I woke up early one morning back in June to the sound of absolutely nothing. The wind and rain had battered our corner of western Mull for most of the night, but with the morning came an extreme sense of silence and stillness. I spent a while in the garden repairing the netting from a fruit cage that had been damaged during the night, watched closely by an inquisitive flock of Twite that would inevitably find their way to the redcurrants, netting or no netting!
I checked the weather forecast - which on Mull means looking at how much cloud is on the horizon - whipped up a pack lunch, pumped some air into the bike tyres and left the croft for a day of exploring.
Cycling towards Fionnphort and taking a left turn just before reaching the village had me passing Fidden, a popular family campsite and the last real sign of habitation on the south west corner of the Ross of Mull. From here it was a three mile uphill cycle to the idyllic beach at Knockvologan; a sheltered cove with numerous small islands all connected at low tide by hundreds of metres of white sand. The comparison between Hebridean beaches and those of the Carribean may have become a bit of a cliche, but it seemed more than fitting here.
The small island of Erraid lies a few hundred metres out to sea from Knockvologan, isolated at high tide but connected by a long stretch of beach at low tide. By the time I'd arrived, the sea had only recently receded, and I was greeted by a huge expanse of fresh sand. Apart from the footprints of Eider ducks it was completely untouched, and I made my way across the beach excited by the possibility that I might have Erraid all to myself.
|Erraid on the left, mainland on the right |
I made landfall on a rocky shoreline and headed inland through eerie woods; each tree warped and twisted into unusual shapes by years of exposure to the elements. The air had once more gone completely silent, and only the seldom 'tick' 'tick' call of a distant Robin reassured me that I hadn't lost my hearing.
|Looking back towards the mainland|
|The coastal woods were carpeted in unusual mosses, lichens and low-growing ferns|
Whilst only small in size, traversing Erraid's many hills and gullies makes it seem bigger than it actually is. I spent hours walking up and down the island, admiring a fantastic array of heathland flora and fauna before remembering that the island was tidal, and that I'd be stranded until morning if I didn't beat the tide! Not necessarily a bad thing - I'd have happily slept there all night amongst the heather - but I was expected at a local village ceilidh that evening. Hard life.
I headed back in the direction of home, stopping briefly to watch a distant Merlin hunt over the cliffs.
|Late night sunset|