ARDNAVE and the SINGING SEALS

This walk is signposted and starts from the grassy parking area near Ardnave Farm where a large track winds easily down towards the sands. We started from our tent, further down at the shore.

Since arriving at Ardnave, we had heard seals singing loudly on the big sandbanks left by the receding tide – not sure if it was to do with mating but I’ve never heard them calling so loudly. In fact, their singing continued all night! It’s quite haunting and somehow, calming. The Selkie Myths describe how men were drawn to this singing and following it, found on land beautiful seal-women who had shed their skins. The wisest men did not molest these women but allowed them to return to their true home, the sea. Tragedy usually resulted for any man who tried to keep them on land. Selkie men were often so handsome that women could not resist them and were easily seduced! Well, I’m not surprised because the most handsome men I’ve seen anywhere have been from my own country:)

For more on the myths surroundings the seal folk: http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/selkiefolk/

The Paps of Jura were clearing all the time – we once climbed the highest, Beinn an Oir, a tough hike up scree and boulders but quite a spot at the top with a vista of endless islands and seas all around.

Thankfully and in contrast to other walks on this trip(!), this was an easy flat walk and all about enjoying the little beaches and spotting Mull, Scarba and Colonsay as the heat haze cleared.

 

Walk start beside Loch Gruinart near our camp

A leisurely stroll took us along the main beach of Loch Gruinart, a huge sea loch and a renowned Bird Reserve before we rounded Ardnave Point itself. Now, we could see the low, knolly outline of the headland above lovely Sanaigmore beach – it’s a small hill called Ton Mhor which means the Big Bottom (or less politely, Arse!) It’s shaped exactly like two large buttocks, more easily seen from closer quarters. Gaelic names are always very descriptive!

Offshore were lots of skerries and also Nave Island with its ruined chapel.The seals were visible, beached on the skerries and exposed sandy banks and very vocal. Their melancholy singing accompanied us the whole way, a lovely, sad sound and making the whole area feel very wild and remote.

Nave Island across the machair
Singing seals on the skerries

With the tide out,  we managed to walk mostly on the sands but once past Traigh Nostaig (Traigh is Gaelic for beach) we made for the dunes, skirting past a herd of curious cattle who stared at us intently, as they aways do. One or two had very young calves so we were also wary – a cow with a calf is much more dangerous than a bull.Dogs get cattle very upset and some farmers post signs warning that dogs are not allowed to cross their grazing areas during May – Sept. All must be on a lead at least.There have been recent incidents of people with a dog killed by normally docile cattle, protecting their calves.

We also saw some Choughs, uncommon crow-like birds with red bills and legs which are seen only on Islay and parts of Ireland.

Choughs feeding

We soon picked up a larger track which took us nicely back to Ardnave Farm, skirting another herd of cattle with tiny calves and stopping at our car to take some other bits and pieces down to the tent.

This walk was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, an easy stroll with plenty of good sea air , fine views and wildflowers still perfuming the air on the machair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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