ISLAY – LOSSIT BAY, PORTNAHAVEN and SANAIGMORE

Lossit Bay is possibly my favourite beach on an island with many beautiful sands. Sanaigmore runs a close second.We headed out of our B&B at 10am, with sandwiches made up and a flask of tea for a picnic lunch. First on the agenda was a wander through the two lovely villages of Portnahaven and Port Wemyss at the very southernmost tip of the Rhinns of Islay. Back to the tent tonight which we had left at Ardnave.

A 15 minute drive took us to Port Wemyss and a small parking area by the shore.It’s a delightful spot, with seals popping their heads up and quite a bit of singing going on again.A fairly well grown pup was basking on a rock nearby.

A nicely built little path wound its way along the coast, with the attractive whitewashed village houses behind us; the gardens as ever were gorgeous.Then up though the village’s main street which joins up with Portnahaven, equally pretty with a little sandy bay at the foot.Children played in the shallows on this, another warm, sunny morning.It was quite idyllic.There is a further coastal walk out to a Point with views along the coast but we were keen to get to Lossit Bay so re-traced our steps.

A quick stop first of all at a little white sand beach beyond Portnahaven, a lovely wee spot where we had a cup of tea and a wander down to the sands. Then on along the single track road for another  15 mins or so until we recognised the track leading to the beach.This part of Islay is very wild and unfrequented.

There isn’t really any parking for the beach or even a signpost  – apart from a notice saying to Beware – Bull in Field.Yikes, the very field we had to cross! We managed to pull in at the junction of another minor road to Octofad Farm and leave the car on some flattish grass, to avoid blocking any farm traffic. Not much traffic out this way.

The road to Lossit Bay

Through the gate, a good wide track took us in the general direction of the beach and right towards a large herd of cattle.I saw the bull right away , an enormous creature! But he was mostly surrounded by his cows and was more intent on the feeding trough they were all milling around, than us.

Then down through a break in the fence and along nice short turf for 10 mins or so until the beach came into view.It’s a sight to thrill the heart too – a corker of a beach, deserted usually because there’s minor effort to get there and of course, all the better for that!

Down we headed through the dunes, picking up a path now, then landing finally on the soft almost peach-coloured sand of this wild place washed by a turquoise ocean.

Craggy, emerald green hills loomed over one end and a softer headland the other.The last time we were here the waves crashed loudly on the sand – the beach shelves considerably – but it was benign today, calm under the warm, still summer weather.

We found some flat rocks to sit and have our picnic, right by the sea.Oystercatchers piped occasionally, a call so evocative of the Hebrides. Sandpipers whistled more softly, a little flock of them rising and flying out over the shallows before heading round in a circle to land back where they had been feeding.Our presence had disturbed an otherwise peaceful place.

Then a walk along the surf, me wading in the very cold, clear water , just drinking in the beauty of it all.A hard place to leave.

But leave we had to as Sanaigmore beckoned – I just had to see that spot before we left Islay tomorrow.It was a lovely drive past Kilchiaran Bay, this part of Islay feeling very different to the softer central part.Wild empty headlands and rugged low hills, very few houses – I liked it a lot.

Then we arrived in pretty Port Charlotte, feeling as if it was another world – equally lovely but softer.A 20 min drive round to Bowmore to pick up supplies for tonight. I seem to remember I got some cooked Chicken Thighs and Chris had – again – his Chicken Pakora which by then I felt I’d had enough of! Some tasty dips,  Tomatoes and Red Onion for a salad, and that was us all set. It would keep ok in the car boot.

Sanaigmore was a 30 min drive away on sometimes bumpy single track roads.But Islay really was looking lovely in the August sunshine – it was a sad thought to be leaving.At one point, a Merlin whizzed across the road ahead of us, fast as a bullet.Parked at the little Outback Art/Jewellery Gallery, a beautiful stone building, impressive inside too,  which also has a good cafe but today unfortunately, it was closed. I’d checked beforehand so knew there was no chance of this being a cake -stop too.

Lovely old stone walls at Sanaigmore

Sanaigmore is very Hebridean with its rugged little headland overlooking all (in this case the twin knolls were named the Ton Mor which translates in English to The Big Buttocks! Very apt from a certain angle) , a curving shell sand beach, turquoise sea and sheep grazing on the machair behind the shore.It’s a 5 min easy walk from the Gallery and looked idyllic in the warm late afternoon sunshine.

Machair behind the beach

It was busy – 20 or so people! Several families, though some now leaving, a girl out on a paddle board.A slight shock after the emptiness of Lossit Bay but it really is a gorgeous spot too  – in fact next time, I’d like to wild camp out this way.We had our wetsuits in the car and it was perfect for swimming, but by this stage in the afternoon, a quiet bit of contemplation was all I wanted.

We sat on the rocks, finished the flask of tea and just enjoyed admiring it all.The Hebrides – there’s nowhere like them! I’m drawn back every time and each island is so different in look and atmosphere.I always feel closer to Gaelic culture in the Hebrides, to old traditions, a gentler, kinder pace and way of thinking  – though  Gaels are well- known for their wit and an often very sharp wit it is too! It’s unusual to drive any of the single track roads  – and the Highlands have this too – without a nod or wave of acknowledgement from other drivers.Those who don’t are more likely to be visitors, rushing through the landscape on a mission to see it all (that sounds rather like me but I always wave:)) As the song ‘Westering Home’ asks –

Where are the folk like the folk o’ the west?
Canty and couthy and kindly, the best.
There I would hie me and there I would rest
At hame wi’ my ain folk in Islay.

We had a 20 minute drive back to Ardnave plus the short walk to the tent and a light carry – in of food.It was nice to see our faithful old Vango tent still there, we’d left various things inside, quite safe to do so, got the chairs out and sat down with a glass of wine to toast a brilliant holiday. Really, one of the best.

The road back to Ardnave. Paps of Jura in the haze
Ardnave 

Not much time next day to do more than pack up the gear, get ourselves away and re-pack the car a bit; it does become a bit of a bomb-site. Then a drive into Bowmore for some cakes at The Celtic House. A short walk through Port Ellen and out to a small rocky promontory, covered in Bell Heather and a final look across to the Oa peninsula.It all looked so lovely in the sunshine and oh so difficult to leave!

Port Ellen

But we had a night to look forward to in a gem of a place in Argyll which we love – the Loch Melford Hotel- with a lovely outlook over the sea and islands.Then – decision time about what to do with our next few days.With the weather set fair, we wouldn’t be heading home, that was was sure.In fact, a great walk in Glencoe and climbing two Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag  – lay ahead of us, truly stunning walks in the grand mountain landscapes of the West Highlands.

But as the Hebridean Isles pulled away from Port Ellen, sailing into a sparkling sea and we waved goodbye to this green, heather clad island, those words of the famous Islay song rang again in my mind and they were true:

“Isle of my heart, my own one…..’

Islay – we will be back and soon.

For The Corries famous version of the lovely song ‘Westering Home’  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg0w3XJmq2Q&list=RDrQrZxMUNAr8&index=15

One of 9 Distilleries

For previous days: ISLAY – GOODBYE TO CARE   ARDNAVE and the SINGING SEALS

ISLAY -WILD GOATS AND HEATHER:THE MULL OF OA

ISLAY – KILCHOMAN BEACH WALK AND PORT CHARLOTTE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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