Antipole cruises

Loch Bhalamuis, The Shiant Isles and Stornoway


Antipole in Loch Bhalamuis

After putting Sarah ashore at Tarbert, we sailed up the coast of North Harris to Loch Bhalamuis, where we spent 24 hours in this beautiful and very remote spot without roads or habitation.  We explored ashore the ruins of an abandoned farm/croft (shown in the photo).  The eastern coast was only settled in the early 19C after the inhabitants had been forced off the viable west coast at bayonet point to make way for sheep.  We wondered about the lives that had been lived here as the crofters struggled to eek out a living on the rocky terrain.  We climbed several of the surrounding peaks –  much easier to walk than on Jura.

We were not alone, however, as there are several seal colonies here – perhaps a  couple of hundred seals.  They sun on the rocks all around the loch and pop up beside the boat to check us out.  I have wondered how seals manage to climb so high on certain rocks, as they are cumbersome out of the water.  We saw them position themselves on top of such rocks as the tide falls and then dry out there.  This led to the curious spectacle mid-process of seals apparently floating on the surface of the water!
Basalt columns in the Shiant Isles

Basalt columns in the Shiant Isles

From Loch Bhalamuis we had an excellent fast sail to Stornoway via the Shiant Islands, which we sailed through.  Geologically, these islands are mainly composed of hexagonal basalt columns like the Giant’s Causeway and Staffa.  Ecologically, they are home to a vast number and variety of sea birds, including nearly a quarter of a million puffins.  A good portion of these were out swimming and diving around us as we sailed through.  The islands also have numerous rats – actually black rats, presumably from a passing ship, which are rare in the UK and the Shiant population is protected!


Stornoway Harbour

And so we came to Stornoway, which is the ‘capital’ of the Outer Herbrides and the only proper town.  It has a busy port and provides services for all the islands and has a quiet buzz as a result.  We are berthed on a pontoon just under the picturesque Lews Castle in its extensive wooded grounds – about the only trees on any of the islands.  Ynskje has been busy with laundry and restocking and Tony has been checking over the boat etc.  It is a pleasure to have unlimited water and mains electricity (and hence hot water!).  We have showered and had a general clean up.  Last evening we went to an excellent Thai café run by a Thai woman married to a Scot.

From here we head North East – and, bang on cue the winds aqre settling from there against us!  Oh well!
More news in due course.
love from Tony & Ynskje

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