Our second day on Rum was going to less about height and more about distance. We were heading over to Guirdil, the other Bothy on Rum. And what a beautiful start to the day – it was blue skies from the start. The occasionally heard cuckoo from the day before had made a couple of appearances during the night, I was blaming that, rather my snoring for keeping tent partner Nigel awake.
I’m not sure of the exact distance but I think it is about 6 or 7 miles as the crow (or cuckoo) flies between Dibidil and Guirdil bothies. But we weren’t cuckoos* so the real distance covered along parts of the coastal path and via the Harris Mausoleum was about 12 miles I would guess. And the best part of a day’s walk.
(* The cuckoo became a bit of a standing joke, in moments of quiet and rest during the day, the cuckoo (we were sure it was just one, stalking us) would pipe up. And some of us live in Marsden.. a village with its own ‘cuckoo legend’. So to come up to Scotland and be stalked by a cuckoo was pretty funny. We were hoping for Eagles, we got Cuckoos.)
The route took us essentially south-east to north-west of the island and across a few rivers (burns). There was quite a bit of rough moorland (which I felt at home on) and some steep cliffs that the path shadowed in places. Not any real climbing but it was still a fair trek. All of the sea views out to the further Hebrides were fantastic. Now we were on flatter ground (although some scrambling was still needed in a couple of places) I wished I had carted my DSLR with me. Ah well.
The first place we came across from Dibidil was the abandoned hunting lodge at papadil. Which I now know (see the link on the last post) is a name associated with early celtic ecclesiastical settlements. The little lake here was really pretty and ‘exploring’ the disused lodge was interesting.. we even had a curious deer appear as we headed away from the lodge and back up hill.
The lodge itself was overgrown with Rhododendron bushes.. very much like some occasional parts of the moors where I live (Marsden, Yorkshire). Victorian land owners had a penchant for planting these shrubs near estate houses. Left to their own devices they get really big of course. When the lodge was in its heyday the hunting parties would come around the island by boat whilst the staff would head inland from Kinloch. (Quick Ad: I was told that by author of a book on walking the small isles, Pete). Now it has reverted to a wild wood as it were, with shrubs / trees growing through the lodge windows and doors.
We then flanked around Ruinsival and its fairly steep slopes and headed to Harris bay, which was about a 3 hour tramp across some occasional rocky parts but mostly moor / bog (although not at all boggy when we were there). In wet and rainy weather I’m sure this would have been a lot, lot slower to cross with some very claggy sections.
Harris itself annoyed me. I think that’s the best word for it. The mausoleum is an oversized brash thing, a testament to one family’s vanity. John Bullough had the money (made from the cotton mill industry) to aggrandise his own passing. To be fair, he wasn’t the instigator of the enforced land clearance of the original island crofters (that came before him) but the building set amongst such a lovely ‘wild’ landscape is historically both interesting and annoying at the same time.
Without the distraction of the previous day’s vertigo, I had time to think about the islands. I was actually conceived on Skye (mum and dad lived there for a year when they were first married) and my mum was Scottish. Her family were from (more latterly) southern Scotland, working class folk from around Paisley. But (having started to trace my family tree) elements of the family originated further north. I’ve been to Scotland lots of course (and lived in Paisley for a year or so aged about 10), yet I’ve never been to any of the Islands before. So being on Rum and also seeing some of the more distant isles from various advantage points over the weekend was kind of cool. I think that was why the brash Harris mausoleum annoyed me, it cut through my romanticised revelries of celtic ancestry
Anyway – one great thing about Harris was the beach, it was great to be able to take our boots off for a while and sit under a blue, warm sky! What a great place to eat and have a break.
Some of the guys even had a paddle, to soothe those aching feet
I should mention that getting photos on the last 2 days (we had a 4 day trip in all) was thanks to a solar charger thing I bought recently. I’ve done kit review as it really worked out well. (see separate post).
From Harris we then had about 4 hours of hike across a mix of moors and also some rock / scree fields. And part of the route brought us pretty close to some very steep cliffs .. we kept back for the most part but there were a couple of places (around ominously named Wreck Bay) where you got some excellent views. Mr Vertigo kept a couple of feet back from the very very edge of course.
There had been some evidence of deer (and also some goats that I think live on Rum?) wherever we went – but that was mostly in the form of droppings and ticks. The ticks themselves were not so obvious on this particular day – more on the following, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Real deer evidence came around the Wreck Bay headland area where Steve picked up a really nice antler. Which was proudly strapped to his rucksack for the rest of the trip.
Speaking of evidence of wildlife.. I meant to mention on the previous post that sections of the Cuillins were riddled with burrows for what I think were Manx Shearwaters. The evidence being the holes themselves and lots of bird droppings. But of the birds, no sign. I’m guessing they were out at sea before coming back for the nesting season?
There was then a longish schlep across rough moors before we crossed Bealach an dubh-bhraigh and found our way towards Glen Guirdil.
The glen itself is really impressive, with Orval (at about 570 metres) imposing itself at the head of the glen over to our right as we walked down the steep glen flanks, in what was the beginning of late afternoon sun. The glen is steep-sided and the river at the bottom (Guirdil River) gets really full in wet / winter weather I believe. Thankfully it wasn’t in spate when we picked our way eventually across it after a long descent into the valley. It must get bad though as there are crossing suggestions posted on the notice board in the bothy. Up and behind us (and with the soundtrack of yet another Cuckoo) was a fenced off plantation and behind that, Bloodstone Hill. The hill dominated the view from the Bothy once we got to it.
Giuirdil Bothy was, for me, the more interesting of the two Bothies. I think the location, right on the edge of a bay, and the collection of derelict / collapsed building next to it make it really interesting. The guest book tells of the regular visits of deer down to the seashore. We did have a couple appear at twilight but they stayed behind the bothy , not straying onto the beach itself. But I think there is (or was) a stag called Brutus (if I remember the name rightly) who is a beach comber on occasion.
We decided to bivvy again rather than use the empty bothy but it was the base for the evening meal prep and also the place to stay warm in the rapidly cooling late evening air. We gathered up a lot of dried seaweed with one of the flotsam fishing crates, which we replenished again in the morning for the next visitors. The dried seaweed burned really well in the old fireplace and after a long day’s hike it was great to sit and chat with some candles lit and a fire on the go.
I would happily spend a week or two based at the bothy to get into the place and it’s quietness. And having a deer mooch about as you eat your breakfast outside can’t be bad.
Ah, update on Brutus. I just googled to check I’d got the name from the guest book right.. and turns out he’s a TV celeb. As seen on Autumn Watch on the BBC apparently:
So, that was the second day on Rum. Really enjoyable.
I’ll write up day 3 separately, it was essentially a hike across to Kinloch, dodging ticks (some of us) and eventually eating cake (all of us) without any climb or much elevation but for the sake of completeness I’ll do a quick post when I can.