A calm day in prospect offers a rare opportunity to attempt a landing on the outermost of the Small Isles, Canna, and we departed mid-morning from Tobermory having organised an early breakfast for an early morning hike around the bay to a spectacular waterfall. The passage was full of interest with exceptional visibility, with Barra, Benbecula, and Uist visible on the horizon beyond The Minch, the channel that separates the Inner from the Outer Hebrides. With Muck, Eigg, and Rum to our starboard, we braved the open Atlantic swell to arrive in Canna’s sheltered harbour as lunch was concluding. The island has a unique appearance, capped by basalt lava flows some 60 million years old.
Canna is now owned and obviously cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, John Lorne Campbell the last laird having bequeathed the island to the Trust in 1981. He died in 1996. Ian Latharna Caimbeul, to use the Gaelic form of his name, was a pioneer collector of Gaelic folklore bringing the rich traditions of the language to a new international audience. A Gaelic centre is planned for the island in a former building. The island has a wealth of prehistoric and historic sites, including a Bronze Age souterrain, an Iron Age fort, a spectacular Early Christian cross with Pictish decorations, a monastic enclosure, and the remains of a nunnery. The island has Columban associations and its modern churches are dedicated to the saint’s memory. The island had 436 people in 1821, supported by the potato, but that number has now dwindled to less than 20. We spent a magnificent sunny afternoon exploring the island’s heritage, including an energetic group that hiked the cliffs in search of birds of prey.
Over dinner we sailed for Inverie, a land-locked community on the Scottish mainland deep inside Loch Nevis, only accessible by boat. Its claim to fame is the Old Forge Inn, the most isolated pubic house in Britain, with a T-shirt on sale to confirm one’s visit. It was popular after dinner venue, with a surprise musical entertainment from some very talented members of the ship’s crew.