Thanks for visiting my blog which is all about my coastal walk round Islay in aid of the Marine Conservation Society.

I have now completed my walk but you can still sponsor me by visiting my online sponsor page :

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Kilchiaran to Granny's Rock

I thought it was about time I updated my blog, even though I haven't really done any 'new' bits, but a few weeks ago the weather was actually nice (it has been nice the past couple of days too) and I decided I ought to rectify a niggly situation. A couple of years ago I walked with Walkislay from Kilchoman to Kilchiaran via the masts on the hill and back again, but didn't really go close to the coast; or at least, not as close as I like to go.
So I set off one Sunday afternoon with my friend Lynda with the aim of walking from Kilchiaran to Machir Bay - not a long distance by any means. But we had a time limit and the sun was setting so as soon as we got to Granny's Rock I said, 'Right, I've done this bit already; we'd better turn back.' It is a beautiful walk and we were entertained by croaking Ravens and hares en our way.
As we turned back, the sun began to set and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the western sky.
I haven't forgotten my walk and hope this settled spell lasts into the New Year when I might have chance to go and finish the bits on The Oa. Now that I'm goose counting I've had chance to do a bit of 'reccy' work which has motivated me to get out again.

Friday, 26 October 2007

British Telecom - the mystery building

I've now discovered that the mystery building shown under post for 13th September is BT's cable hut. I think it's rather elaborate for its purpose and was hoping for a more romantic explanation, but there you go! My authority on the subject admitted that he'd only been to the building by boat, confirming my suspicions that this is a very inaccessible place! :-)

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Bunnahabhain to Gortantoid 28th September 2007

Red Deer near Rubh a'Mhail

Sunset over Nave Island

Waterfall and Natural Arch south of Bolsa

View east from near Bolsa

This was the long one; the one I'd been waiting and planning for since I first arrived on Islay (well, just about). Several times my plans had been thwarted so I am delighted to have finally completed this section of the walk and want to thank Fiona MacGillivray for accompanying me (and for gallantly and successfully throwing me one welly!) and her mum for her prolonged babysitting stint.

We set off far too late (I'm embarrassed to say just how late!) In fact, I think this was the latest I have set off for any other part of the walk, which is silly because this was the longest section. The first part of the walk, up to TrĂ igh na dha dhoruis, I had done before, but it is probably my favourite walk on Islay, because you can see so much. Today, however, we had no time to stop and stare, except at a pair of Golden Eagles, many herds of Red Deer, an otter, some funghi and some Dung Beetles. So, OK, we did a fair bit of stopping and staring, but nowhere near as much as I usually do. In fact, that was the single most frustrating thing about this walk. We were passing the most spectacular of scenery; natural arch after natural arch, cave after cave, waterfall after waterfall, Colonsay and Oronsay spread out on a sparkling sea - and we just couldn't afford to stop - too often. I'm determined to come back with a tent next summer and climb Mala Bholsa, that curious lump of a hill with deer paths traversing its entire bulk. We didn't find Bolsa cave either, although we did find a huge cave earlier on. There is so much to explore here; it's probably my new Number One in Islay's Top Ten Walks. We were distressed to see a Red Deer Stag caught by the antlers on some discarded rope. It was throwing itself all over the place in an attempt to disentangle itself. To approach it to help would have been foolish so we had to leave it and vowed to phone the gamekeeper upon our return. Other stags were roaring and herds of deer galloping up the hills. We also came across a big herd of Wild goats. All that is wild inhabits this place and defies exploration by its very wildness and inaccessibility. Yet others have been before us and still others will follow, including, I hope myself. Walking back, we watched the sunset over Nave Island - a real treat for tired eyes. We swiped ticks off our legs with the little energy we had left and returned to the car just before dusk fell. I throughly recommend this walk given: 1) you can get a lift from Gortantoid (to avoid extra 2 plus miles walk to Kilinallan) 2) you can get a lift to Bunnahabhain (this minimises the time spent on driving to and fro the start and finish destinations) 3) you start A LOT earlier than we did or, even better, camp en route.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Port Ellen to Seal Bay 7th and 13th September 2007

The mystery building. Any ideas?
I have to confess I did this short stretch in two goes. But before you scoff, go and try it for yourself!! I set off to do it in a oner, but was defeated by the time I got to Lagavulin. Anyone wishing to repeat this exercise should have the following:
  1. wellies (walking through water necessary)
  2. a stick
  3. insect repellent
  4. nerves of steel.
Also, NEVER attempt it when bracken is high and best check tides before you set out. Failing possession of all of the above, this walk can be achieved if you have:
  1. a death wish
As it was, I had none of the above (no, not even a death wish!) and the bracken was very high (taller than me, which admittedly Armin, isn't saying very much as I'm only 5 foot 3) but tall enough to not see the edge of the cliffs sometimes. Perhaps the walk is achievable without bracken and at very low tide, but I for one, will not be attempting it again. This was the only time on the coastal walk that I have felt truly scared and wondered what on earth I was doing. It took me from 10.15 am to 3.15 pm to walk this distance (about 2 and a half miles) The ground was so uneven I kept falling over and the shoreline was sometimes impassable, making it necessary to wade through awful bracken. I did come across a square building which intrigued me and I've posted a picture of it on here. If anyone knows what it is, I'd be interested to hear from them, because it seemed such an inaccessible place for it to be. By the time I got to Lagavulin, I could take no more and phoned Ann for a lift back to Port Ellen. Then today I returned to Lagavulin to complete the walk. This time it was very pleasant and I was able to walk the short distance completely along the shoreline. In summary:
Four ticks, four miles
Three falls, no stiles
Two walls, too much
One walk I won't retouch!

Friday, 7 September 2007

Port Askaig to Bunnahabhain, 2nd September 2007

I had had the opportunity to check out this coastal route on a recent ferry trip to Colonsay. I wanted to make sure it was possible to walk along the shore and, apart from a couple of questionable places, it looked do-able so, having secured a lift from Bunnahabhain back to my car at Port Askaig, I set off.
A little old lady was pottering around in the last house on the shore at Port Askaig. I knocked on the door and asked her if it was possible to walk to Caol Ila from here. "I used to do it in five minutes when I was a girl," she replied, after inviting me in to her beautiful conservatory. She told me she'd seen a family of three otters the night before and I set off again, with my otter hopes high. "Be careful of the slippery rocks," were the words of warning offered on my departure.
I was glad of the advice and glad too that the tide was on the way out so that more of the shoreline was revealed. I'm not sure how accessible this route would be at high tide. As it was, it was tricky in places and as for my desire to be as close as possible to the sea, I was sometimes actually IN the sea; it was necessary at times in order to get by a particularly large rocky outcrop.
Underfoot it is pebbly all the way and concentration is required constantly to avoid slipping. Several times my walking stick prevented a nasty fall. So it is a tricky walk, but not at all unpleasant with the Sound of Islay on your right and native woodland sloping upwards on your left. I saw Speckled Wood and Small Copper butterflies.
When I saw the wreck of the Wyre Majestic, the 338 ton trawler which ran aground in 1974, I knew I was on the home run. There is some difficult scrambling still to do before you get to Bunnahabhain, however, over scree, and I was thankful to reach the final stretch and walk under the pier to the car park where a lift was awaiting me.
I was rather disappointed to discover that I'd only walked about 2 and a half miles - it had seemed much longer! This had been a difficult stretch, but compared to today's walk, it was a piece of cake! I'll write about that when I've recovered!

Monday, 3 September 2007

Laggan Point to Laggan River 27th August 2007

I had walked from Bowmore to Laggan point as part of a circular walk two years ago, but hadn't made it to the River Laggan and I had walked from Kintra to the River Laggan in July, which left this short section still to do, short though it be (it's lucky if it's quarter of a mile!) But something very exciting happened on this walk so I won't knock it anymore. Before heading off on our mammoth trek, we (my boyfriend, Cliff and I) set off in the opposite direction to bag one of Islay's trigpoints (another of my hobbies!) We bravely passed two bulls en route and then bravely passed them again on our way back. Obviously it didn't take long to walk to the River and when we got there we saw two people and a dog walking from the opposite direction. I waited for them to cross the River (so now I know the water is knee deep)and started talking to them . Paul, Wendy and Havoc the dog are walking 5000 miles round Britain's coastline to raise money for the RNLI and Guide Dogs for the Blind. So far they have walked 4000 miles. It really puts my walk into perspective! This was a wonderful chance meeting and I plied them with questions about their walk and invited them to stay the night on my living room floor - I mean, what an offer! They set off for Colonsay the next day and were then island hopping to Ullapool, from where they will walk back to John O'Groats. They hope to get there in November, exactly a year after starting their journey. What an inspiration! Even Havoc was entering into the spirit of things by helping with the carrying - he has his own dog panniers and if his paws get sore, he has some special gloves to put on. Aaaahhh! Check out their website by clicking on the link opposite.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Claddach Loch to Lossit Bay

The Natural Arch near Lossit Bay
At last I have managed to get out and walk! I was beginning to shrivel up from being indoors too long. This was not a huge stretch of coast, perhaps a couple of miles (and a couple of miles back). I went, as planned, on Sunday with the weather looking a little ominous as I set off. It actually started to drizzle, but I have a strategy for that; start donning waterproofs - it frightens the rain off. So that's what I did - and it worked! I enjoyed glorious sunshine for most of the rest of the walk. Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Choughs entertained me en route with their aerial acrobatics. The Chough came quite close, displaying their bright red legs and beaks and the Fulmars came close too; too close for comfort! A peregrine flew off and round the corner before I got a good view of it. I've never figured out these duns (ancient forts), but apparently passed one en route. I didn't miss the natural arch though, quite an impressive specimen! It has to be said that this was one section that was more walker-friendly than a lot of other parts of the walk. There were a couple of stiles and no horrible barbed wire fences to cross (until, that is, I chose to struggle over one in order to avoid cattle!) And Lossit Bay is a beautiful place to end up at. I looked down on some other walkers on the sand before walking back along the road to the car.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Oh dear! I'm getting very frustrated as I've not had chance to get out walking for what seems like ages. The weather had not been great (and I'm a bit of a fairweather walker really!) and now that it is I seem to be inundated with work and other commitments. But I intend getting out on Sunday so hope for good weather then. I think I'll aim for the stretch of coast between Claddach Loch and Lossit that still remains undone. So watch this space!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

map to show progress

Please click on the image for a closer view. The colours have no other significance than to show the stages in which I have done the walk. The gaps left are between Gortantoid and Traigh na Dha Dhorais (?) (north), Port Ellen and Knock Bay(south), Kilnave and Ardnave(north), Port Askaig and Bunnahabhain (north east), Laggan Point and the Laggan River ('inland' west coast), Cladach and Lossit Bay (Atlantic west coast), Soldier's Rock and Glen Astle and Port an Eas (Oa) and Beinn Mhor (Oa). Please let me know if the map makes any sense or not! It's taken me a while to figure out how to get it onto this site!

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The Big Strand

The Big Strand looking north, 30th July 2007
I had done a few bits of this stretch in the past, but decided just to do it all in a oner again. Somehow I felt that would mean I hadn't missed any bits out! But I didn't want to do it on my own as I considered it to be one of the less interesting parts of the coastline, as well as one of the easiest. So Fraya accompanied me, meeting me at the Machrie after her shift at the hotel. There were lots of jellyfish and a starfish on the way - and two kites (not the avian sort) and a beautiful male Hen Harrier in the dunes at Laggan, where Ray was kindly waiting for us with the car.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

An Cladach to MacArthur's Head

MacArthur's Head lighthouse
I was undecided whether to do this stretch when I looked out of the window on Saturday morning to see a disappointingly cloudy day, but my rucsack was packed and I was psychologically geared up for it, so I set off and parked near Lossit Farm road end. I had already walked from here to the bothy, and from Ardtalla to MacArthur's Head, but had not done the bit inbetween, so the plan was to do the walk and stay the night in the bothy. I was looking forward to it, although it has to be said I didn't relish the thought of the 5 miles or so to the bothy with a heavy rucsack. 'No stopping to look at little brown jobs,' I told myself as I hauled the rucsack onto my bag. 'The only thing you stop for is if a Wallcreeper decides to take a break from balmier climes and head for the cliffs on the Sound.' I managed to stick to my resolve pretty well, I thought, stopping only long enough to pop another humbug into my mouth and managing to resist stopping every time an unidentified flying object crossed my path. I reached the bothy at around midday, by which time the weather had improved dramatically and I began to wish I hadn't brought so many clothes. Having dropped off the rucsack and eaten a bit of lunch, I carried on to MacArthur's Head, noticing a purple creepy flower on the beach that I didn't recognise. Any ideas anyone? Skullcap? There was also an almost perfect circle formed in the rocks about halfway between the bothy and the lighthouse, but as it was raining at that point, I didn't take a photo and then couldn't find it again on the way back. Back at the bothy I was relieved to have covered the two miles I had come to do (I walked 14 miles in 2 days for the sake of those 2 miles!) Now I could relax. I cooked sausages and pottered around for the rest of the day. Donald James called in with a trout for my breakfast. Thanks DJ! It was with some reluctance that I set off on Sunday morning. Having woken with the sun at 5.30 am, I was ready to set off at 9 am and was back at the car for 12 noon. I took it easier on the way back and paused to watch a family of Spotted Flycatchers and Willow Warblers. Despite the long walk, this was definitely one of the highlights of the coastal walk.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Some photos

Stacks, Lower Killeyan, 17th February 2006

Thrift between Sanaigmore and Ardnave 1st June 2007 Rubh a'Mhail lighthouse 16th July 2006

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Wester Ellister 29th June 2007
I have (by my estimation) now covered 89.5 miles of Islay's coastline and have a few pretty long stretches to do - when I get back from the Outer Hebrides (where I have a notion to walk Barra's coastline as well!) The latest stretch was from Port Wemyss to Port Charlotte - only 7 miles, but in scorching sun and with 3 bulls to greet me as I approached Port Charlotte. I was very glad of the new Port Mor centre to collapse inside and ask for an ice lolly. I was then very grateful to Mr Mitchell (BT) for a lift from Port Ban back to Bowmore.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Joining up the coastline

Grace and Becky, Saligo, 17th December 2006
Hi, my name is Becky Williamson and I am walking Islay's entire coastline (130 miles) in stages to raise money for the Marine Conservation Society. Shortly after moving to Islay three years ago, I made it my aim to walk round its coastline - not all in one go (much too difficult for a leisurely walker like myself!), but in stages. Then I heard about MCS's Coastline Challenge and realized my walk could give me an opportunity to support this wonderful project and charity. I am excited about this walk because it combines four of my greatest passions – walking, wildlife, photography and beach-combing - and all for a great cause. I had hoped to complete the walk by the end of summer 2007, but there are some parts that are thick with bracken right now and I'd rather wait and do those parts in the autumn when the bracken has died back a bit. So I've revised my original plan and hope to finish the walk by the end of the year - but finish it I intend to do!! As I go I'm taking lots of photos and making good use of flotsam and jetsam, as you can see from the photo! Using beach art I hope to convey the message that we can have a positive impact on our threatened coastal environment.