Wildlife safari on Islay
Islay is an island of many peninsulas and points, always something to aim at when walking. Rhinns Point is at the southernmost tip of the peninsular with Port Charlotte on it and is an area renowned for basking seals. Learning from my previous experience with catching a bus for the return part of the journey, (bus sailed past and we had to walk all the way back in the rain) we caught a bus down to Portnahaven, with aim of walking back along the same route.
First there were seals to spot, and sure enough two big fat grey seals were basking on the rocks in the bay, with many more in the water, watching us intently as seals do. We walked round to Port Wemyss to get a better view of the lighthouse on the small island of Orsay, just offshore. The lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson, of Stevenson's rocket fame. More seals lolling about on the rocks, not looking at all comfy. Lured uphill by a number of small signs with hand drawn pictures of cups and saucers and pieces of cake we finally reached a sign which said "closed today, cake tomorrow " What a disappointment!
After checking out the map, decided on a change of plan. Plan B:- Head up a very minor road towards Lossit Bay, eat picnic amongst the dunes, walk back to Portnahaven and catch the bus back. Sounded good at the time.
A lovely road with hardly any traffic, climbing quite high to skirt Ben Cladville. At one of the highest points we came upon two young women with binoculars and the telescopes used by serious birders, focussing on something very high up and far away. They said they were from Aberdeen University and were investigating the colouring of the choughs. Looking choughs up when I got back to the van it seems that they're quite rare, bigger than a jackdaw, all black with with scarlet legs and a long curved scarlet beak. See, they could just have looked in my Observer's Book of Birds!
The cattle grids on the road didn't have an opening gate for livestock i.e. Jinty, so I had to lift the great lump over the fence each time, tie him up and then go round via the grid and untie him. Not that Mr Wimpy Whippet would go off worrying sheep...he just stands there looking worried.
I kept getting glimpses of the cove I was heading for, but had to go down a farm track and on past the farm to find a way across the fields to the bay. We negotiate another couple of cattle grids with Jinty balancing on the edges and go past the farmhouse. There's a faint "hallo!" from an upstairs window and I go back to talk to the farmer. She warns me not to go through the fields as there's danger of the cattle stampeding and trampling us, particularly with a dog, adding that on the news yesterday there was a report of a couple being trampled to death by cows. My saviour suggested a different route, which unfortunately didn't include a beautiful bay with dunes, but did have woodland chock a block with red deer grazing next to the path. We got quite close to them before they galloped off into the trees, and there was even a fawn.
The safari didn't end there. Back on the coast road we passed a field with a donkey (I just love donkeys) and a white horse. The grass in their field was very sparse so I spent some time feeding them the lush long grass growing on my side of the fence. All the while, Jinty was doing his very best to get as far away from them as possible. And then... two fields with exotic creatures in them, probably llamas or alpacas, with very long necks, pom-pom hooves, and big eyes. Bizarre....
Following a sign to a burial site we had a short detour, finding a magical spot....a small cemetery in the middle of a field, with a separate section containing ancient Clan Donald carved stones. A lovely place to sit for a rest and to enjoy the peace.
We were both glad to see the campsite only a couple of fields along, and trudged back to the Romahome with very tired legs. Time for a cup of tea (me) a drink of water (Jinty) and a well deserved lie down before tea.