Saturday, 11 July 2015

No. 97 Mingulay

Although we had seen lots of Razorbills and Guillemots, we had only seen a couple of my favourites - Puffins. David had promised to get me a Puffin - a real one, so I was fair chuffed when we approached the bay on Mingulay to see hundreds of them busily flying in and out, swooping past each other. How they avoid collisions, I'll never know!
We were also escorted to the beach by masses of inquisitive seals. The sea was so clear we could watch them swimming underneath us.

We set up the tents then went for a clamber up the hill (just clocked up another bar of chocolate!). The land just suddenly disappears with massive shear cliffs, giving me the heeby jeebies when Chris and Jonathon insisted on getting close to the edge for photos!
Basking in the bay

1 or 2 seals

Where we're heading
 Next morning, out in the bay was another basking shark. It's a bit surreal, lying in bed, watching a shark so close in! There were about 60 seals still hauled out on the beach, either very wary of the cruising shark or from sheer exhaustion after singing and partying all night long!

It was a lovely morning when we set off with empty boats aiming to do a figure of 8 round Berneray. We carried on round the bottom of Mingulay, past the arch of Gearuim Beag then crossed over to the huge cliffs of Berneray. Having empty boats and cracking conditions, we were able to explore all sorts of nooks and crannies.

We made our way round the south of the island til we got to the pier where we hauled the boats out at high tide, had some lunch then went for yet another clamber (another chocolate earned!) up to Barra Head lighthouse. It was up here David reckons he saw a Minke, no one else did!, but we did see another basking shark swim up the channel.

We then crossed over by the arch again and up the west coast of Mingulay and onto more magnificent caves. A bit further on and through more arches - this place is amazing!
We were soon turning the top corner cutting through the narrow gap at Solon Mor, before heading south on the east side again, seeing more sharks on the way.

Chris and Ken hung around out in the bay dangling fishing lines, while I had a peaceful nosey into the wee coves and rocks in the bay. 5 minutes later, Chris and Ken had given up having caught nowt! Just as well I'd brought tea - butternut squash risotto - yum!
Back on dry land, looking out to sea again, out in the bay we had a Minke spouting, next, it breached - what a sight!
After tea it was Puffin time!


We all clambered (again!) up to the Puffins, where David spent most of the evening with his arms deep down Puffin burrows. Lots of photos were taken of these comical, happy chappies. It was wonderful sitting on the rocks with them sweeping in and out, all at top speed. One landing so close to Hubby dear, it almost landed on him! The highlight though, was David catching a Puffin to ring it, No 97!

No. 97

After Puffin time it was bonfire time. We'd salvaged a couple of bits of wood from Pabbay, along with a couple of bits we found on Mingulay gave us enough to toast our marshmallows and sandwich them in between choccy digestives.
What a way to end what must have been one of my best days paddling. I've been privileged enough to paddle in some lovely places both in Scotland and abroad, but this trip is up near the very top. It had everything, beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs, caves and arches along with an abundance of wildlife.