When you run a yacht charter business it can be difficult to get the opportunity to do some sailing yourselves, but Mark (my husband) and I were fortunate enough to grab a few days cruising in July. Setting off from our base at Armadale on the Isle of Skye aboard the Jeanneau SO 439 “Explorer of Sleat” on a rather damp afternoon, we went initially to Isle Ornsay where we picked up a mooring off the Duisdale House Hotel. Isle Ornsay is always an attractive place to visit and there is plenty of shelter for anchoring there as well if necessary. Dinner was eaten on board as it was a rather a “dreich” evening but there are good food options ashore at the Duisdale or Eilean Iarmain Hotels.
The following morning was still damp with a brisk southerly wind and we continued up the Sound of Sleat towards the narrows at Kylerhea. We were accompanied by one solitary dolphin which stayed with us for about half an hour. Dolphins are regularly seen in the area but they generally travel in larger groups. Arriving at Kylerhea as the tide turned north we suddenly found the speed had increased from 6 to 11 knots! Kylerhea is not a difficult tidal gate to get through but you do have to have the flow going in the right direction!
A combination of sailing and motoring took us past Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh and under the Skye Bridge. The mast always looks frighteningly close to touching the Bridge but in reality the clearance is 29 metres and most yachts can fit comfortably underneath! Once under the bridge we were able to roll out a bit more sail and had a brisk sail round to Plockton Bay. Plockton is sheltered from most directions and a lovely place to stop off. Much has been written about it, so suffice to say here that we picked up one of their well-maintained visitor moorings and had a pleasant meal ashore at the Plockton Inn – one of several good eateries.
Monday dawned with some brighter weather but very little wind. We continued heading north and once we had left Loch Carron, hoisted the mainsail going past the Crowlin Islands in the hope of finding more wind there. Sadly the sail was not utilised and we motored all the way past Applecross to Loch Torridon. We decided to stop at the village of Shieldaig instead of going to the top of the Loch. Shieldaig has a dinghy pontoon but you need to anchor off Shieldaig Island and it is a long way to the pontoon, so an outboard engine is handy.
It was a few years since we had been to Shieldaig and a walk ashore found a variety of tourist shops, cafes and a grocery store. We looked at the eating options and chose to have a meal at the Shieldaig Bar and Coastal kitchen which offered a varied menu. The food was excellent and there was the additional bonus of a wonderful sunset! Shieldaig is often overlooked in favour of places which offer moorings but it is a great place with fantastic scenery in suitable weather.
Tuesday started off calm once again and this time we didn’t even bother getting the mainsail out of its stack pack! Leaving Loch Torridon we had a very clear view of the Outer Hebrides but time did not permit us to continue in that direction. Instead we motored round the north end of Rona stopping at Acarseid Mhor for lunch. Rona is always well worth a visit and there are some facilities ashore and also several nice walks on the island.
On this occasion, although it was tempting, we chose not to stay the night there but weighed anchor and continued on to Eileann Fladday just a few miles further south off Raasay which is an old favourite of ours. It takes a bit of careful navigation to get into either the North or South Gut between Fladday and Raasay (the causeway between the islands dries at low water) but it is very sheltered from most directions once you are there. It was a number of years since we had been there but we were not disappointed as we arrived to find calm seas and only one other local boat in the anchorage. A walk ashore gave us a stunning view of Skye and another great sunset. There are three occasionally inhabited dwellings on the island so it isn’t as isolated as you might expect.
By Wednesday morning there was wonderful sunshine and still no wind, so it was engine on again. Fortunately the wind quickly freshened and we were able to get the sails up for a cracking sail down the Sound of Raasay. Heading back under the Skye Bridge again, the wind dropped and we decided to stop for the night at Kyleakin. There are visitor’s moorings and pontoons at Kyleakin but the pontoons are often busy so we picked a mooring near the Bridge. There are also pontoons at the other side of the water at Kyle of Lochalsh. Ashore, on the Kyleakin side, there are a variety of mid-range eating establishments and we had a pleasant meal at the King Haakon Bar. It was a stunning evening and the view of the sunset from the Bar, and when back aboard, was exceptional.
All too soon, it was Thursday and we were heading back through Kylerhea on the tide to return to Armadale again. End of a very pleasant cruise – a bit more wind would have been useful but it was great to get out and remind ourselves of some of many delights of the Inner Sound between the Isle of Skye and the mainland.
By Charmian Entwistle
Isle of Skye Yachts