• Asha

Onwards and downwards

Timeline: 18th of September - leaving mooring at Skye Bridge, Lochalsh and sailing to Sandaig Islands, then sailing across to Ornsay Island on the 19th of September after an overnight stay. Leaving Ornsay on the 22nd of September and arriving in Mallaig.


The Earth despite being officially a globe, has an upside - the north, and the downside - the south, also called the down-under. These terms are not used to describe pros and cons, but to depict spatial orientation. That's weird... Anyway, according to this common belief, we were progressing down south. We left Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge behind on the 18th of September turned right and headed with the tide down through the Narrows to Sandaig Islands. We were lucky with the weather so we folded the cockpit enclosure back and admired the views on the way.


The Narrows, as per the name, is narrow so the tide is racing through the gap until coming into a wider part called Kyle Rhea. Although we passed a yacht, whose crew considered the weather conditions sailable, we motored to our destination.


We got flushed through the Narrows, which sounds very straightforward and in fact it is, provided that you have done your homework and are therefore aware that whilst in the process of being flushed the current is actually setting you on a path towards the rocks on the west side of the channel. Bearing this in mind and maintaining focus on proper navigation, ensures a safe flushing experience and before we knew it we have been spat into the widening part of the Sound of Sleat or Kyle Rhea. Both terms are used for this channel.


The tide slowed down and it wasn't long before we were delivered into a rather special little place called the Sandaig Islands. This is where that rather colourful character by the name of Gavin Maxwell shared his home with otters and wrote a book titled "The Ring of Brightwater". I describe him as a colourful character with a good reason and for anyone unfamiliar, a Google session would allow you to draw your own conclusions as to the colours of his character.


Ideally, the anchorage at Sandaig is only suitable with a wind from the north, however, Mark was keen to show me the beauty of this place and we elected to anchor here in a southerly breeze, all be it gentle. We resorted to maintaining a semi-conscious anchor watch overnight. This is a beautiful sandy bay with a freshwater stream running into the sea, which is one of the features that makes it a good habitat for otters. Nature is all around and whilst we wandered around in search of Gavin Maxwell's memorial stone we came face to face with a beautiful red deer. We held each others gaze for well over a minute before we all carried on with our respective tasks.


There is a derelict cottage on the beach, which belonged to one of Gavin Maxwell's friends, Raef Payne, an equally colourful in character would be perhaps a kind way to describe him if some of the reports about him are true. We stayed for one night but when the southerly wind began to increase we put the safety of Altor first, upped the anchor and waved farewell to the Sandaig Islands.


Our next journey was a mere hop over to Isle Ornsay where the increasing southerly breeze as forecasted turned into a stiff gale. This was to be the first gale of the second Season that we had to weather at anchor. In between the feisty weather systems, we had the chance to explore this area, try some delicious food in the restaurant of the local hotel, Eilean Iarmain, and pick some blackberries, which we used for making jam.


On the 22nd of September, right before the wind turned from southerly to north-westerly, we made a run for Mallaig. It was a great choice! Tied in the sheltered marina with very nice facilities, we were aware of the gale out there but didn't really feel its' wrath.

Isleornsay (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Iarmain) is a village lying off the main Armadale to Sleat road (the A851) on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It overlooks, but is not upon, the island of Ornsay. The island itself shelters one of the best natural harbours in southern Skye. The location was exploited from the 18th century or earlier by the MacDonalds who owned this part of Skye.

Sandaig Bay is a coastal embayment, on a chord of 2.04 kilometres (1 mile 471 yards), on a 194° orientation, located on the northwestern end of the sea loch, Loch Nevis, facing the Sound of Sleat. The bay is within the western end of the Knoydart peninsula, in the Lochaber district in the historical county of Inverness-shire on the north west coast of Scotland.

There is a hotel in the village called the Isle Ornsay Hotel and a local company Pràban na Linne founded by Iain Noble which produces a vatted malt whisky called Poit Dhubh (literally the "Black Pot" or "Illicit Still" and two blends, Té Bheag nan Eilean ("small dram of the islands") and Mac na Mara (the "Son of the Sea").

Anchored on the shores of Isle Ornsay

Isle of Ornsay

Ducks on a pond near the hotel on Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay

Sailing from Lochalsh to Sandaig Islands

Sailing from Lochalsh to Sandaig Islands

Skye Bridge

Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay


Sandaig Islands

Rescue mission on Sandaig Islands

Sandaig Isands

Directly south of Sandaig Bay is the sea Loch Hourn that separates the peninsulae of Kintail to the north and Knoydart to the south. The view to the west is the Sound of Sleat, dominated by the twin peaks of Beinn na Seamraig at 1,841 feet (561 metres) and Ben Aslak at 2,000 feet (610 metres) that overlook the bay on the Isle of Skye. Further to the north is a further two peaks on the Isle of Skye that can be seen from the bay, the closest peak to the bay and the highest peak on the north of Skye is Sgurr na Coinnich at 2,425 feet (739 metres) and the furthest away is Beinn na Caillich at 2,402 feet (732 m).

Sandaig Bay is known by the blown sand that has accumulated at its head. At the head of the Bay in the north corner, is the former Roman Catholic chapel. At the east side of the bay lies several rocky islands, some two cable lengths from shore i.e. lying at the entrance to the bay. The larger islands are called Eilean Mòr, Fraoch Eilean and the smaller Sgeir nan Eun. The islands and together with western exposure, make it an unsafe anchorage.

Cottage, Sandaig Island

Altor anchored of Sandaig Islands

Sandaig Islands

Sandaig Islands

Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay

Isle of Skye, west coast of Scotland

Skye Bridge, Isle of Sky

Moored near Skye Bridge


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