Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Treshnish Isles

Crofters have holidays too and mine started today ( 7th June) with a day trip to Lunga and Staffa on the "Islander" a new, fast catamaran based in Tobermory. I'd been monitoring the weather all week, light winds and sunshine were forecast since last Sunday. Its the peak of the seabird breeding season and Lunga has vast numbers of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and fulmars.

"Islander" disembarking on Lunga "beach" Photo by Raptor
About an hour out of Kilchoan, up the Sound of Mull and round the north west tip of Mull we landed on Lunga. The island hasn't been inhabited since the mid 19th Century but there is a well worn path down the west coast to the seabird colonies. You can't get lost.

Its really refreshing not to have National Trust type interpretation boards, "Grass may be slippery when wet" signs and Rangers. You are on your own, work out for yourself what the birds are and why they behave the way they do.As just about every British citizen over twenty has sat through a zillion hours of wildlife television including Spring-watch last night we are all very well informed thank you.

I don't need to tell you what these are. Photo by Raptor

Up the hill and along the cliff within five minutes of the beach landing and you are standing only feet away from the puffins and their burrows. You don't have to worry too much about disturbing them. Puffins are habituated to visitors and I have been told. they fly back to their nest sites from their rafts out at sea when the visitors boat arrives because the visitors deter the black backed gulls, skuas and ravens.

Or these. Photo by Raptor

Sea thrifts, campion and trefoil are all in flower at the moment, there are big healthy looking rabbits that are quite tame and its a stopover for barnacle geese in the winter.

About a mile down the west coast there's a small sea stack ,Dun Cruit, Its a seething, writhing mass of guillemots from the top to the edge of the 30m deep ofchasm between the stack and the sea. The seabird eggs here were an important food source for the inhabitants, who we are told crawled across the chasm on a long pole.

A small sector of the Dun Cruit Guillemot colony

This looks like a b&w picture but it isn't, its full colour, the light, the rocks and the birds create a b&w illusion.

Fingal's cave

The National Trust for Scotland own Staffa and to their credit there were no slippery grass warnings, no unnecessary interpretation and the handrail along the base of the cliff is rudimentary, so 8 out of 10 for NTS.

The boatman told me that last week he asked a visitor how he enjoyed the trip, "better than sex " he said. The trip did exceed my expectations but I have a vague recollection of sex and the trip wasn't quite that good.

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