Wind rattled the tent and heavy rain beat down on the rip-stop nylon during the night, but I was feeling relaxed about it. I’d see what the morning would bring and make a decision then. In fact the rain went off with the arrival of dawn and the rain-washed early morning light was lovely. I decided that I’d leave the tent pitched and try out a route that would retrace my steps from the previous day back up the west coast, but also taking in Tiree’s three highest points – the twin summits of Ben Hynish (126m) and Carnan Mor (146m); Beinn Ceann a’ Mhara (103m) and Beinn Hough (119m). The out and back route looked to be about 18 miles, so I was keen to get started while the weather looked good.
First up, I climbed out of Port Snoig and continued up the flank of Ben Hynish, which provided a great view of the radar ‘golf ball’ on the summit of Carnan Mor.
I continued over to Carnan Mor and surveyed the scene from the trig point a little way west of the golf ball. An access road winds up to the summit from West Hynish, but that looked too dull for words; no, I’d much rather stagger through heathery bog down the hillside to Balephuil. Actually it wasn’t too bad at all and a better option than the road – good views over Balephuil to the eponymous bay, the sands of Traigh Bhi and the headland of Ceann a’ Mhara.
I set my sights on a red telephone box in Balephuil as I could get no mobile signal anywhere on the island (Vodafone works apparently, so get a Vodafone sim card when visiting Tiree) and I wanted to call The Lovely Fiona. No dice; the phone would accept neither coins nor cards, I could pay £1.99 for 30 seconds reverse charges though. Thanks BT. Only one out of seven payphones I tried on the island would take coins. Thanks again BT.
Ayway, I descended to Traigh Bhi and retraced my steps from the previous day. While walking along the marram grass-thatched dunes I felt a pain in my lower left shin; cramp? shin splints? or was that a stinging bite I’d felt? No bother, I’d just carry on, I can take a bit of pain after all; still, it was making me limp a bit. Never mind. I carried on around to the western extremity of wonderful Traigh Bhi, then followed a track off the beach onto a grassy area at the foot of the headland. I then climbed up to the high point at the southern end of Ceann a’ Mhara to look for the remains of St Patrick’s Chapel. I couldn’t really tell if I’d found it or not – was it a pile of stones or was it a significant pile of stones? Anyway, what was significant was the fine view back across Traigh Bhi.
I headed north and made the short climb of Beinn Ceann a’ Mhara. More fine views, none more so than the wonderful vista from the north end of the summit over Traigh nan Gilean.
I scampered down the north-east ridge of the hill to rejoin the coast; I then retraced my steps from the previous day for about four or so miles as far as Traigh Hough, but this time in bright sunshine.
From about half way along Traigh Hough I headed north-east following a pebble-metalled track which led through an inland sea of sand dunes for about 1km to the foot of the north ridge of Beinn Hough. This island hinterland is dotted with bunkers, emplacements and observation posts – the long abandoned structures associated with Tiree’s role as a strategic airbase during the second world war.
Just before reaching a cattle grid, I left the track and launched myself directly up the north ridge of the hill. I paused half way up to admire the view from an abandoned observation post.
Though it was a bit early yet for the full-machair flower experience, the island’s orchids were already beginning to put a good showing in.
From the top of the hill I continued over to the radio mast on the second summit, then took the access road down the hill. On the way I bumped into this odd worm-like critter struggling across the road in the blazing sunshine – anyone know what it is?
At the bottom of the hill I picked up the road to Sandaig, passing the ruins of St. Kenneth’s Chapel en route.
From Sandaig I retraced my outward route of the previous day all the way back to my tent at Port Snoig. On the way through West Hynish I bumped into Hector MacKinnon once again who was rounding up his sheep with his hyperactive collie-cross, name of Lassie. We chatted for a bit before I continued on my way.
I spent an enjoyable late afternoon and evening back in the environs of Base Camp Alpha, exploring the coastal landscape – very lovely too.
It was a windy and rainy night once again, but the worst of the weather had lifted by early dawn. I had a ferry to catch at the back of 11am and nine miles to walk, so I packed up and set off early. It was a short, but eventful walk to join the road at East Hynish; first I walked along a gentle declivity known locally as Happy Valley, that runs inland from the inlet at Cleit Mhor, very lovely it is too.
I then had to negotiate some very boggy ground before getting a bit snarled-up in a maze of stock fences. I then ran into the very unpleasant owner of the stock fences who was a bit like an uglier version of the Tasmanian Devil in the Sylvester the Cat cartoon of old. I subsequently learned that he’s known locally as ‘Arsehole’, which cheered me up.
Anyway, I passed by the old signalling station for the Skerryvore lighthouse, which stands atop a rock some ten miles or so south of Tiree.
It was then a case of striding out along the rustic road and expansive sandy beaches along Tiree’s southern coastline until I arrived at the Scarinish ferry terminal a few hours later.
That was it – I’d completed a circumperambulation of the entire 46-mile coastline of Tiree, some of it two or three times! Who cares!? Not me, but contrary to my expectations I’d hugely enjoyed my time walking on Tiree and I can’t recommend this lovely island enough to those of you who like a fine Hebridean beach or ten. Just need to sort out those few fence situations to make walking the coast of Tiree a minor classic.