Friday, 11 July 2008: Islay is great when you are on the island itself, but seen from the water it’s even more beautiful. Up till this year the only parts of Islay we had seen from the sea were the stretches of coast observed from the ferry. This was about to change because our pal Arra Fletcher from Persabus finally picked up his speed boat, or racing bath tub, from a nearby farm. It took him over a week to get rid of all the dirt that covered the boat and just in time before our last week the boat was ready for a trip.
Taking off from Port Askaig
We started off at two o’clock with brilliant weather conditions from Port Askaig and headed with 30 knots north towards Rhuvaal Lighthouse. Our first goal was the wreck of the Wyre Majestic and Bunnahabhain Distillery which are an awesome sight from low above the water. The fishermen were just unloading the crabs as you can see on one of the pictures.
Rhuvaal Lighthouse & Rhuba Bholsa
From there on, staying close to the shore, we made it to Rhuvaal lighthouse which was covered in scaffolding all the way to the top. A somewhat futuristic and strange sight, but beautiful nevertheless. The water in the Sound was very calm and flowing rapidly but that was changing after we turned left and headed towards Rhuba Bholsa. This is one of the remotest parts of Islay and you find rocky cliffs, mountains, caves big enough to hide a submarine in, and plenty of wildlife. Wild Goats and Deer can be seen almost everywhere and even on one of the many beaches. Arra turned off the engine and we floated around for a while enjoying the immense peace and tranquility while observing the deer on the beach and the island of Colonsay in the distance.
Isle of Jura
Arra fired the engine up again and we crossed the entrance to the Sound of Islay with 30 knots and headed towards the Isle of Jura. This part of Jura is even more remote and inacessible than the north of Islay, but stunningly beautiful. Also the view towards the Paps of Jura when you enter the Sound of Islay is incredible and probably one of the finest around.
This part of Jura’s coastline consists mostly of shingle and sand beaches as well as caves and cliffs. Shags can be found on almost all the rocky outcrops and stacks on this part of the coastline. Arra turned the engine off again and we drifted south on the fast flowing tide which was coming in. It’s only then that you realise how fast the water is actually flowing. After a contemplative fag we headed south again passing Feolin and we spotted many more deer on the hills.
The stretch from Feolin to Jura House and gardens was more or less familiair and we managed to come rather close to Claig Castle, on one of the islands, Am Fraoch Eilean, at the entrance to the Sound. Claig Castle was one of the strongholds of the Lords of the Isles and was built to dominate sea traffic north and south through the Hebrides for more than four centuries. The walls of this castle are six metres thick!
McArthur’s Head Lighthouse
After observing a few basking seals we crossed the Sound of Islay once more and headed towards the lighthouse at McArthur’s Head. In the old days the lighthouse was manned and the lighthouse keepers lived here in their wee cottage which is no longer there. The lighthouse is now automated, same as the other lighthouses on Islay. The walls that surrounded their patch of land are still visible and white washed.
The lighthouse is built on a tall cliff and stone steps lead all the way up which is quite a climb. We settled for pictures and beautiful views before we headed back to Port Askaig to enjoy a nice warm meal in our cottage. The trip lasted almost three hours, we were cold to the bone but had a magnificent time with Arra on the Sound of Islay.