• Asha

Where on earth is Loch a’Chadh-fi??

We left Torshavn and Faroe Islands on the last day of August bound for the west coast of Scotland. Mark plotted the course to Loch Inchard, located just on the north-western corner of Great Britain, a little bit south from Cape Wrath. I really would like to know, but not experience on my own skin, why Cape Wrath was named like this. I heard about it before but wasn’t aware of its geographical location. I had imagined it must be in some god-forsaken, wild, and vicious part of the globe and didn’t think Scotland was one of those places. Anyway, it seems it must be, as zooming in on the chart plotter and seeing all the wrecks around this area and digging into sailing pilot books, and reading about the scale of foul weather provides a good enough reason for such a name.


For now, let’s get back to Torshavn. We arrived two days prior to our departure south and had the pleasure of spending this time with some friends and fellow sailors whom we met for the first time on our June arrival in the capital city of the Faroe Islands. Despite spending two fun evenings on sailing yacht Lia we somehow escaped the kind of hangover that would usually be associated with a night in Irish company. That's not to say there wasn't a lot of alcohol consumed, thanks to our host and owner of Lia, Ed. Maybe this is because we have been in good alcohol training since venturing to these latitudes, if not before!


This time we can’t say we cast our lines as those were cast for us by four of our friends who waved us goodbye. The sun was beaming but we elected to put the cockpit enclosure up and travel in comfort, short sleeves, and bare feet. The cockpit enclosure has completely transformed our sailing experience as now, even when carrying both sails, we are able to shelter from the elements.


We motored for an initial few hours, then motor-sailed and then sailed for 26 hours. When we were 25 miles from the north coast of Scotland the wind dropped completely, so the sailes came down and we relied on Perkins to get us the rest of the way. Thank God for diesel! Fulmars flying around the boat made a spectacular display when flying in the illumination of the steaming light. It made them appear like luminescent giant moths going nuts for the light.


The shorelines of the west coast of Scotland are very elaborate, with lots of islands, small rocks dotting the coast, and narrow lochs, therefore we were worried that it would be very tricky to approach our destination at night. We had the radar turned on and could see the signal bouncing off the hard edges, but darkness is not exactly a sailing comfort zone when approaching somewhere unfamiliar. We lowered the cockpit enclosure in order to give us better all-round vision and then we picked our way past the huge outcrops of silhouetted rocks. We could hear the water breaking at their basis, which was a concerning sound but the night air felt so refreshing and the smell of heather blossom provided a sense of soothing comfort. We entered Loch Inchard by picking up a leading light on the cliff top and passing the quick flashing white light of a north cardinal. We proceeded with care past various unlit crab pots which made us feel right back at home in UK waters! On reaching our anchorage at the head of the loch, we dropped the anchor, and despite being 5 o’clock in the morning, we had a wee dram in order to celebrate a wonderful time in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and our safe return to UK waters. After a few hours' rest, we woke up to a sunny day and beautiful views of greenery and heather that had previously been shrouded in darkness. It felt so good to be back in Scotland! All long passages were done for the season, and we still had fabulous cruising grounds ahead of us, which made us relax.


With this feeling, we were lounging in the cockpit when Mark spotted a boat approaching from the entrance of the loch. I looked through the binoculars and saw an official-looking vessel. Soon we were greeted by the officers of the Border Force as we stepped out of the cockpit. After a quick and friendly chat and clearing in, the Border Force guys left and we decided to move on to our next destination - Loch a’Chadh-fi, located only 8 miles south of us.


We motored along the extraordinary and intricate coast, among small islands and into the meandering loch. We were blessed with sunny and warm weather and indeed September is well known to be a good month to spend in Scotland. Soon we dropped the hook in the muddy bottom of Loch a’Chadh-fi, one of the most picturesque anchorages we have been to. All of them are unique, some more protected than others, but this one is very special. While sailing into the loch we noticed some dwellings and a beautiful ketch propped up on a cradle at the end of a concrete slipway. When we landed there later, we learned that the boat’s name is English Rose VI and belongs to a family of intrepid explorers. You can google to your heart's content about the adventures that have taken place on board this fine yacht, which has been in the hands of the same family since its launch in 1975. Along with some very impressive sailing adventures that same family is responsible for the Ridgeway Adventure School that was established here over 50 years ago and is still providing adventures for anyone hungry for such an experience. We hiked through the forest overgrowing the mountainside above where the yacht was on the hard and noticed that a lot of the trees were individually fenced and had placards with the species and some names of people, maybe those who planted them, but that’s just a wild guess. Later we learned that this is the northernmost forest of Scotland! We walked up the hill and onto a beaten path leading past tiny cottages which we believe form part of a croft. All buildings were in a good nick and we fantasized as usual about living or just wintering in a tiny establishment like this. Yes, it used to be only Mark’s idea to live in a bird-hut-sized house but now it is rubbing off on me. I must say I still have much higher criteria for the conditions of such a house, but the seed of this fantasy has been planted.


We emerged on the other end of the forest and followed the path to the edge of the land overlooking the Loch and the sea spanning between the Highlands and the Hebrides. We sat on the rock to enjoy the second cup of coffee of the day and admired the view which resembled an enormous and spectacular painting.

A cool thing about Loch a’Chadh-fi is that there is no town or village nearby, which means no shops, which in turn means living off the grid and on the boat supplies. Well, that is not entirely the truth as I found some wild mushrooms in the forest and cooked them. I ended up enjoying them with pasta on my own. The galley on Altor seems to be serving individual orders now! Jokes aside, I grew up foraging for wild mushrooms, and it’s kind of a national sport in Poland. There are a lot of mems taking the mickey out of this fact! I truly identify myself as an Olympic champion of wild mushroom picking and eating. I don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the forest to pick mushrooms as I did that since I can remember with my dad and sisters. Wild mushrooms are served in Poland in every possible form, and I endorse all of them. Mark so far fell for the Polish sweets, but the mushrooms ain’t his thing. I, on the other hand, hope there are more mushrooms growing in Scotland!


Calm days in Loch a'Chadh-fi were a good opportunity for me to learn rowing again! I do that so seldom that I need a lot of strokes of the oars to reignite the muscle memory of how this is done. It does happen eventually and deep inside I fear that although I can sort of row on a calm day, I would fail miserably in windy conditions. I hope the faithful Mariner would deliver every time it is needed! On one of my rowing practices, in the fading light, I rowed to a nearby island. I didn't land there, just turned and started rowing back when I became aware of something swimming in the water. Otters! I have never had a close encounter with an otter before, having only ever seen them in captivity, never in the wild. But here they were, zigzagging around the stern of the dinghy. It was quite the treat, as was our time in this beautifully remote and unspoiled part of Scotland!


Red toadstools - not recommended for the pot....

Fabulous from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Leaving Torshavn

Hiding from the rain under the English Rose IV

Fabulous view from from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Anchored in Loch a' Chadh-fi

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Footpath through hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Anchored in Loch a' Chadh-fi

Fantasy cottage for wintering on the West Coast of Scotland

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Another fantasy cottage on the hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

Loch a' Chadh-fi

Totally edible, already cooked, and enjoyed with pasta :)

Fabulous view from hills overlooking Loch a' Chadh-fi

These were cooked as well - delicious!

No idea what that is but looks cool.

Mark daydreaming about wintering in this cottage.

Autumn is coming...


Altor anchored in Loch a' Chadh-fi

Hillwalking around Loch a' Chadh-fi


View from the deck of Altor anchored in Loch a' Chadh-fi

Loch a' Chadh-fi

Dinghy mission

English Rose IV - the history can be found here.

Altor anchored in Loch a' Chadh-fi