After our visit to Mingulay lunch was interrupted a couple of times by sightings of basking sharks – too far away to photograph. The ship stayed anchored in the same place and we had a longer zodiac ride to land on the smaller island of Berneray to the south. We climbed just over a mile up a gently sloping grassy track to the gleaming white Barra Head Lighthouse.
Although the photograph gives the impression of a very benign place bathed in warm sunshine, like all lighthouses this one is here for a purpose and sits atop spectacular cliffs on the other side. At the front of the buildings we scrambled through a very ancient drystane dyke and down into a magnificent natural Dun. This felt a very exciting place to be as I imagined ancient Scots defending themselves against marauding Vikings and Irish. Then it got even better when someone bravely lent over the low natural wall and discovered a grassy slope about ten feet below covered in puffins.
Puffins just have to be the most photogenic birds around, as they sit patiently looking like sad little clowns. Colin took dozens and dozens of photographs of them as I was too enchanted and could only watch entranced (really I knew his photos would be better and I preferred holding on to the rocks with both hands!). I am being very strong and limiting myself to inflict only two puffin photographs on you.
We explored all around the lighthouse and could see by the wonderful walled enclosures how the lighthouse keepers and their families in the past would have provided a lot of their own produce.
There was a gap in the wall about twenty yards along but this looked like much more fun. On the other side we were intrigued to find a much dilapidated Series One Landrover neatly parked in a corner. I guess this is a hangover from war time activities as there were other signs of defense or observation work.
The stroll back down the hill was perfection – stunning views, sweet smells of meadow and wildflowers and an orchestra of birds dominated by a trilling skylark.
Even this old rusty Lister pump didn’t look totally out of place as it created a pleasing colour contrast for the view behind.
This was the second last day of our holiday, and although it is a hard judgement to make I think it was the best – and, of course, it finished with a colourful sunset as we sailed north heading for Gigha.
The last day of our holiday saw visits to Islay and Gigha and a very Scottish mix of weather. Our first view of Port Ellen on Islay was through a thick morning mist.
You can see the sun trying to shine from under the grey blanket. It wasn’t cold though as we were taken in the ubiquitous coach for the short ride to the Laophraig Distillery. The young lady guide was superb – a wonderful ambassador for whisky, Islay and Scotland. She very competently took us through all the processes of whisky production and encouraged everyone to have a taste at each stage of the proceedings. These sips and finger dippings definitely became more palatable as the product neared completion.
When we returned to the jetty in Port Ellen visibility had reduced considerably and the MS Expedition could not be seen. The zodiacs were guided back using a combination of radio instructions and the Captain following each boat on his radar screen.
By the time we reached our last destination, the island of Gigha, there was a fascinating deep bank of mist rolling along at sea level with brilliant sunshine ten feet above. Our visit this time was to Achamore Gardens, a mile walk along the one and only road on this tiny community owned island.
I did enjoy the garden which was a riot of colours, lush vegetation and perfumes. The last of the Spring flowers and rhododendrons were vying with the early summer varieties and the whole place was bathed in warm sunshine.
We then reboarded the ship for our last bit of cruising back to Oban. We berthed at the Northern Lighthouse Board pier which gave a lovely view of a final beautiful sunset. The End.