuits, spraydecks, and paddle boots, gazing out over turquoise seas and golden beaches.
What a truly privileged place to find ourselves in.
On the summit of Carn Ghaltair - warm inside my drysuit!

Splendid views all around from the summit



Of course, we were to live to regret our little detour and wish we had taken the directed rest.
George our guide, having been left unattended for the hour had planned an unexpected extension to our day, with a big diversion up the west side of Vatersay and a portage across the causeway, bringing the total distance for the day to over 36km.
We arrived back at camp both exhausted and satisfied; a hugely long paddle in near perfect weather, around seemingly tropical islands, and with a new hill thrown in for good measure. A top day for sure.

Later we enjoyed a huge camp meal with wine admiring a beautiful sunset, before retiring to our tents for s deep and well deserved sleep. Having to wait though several days of inclement weather for two full days of absolute heaven made the appreciation all the greater.



The following morning allowed us a relaxed paddle back to Castlebay to conclude our journey; huge smiles on our faces and minds brimming with new adventures.

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Comments: 14


Interests: Walking, running, swimming, cycling, triathlon, sea kayaking, skiing, baking, cooking, art, music, wildlife
Activity: Walker
Pub: none
Mountain: A' Mhaighdean
Place: Fisherfields
Gear: Compass
Member: none
Ideal day out: A hugely long walk from dawn to dusk leaving me suitably exhausted
Ambition: to never waste a moment
Munro rounds: 1
Corbett rounds: 1
Wainwright rounds: 2
Donald rounds: 1

Munros: 282
Tops: 103
Corbetts: 222
Fionas: 132
Donalds: 89+52
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 205
Sub 2000: 29
Islands: 58

Filter reports



Trips: 1
Distance: 39 km
Ascent: 207m
Sub2000s: 1

Joined: Oct 24, 2011
Last visited: Dec 02, 2023
Total posts: 496 | Search posts