The ‘Erly Tour – Portree to Portree

8 August 2021. Portree to Uig

Easy start today as I wanted to get a fair tide to help us up Rassay Sound. The wind was in the north which meant tacking up the sound but once clear of Rassay the wind veered a bit and we were able to take a more direct route up to the top of Skye. Passing the Old Man of Storr on the way.

Portree Looking Toward the Culin
Old Man of Storr

The remainder of the day was pretty straightforward. the wind remained north easterly which was perfect for rounding the most northerly point of Skye and we had fair tide all the way then slack as we entered Loch Snizort (love that name!).

We arrived in Uig around 8pm but one of the joys of sailing this far north in the summer is the fact that the evenings stay light until around 10pm even in August.

Approaching Uig

Anchor down 20:30. 34 miles, 9 hours.

9 August 2021 – Uig to Dunvegan

Today we were heading for Dunvegan which has been on my wishlist for ages. My dad (who passed away in 2017 and was a gifted amateur artist) painted a picture of the “coral” beach near the northern end of Loch Dunvegan and that picture is now mounted on the forward bulkhead in Moon Shadow.

Coral Beach, Skye. Painted by John Little about 1988. There is some artistic licence there but the water really is that colour

We set off around 10:30 to once again ensure a fair tide around Waternish point. Well, we did get flat seas around the point but also virtually no wind. I resisted for a while but eventually turned on the engine. Unfortunately, as soon as I put it into gear the engine stalled! It started up again straight away but stalled again when I selected forward gear. This was rather inconvenient as the tide was soon to turn and would be sending us back the way we came! I started it up again and left it on a fast idle for a few minutes then quickly put it into gear and increased revs and it kept running. Phew!

I had planned to anchor by Dunvegan Castle which would have been very picturesque but with the engine playing up I didn’t want to get stuck in a small anchorage so made the decision to carry on down to the village and pick up one of the visitor moorings. As it turned out that was a fortuitous decision.

On mooring 15:00. 23 miles, 4.5 hours

We had planned to stay a couple of nights but checking the weather showed a big low pressure system coming through with very strong winds. Because of that, I decided to stay until the system had moved through. I’m glad I did because we had winds approaching 30 knots in the relative shelter we were in, it would have been a lot worse around the exposed northern points of Skye.

The visitor Moorings, Dunvegan.

Of course, being “stuck” for a few days had the advantage of being able to have a better look around although we were confined to quarters for one day when the wind was particularly fierce and despite the fairly short fetch (that’s the distance that the wind has to travel over the water), the water was pretty choppy with breaking waves of about one or two feet that would have made it difficult getting in and out of the dinghy and a pretty wet ride ashore.

We treated ourselves to dinner ashore at “The Dunvegan” one evening and I can thoroughly recommend it. The food was excellent. there was a lovely friendly vibe about the place and the service was great.

We also took the opportunity to visit Dunvegan Castle, the seat of Clan MacLeod. Like our earlier visit to Eileen Donnan, this was well worth the visit. The public areas were well laid out and had good information boards along the route. There were also knowledgeable staff in each room to fill in any gaps.

There are a number of very scenic walls around the area which is rich in history dating back to medieval times. There is a nice circular walk from the village up to the castle. We did it clockwise and on the way up to the castle the path goes through an old forest. On the trunks of several trees there were very small doors, only accessible by the faerie folk – or were they put there by the local school children? I guess we’ll never know for sure 😉

On on the way back the path goes alongthe top of the hill and we came across this standing stone…

The Durnish stone

We were trying to figure out what it would have been used for back in neolithic times until we discovered that it had been erected in 2000 as part of the millennium celebrations. It was erected by hand though so it was “sort of” authentic.

there were cracking views all along this section…

Looking southwest
Looking west towards Macleod’s Tables
Looking north west down into Loch Dunvegan with Moon Shadow on the moorings and MacLeod’s Table in the background

14 August 2021 – Dunvegan to Uig

Not much to say about this trip as it was a mirror image of the outward trip a few days ago.

One thing I had wanted to do was to get into the small bay in front of the coral beach, go ashore and take a photo with the same view as in dad’s painting but with Moon Shadow in the middle. Unfortunately, the water was too shallow to allow it which was a shame. I hope dad will understand.

Some days later we rented a car from Portree and visited the beach on foot. The last time I’d been there was in the mid 1980s, before dad had painted that picture. Back then we were the only people on the beach. It’s quite different these days but the view is still the same.

Coral Beach, Skye. Photo by Paul Little 2021. Note the colour of the water.

Anchor down 16:00. 21 miles, 4 hours.

15 August 2021 – Uig to Upper Loch Torridon

This was going to be a relatively long passage across the North Minch but even so, the tide being king we departed Uig around midday.

Before leaving I went ashore to buy some diesel as both jerry cans were empty and I wasn’t sure of getting any more until we got back to Portree. I landed at the little stone pier which was closer to the boat and was a shorter walk to the petrol station. When I returned I managed to clip the edge of the pier with the outboard and broke the shear pin in the prop so had to row back to the boat. Despite hunting for my spare pin for a while I just couldn’t find it so had to bodge it, er, I mean, use my ingenuity to find an alternative solution 😉

The wind, for once, was playing ball and we had a good trip north up Loch Snizort where there are about half a dozen waterfalls cascading over the huge sea cliffs into the sea below. Very spectacular! Once around the headland, we turned a little south of east and had a stunning sail all the way across on a single reach.

The scenery coming into Loch Torridon is even more stunninger than all the previous stunning places we’d seen!

I was heading for the small anchorage at Alligin Shuas which is just east of the entrance to Upper Loch Torridon. The narrow passage into the upper loch doesn’t come into view until you are practically on top of it so, never having been there before, I was a little confused because the rocky shoreline seemed to run straight along to the village of Sheildaig.

Once in though, the upper loch opened before us and even in the rather grey overcast conditions it looked pretty spectacular.

Moon Shadow anchored at Alligin Shuas

Anchor down 19:30. 37 miles, 7.5 hours

The following day we went for a walk up to Inveralligin across the heath and ended up a bit off course so had to follow the river Alligin upstream until we found a bridge. All good fun! We were quite looking forward to finding a little cafe or some-such but, sadly Inveralligin is completely devoid of such places. The few permanent residents presumably go up to Torridon or perhaps as far as Lochcarron if they want an evening out.

Ben Alligin from the beach at Inveralligin

The next day we motored round to the village of Sheildaig and dropped anchor beside the island. I had booked a table in the well recommended “Sheildaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen” so we went ashore and walked around the peninsular to work up an appetite and to take in more fantastic views.

The restaurant certainly didn’t disappoint and we had a great meal at a non rediculous price. By the time we left it was almost dark and we hurried back to the dinghy to return to Moon Shadow. Alison got into the dinghy first and then promptly got out again as the dinghy went one way and Alison went the other, doing a graceful “scuba roll” off the side! I managed to pull her out back onto the jetty and then hold on to the dinghy while she got in safely. Of course, poor Alison was soaked and cold so as soon as we were back on board I got the heater fired up and we got her dried off and warmed up with a warm drink. She couldn’t believe that I had been able to pull her out. The worst thing about the incident was that I didn’t have my camera at the ready!

Sheildaig with Ben Sheidaig behind

18 August 2021 – Sheidaig to Portree

Alison had booked a flight back to Bristol from Inverness and after much consideration of the various options we decided it would be best to return to Portree, hire a car and drive her there as all the train options were pretty convoluted.

We set off just after 10am and, with the wind on the nose we motored out of Loch Sheidaig. Once into Loch Torridon there is more room and we were able to start sailing although we would be tacking upwind until we could turn south into the Sound of Rassay.

Once again we passed the Old Man of Storr but with the low cloud it was much more atmospheric this time.

Old Man of Storr

Of course, once we were into the sound the we were sheltered from the wind by the island of Skye so it was pretty slow going and we arrived in Portree just after 18:00. No sea eagle to greet us this time!

On mooring 18:00. 26 miles, 8 hours

The following morning we picked up the hire car. I had ordered a “small” car from Morrisons car hire in Portree but ended up with a Mercedes A class AMG for the same price – result! We drove out to coral beach in Loch Dunvegan.

see, I told you the water really is that colour

The beach isn’t actually coral but fossilised and sun-bleached algae but it certainly looks like coral which is how it got its name obviously.

Looking north up Loch Dunvegan with the Outer Hebrides just visible in the distance.

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