The path in from Acharn takes you along the southern shore of the Loch. I first walked it in Winter. Brown and damp. It leads to Arienas Point. A closely grazed green finger that stretches out from the heaps of ordered stones. Here the Oak peters out and gives way to Ash. Here the signs of a once inhabited village.
Crossed the ferry at Lochaline, turned of at Salen, and over to West Coast of Mull. Rounding headlands, with views of Coll, we arrived at a reasonably deserted Calgary Bay. My first time.
The sea was clear and cold. Little flatfish dashed away from underfeet. Fronds of kelp broken,and in places stirred like a black porridge, the sand hard from the sea. The kids had a great time.
Lunch at the Calgary Hotel – okay. The adjacent gallery – vertical clad in timber with a tin roof – attracted my attention. Light, cheap, local, and part of the Highland vernacular – what have the planners got against timber and tin.
My grandfather lived here briefly in the 1930’s- before returning to Skye. His stepfather worked at the sawmill. The ruined remains are within the galleries woodland walk. When he was growing up the laird didnt allow anyone on the beach or dunes. Occasionally in summer the boys were allowed to play football. Perhaps that might have limited the erosion. The dunes are worn and slipping, fences and brash lines coves, a foothold for the sand. Telltale holes of sandmartins, quickly flight.
‘Coffee and Books’ in Dervaig, chips on the pier in Tobermoray, home.
The boat crunched on the gravel. Telescope, binoculars, flask. The birch is just opening its leaves, in the light rain they glow pale green. Through the trees we settle on a small rise and unpack lunch, pore a coffee, and wait.
A dark wet hill rises from and surrounds the bay. It is thick with rain and visibility is low. Eventually the rain drifts down to us. I watch it run down the sides of my empty overturned mug. Sun. Eyes turn to the hill and we catch site of the two birds coming of a potential nest site. I follow the male with the binoculars, my companion follows the female. ‘If they are up to anything, then they will only leave the nest for about 20 minutes’. Up to anything means chicks.
My arms ache. I dare not lower the binoculars, they are so high, so faint I would never find them. The male hovers, then drop behind a ridge – lost. The female drops into the hill to roost. It begins to rain. A low hum tumbles down the loch. I turn to see what looks like a WWII plane come round the point doing a barrel role. It disappears then, then we hear it come back, it skims low, rolling over our heads. ‘She was watching it you know’.
The boat skimmed out the river mouth and around the point – onto to the loch, into the breeze. A thin plume of smoke drifted from a bank of Scots Pines on the opposite shore. Scanning, we noticed something red. Moving closer we saw a canadian canoe pulled up on the shore and a tent tucked into the trees. ‘B*****ds’. ‘Bloody campers, its so f****in invitin thats the problem‘. It was an inviting spot for blackthroated divers, and an inviting spot for the campers too. We trawled round the coast- no sight. Blackthroats are very cautious birds. They nest on small islands, liable to flooding. This is the southern part of their range. Their are probably about 150 pairs in the UK, we hope to spot 3 pairs today – but not here.
They sit low in the water, and in the faint misty rain and light wind are very hard to see. We catch a glimpse in one of the favourite spots. Thin elegant necks stretch out, white, thin bands of black, they turn and face and then drift away. Bouncing and humming across the swell we head for the next site.