Of all the things I’ve learnt about being in the hills over the years, one of the simplest is just don’t try and pack in too much into an itinerary, especially when you don’t have a lot of time to play with. But somehow I got sucked into such a scenario last week when my sister was over from Canada, and we had three days to make good use of a precious car hire. From the moment she said she was coming over, I thought that perhaps we would be able to make it to Cruib on Jura, which is by far the most logistically difficult place I have yet to visit to complete the full round. Not only that, the place is a new jewel in the MBA crown of island bothies, which was renovated and opened in 2011. I had become pretty focused on it, and also thought that if I could chivvy her along, perhaps we could sneak in a walk up the coast to the end of Loch Tarbet and look in at Ruantallain, and if the ferry times fell correctly clean up An Cladach on Islay, which is only a few miles down the coast from Port Askaig. My sister was up for it, and we realised that in all the times she’s visited she had yet to take a Calmac ferry, which sealed the deal. Perhaps a bit relentless? Well funnily enough yes, as it turned out.
Fortunately, one of the other top tips I always take into consideration when hatching some plan or other, is always have a coherent plan b. In this case it was to just leave Jura for another occasion, and spend a couple of days at An Cladach just chilling out. After all it is another idyllic place to spend some loose time, even if you don’t get the weather. So, when it became glaringly obvious that despite getting up at the crack of dawn, there was just no way we were going to get the one o’clock Islay ferry from Kennacraig, a simple decision was made to book on to the next sailing, and hopefully make it in to An Cladach before it got too dark. In the end even that proved a little beyond us. Having parked up and left the car just after 7, the first mile and a half to the coast took us over and hour, and picking a way the final 500 yards along the beach to the bothy took a ridiculous 45 minutes! A serious underestimation of the terrain, especially under the light of a rapidly fading head torch.
The next day we were up for the dawn, and were really thankful that we hadn’t pushed too hard the previous morning. We spent the day meandering about, combing the beach for wood, and just unwinding from what we realised for both of us, had been a pretty stressful few weeks.
On the third morning the weather was extremely kind to us, and we made our merry way back to the ferry in good time…