We had looked into visiting the small isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna but, on studying the Calmac timetable more closely, realised that this wasn’t possible as a day visit from the mainland. Although the ferry operator does run a service to the islands from Mallaig, there is only 10 minutes or so between each stop, meaning that you would have to stay overnight if you wanted to spend any time on any of the islands. An excellent alternative option, though, is available through Arisaig Marine Ltd. on their MV Sheerwater vessel.
Since we were staying at Arisaig House, this proved to be an even more convenient option for us. And what’s more, they were able to take our bikes on board, too, allowing us to explore the island on two wheels.
We set sail from Arisaig harbour, bound for the Isle of Eigg 10 miles away, but knowing our journey time could be dependent on what we saw along the way. As we departed, we passed some tiny, uninhabited islands – some with idyllic-looking beaches, others with the occasional seal basking in the sun.
Eigg, although visible from Arisaig, Eigg gradally came more and more into view, with the Sgurr (seen here on the left) being its most distinctive landmark.
And then it happened. A minke whale broke the surface up ahead. We diverted slightly off course to take a closer look. This was only the second time that month that the skipper had seen whale so we felt very lucky and priviliged, particularly since it came very close indeed to the boat, allowing me to capture this shot. These beautiful creatures typically live for around 30 to 50 years, and sometimes to as old as 60, and are mostly likely to be seen in this part of the world from July through to September.
With that excitement over, we pressed on and landed at Galmisdale where our arrival was marked by a piper to welcome everyone on board to the island. In Galmisdale, there’s a community building, An Laimhrig, which is home to the island’s shop and Post Office, craft shop and tea room. From here walkers can climb to the Sgurr in about 2 hours, and be treated to wonderful views of the other Small Isles. We instead took to our bikes and decided to do a little explorin of our own.
Our first stop was the Catheral Caves – also known as the Massacre Cave – which was the site of a gruesome incident in the 16th Century when the MacDonalds and MacLeods had an ongoing fued. The entire population of Eigg (almost 400 people at the time) was killed when the MacLeods lit a fire at the entrance to the cave in which the islanders were hiding.
The view was beautiful so it was hard to imagine what an awful scene it must have been here all those years ago. Happier, more prosperous times didn’t really return to the island until the end of the 19th Century, helped by its kelp industry.
We returned to the main road and headed further along before coming to a standing stone, close to the island’s centre. It’s also close to here that you’ll pass the one and only school on the island and, if you head a little further still, you can visit the ‘singing sands’ (Tràigh a’ Bhìgeil) at Cleadale, a stunning musical quartz beach.
The air quality is obviously good here because the lichen is thriving.
Before we knew it, it was time for us to return to Galmisdale. We needed to ensure we didn’t miss the boat else we’d be stuck on the island for the next 24 hours without accommodation, so we headed back with plenty of time to spare and had lunch at the cafe before the MV Sheerwater returned with passengers from the island of Muck.
Once again, we loaded up the bikes.
On our return journey, we were treated to a brief sighting of porpoises but they didn’t break the surface for long enough for me to get a worthwhile picture unfortunately. Nevertheless, our visit to Eigg had been a very enjoyable and successful one. There’s very little on the island if truth be known, but at the same time that is also part of its charm.
Disclosure: The above formed part of a luxury Scotland mountain bike trip sponsored by Caledonian MacBrayne, Ridgeback and Madison.
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