The Small Isles – Rum & Eigg
When the wind and sea allow, I like to take a longer trip in the boat. Normally I potter around doing a little fishing, a little fossicking about and quite a lot of general chilling. Generally that means somewhere up the west coast of Scotland, usually exploring one of the many islands of the Inner Hebrides. Although I take the rods along, fishing takes a back seat.
Settled weather towards the end of August encouraged me off my backside and into action. I dusted down a plan to visit what are known as the Small Isles – Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna. These lie in the Sea of the Hebrides, south of Skye and west of Arisaig and Moidart. Basically, they form the heart of one of the most beautiful areas of the west coast.
I refined my plan a little, due to time constraints, and envisaged a launch at Glenuig and then a run up Eigg, Rum and around Canna. Overnight on Rum or Skye and then work back down Skye and Arisaig and back to Glenuig. Roughly 100 miles round trip.
I launched smoothly enough at Glenuig after a 4 hour haul from Edinburgh, heading out into a calm sea. 8 or 9 miles out, my first stop was on the Oberon Bank, roughly half way between Glenuig and Eigg. Judging by my slow drifts over it, it rises to about 60 feet below the surface and is fairly rocky ground. I didn’t spend long fishing it, but feathers produced a fair number of mackerel and coalies, plus this pretty Ballan.
Completing my run across to Eigg I started fishing leadheads at the small island at it’s southern tip. I didn’t spend too long on this as a combination of angry seals and a slow drift convinced me I was wasting my time!
Heading up the western side of Eigg I stopped at a few places for a cast but only had small pollack at one of the more exposed reefs. I had a great view of the Sgurr of Eigg for compensation, though.
Eigg is relatively small so it didn’t take too long to work up the coast and I was soon island hopping over to the rugged mountains of Rum. None quite make it to Munro status, but they come close.
The sea cliffs and caves along this coast are certainly very impressive, but I wouldn’t want to try and land.
I fished little and caught less if I’m honest. Mackerel were everywhere but pollack seemed a little scarce and on the small side. I’d probably do better if I’d forced myself really close inshore, but there were plenty of reefs showing a little under the surface. Maybe next time, when I’m feeling braver!
Alarm calls from the cliffs alerted me to an eagle soaring overhead. Sadly I was a little too slow with the camera, but it shows one reason why Rum is a nature reserve.
By now it was getting late in the afternoon and I still needed to sort out a place to spend the night. Therefore I decided to drop Canna, as it would take too long to visit the island. Instead I worked slowly eastwards across the north coast of Rum.
I stumbled across the wreck of the Jack Abry II as I made my way along the coast. It is charted, although I still managed to miss it! Apparently the skipper fell asleep at the wheel and ploughed straight into Rum on a stormy January night 10 years ago. Everyone survived but the skipper ended up in court and Jack Abry II has been there ever since.
Researching this trip I’d clocked a possible overnight spot a little further on, so I edged in to investigate. Given the number of yachts making the most of the weather I was a little surprised to find this lovely beach deserted. The chart isn’t too encouraging, showing a large shallow reef, which might explain it. I was perfectly happy to have the place to myself however.
Samhnan Insir is a real gem, with machair behind, turquoise sea in front and a view over to the Cuillen of Skye. I had a mosey about and then a little dinner as I relaxed in my surroundings.
I’d hoped to camp ashore, but decided against it in the end. There was just enough of a little chop to make me reluctant to let the Longliner dry out as the tide fell. At the same time I didn’t have enough rope to safely secure her below the LW mark. Chances were that all would be well, but it pays to be cautious when you’re alone in such a remote spot.
I decided to stay afloat and just sleep aboard. I’ve done it several times before on the Orkney and its perfectly comfortable. Plastic bivi bag on the floor with an inflatable mat on top and you’re sorted. I’d have popped the tonneau cover on too, if I hadn’t left it in the car, but there was no rain forecast so it didn’t really matter.
Being safely anchored up, I was naughty and had a beer as I watched the Hebridean sunset before turning in for the night and being rocked to sleep on a gentle Atlantic swell.
Next morning I woke early, around 5.30, just as the moon set over Samhnan Insir and the sun rose over Arisaig. It was cool rather than chilly and promised to be another sunny day.
I munched a bacon roll and swigged my obligatory coffee as I watched the world awake. It’s hard to imagine more magnificent surroundings and I had to force myself to haul anchor and head out again.
Half way between Rum and Skye I’d spotted another bank marked on the chart, and this was my next stopping point. The tide was a gentle 0.5-0.7 knots and the sonar showed a rocky peak surrounded by softer ground. I picked up a string of mackerel to rejuvenate my bait supply and dropped a fillet to the seabed, 90 feet below.
Mackerel still pestered me, even with fairly large baits, but I managed a couple of small ling and a bonus octopus. A gentle drift, flat sea and small fish are not very challenging, but I couldn’t have been happier.
Loch Coruisk is a freshwater loch hiding below the Cuillens and is only accessible by a long hike or by boat. I’d hoped to be able to anchor and get ashore from Loch Scavaig for a look. It’s pretty much solid rock all around at HW and well cluttered with visiting yachts, so I contented myself with a wander round the bay and a few photographs. I might come back when it’s quieter or, more likely, hike in one winter.
From Scavaig I worked down the coast past Elgol, just making the odd cast here and there. Eventually I ended up at another old settlement, long abandoned, at Dalavil. I’ve fancied this for a camp for a while, and it does look a nice spot – apart from a large seal colony!
Having deserted Dalavil I headed down to Point and Sleat and Aird. Initially I anchored over sand, hoping for a few flatties or a ray as I munched some lunch. Bait robbing shrimps and crabs very soon disillusioned me so I switched back to spinning gear and went hunting pollack.
Sleat and Arisaig
I quickly lost a decent fish in the weed as it seized the hook and dived. Then I followed that up with a second fish that simply shed the hook. Not the best performance of my career! After that I was kept on my toes by a succession of small pollack and coalfish, but nothing that put much of a bend on the rod. I’ve done OK from the shore here so it was a little disappointing, but at least there was plenty small stuff.
From Sleat I simply pointed the Longliner at Arisaig and ploughed along at a steady 14 knots. I could easily have opened her up fully but I was quite happy cruising across a flat sea under blue skies. No need to hurry!
My last little stopover was on another lovely little Arisaig beach. Sitting alone on the sand I chugged another coffee and just surveyed the scenery…
Finally, Glenuig is OK to launch from, but it’s a very narrow slip with a large drop off either side. You don’t have a lot of room for error! I think it also drops off at the end around 2 hours before LW. Take care!Share this: