calmac

Sponsored by Calmac – Isle of Rum

At the end of June I was fortunate enough to be invited out to the incredible Island of Rum with Calmac Ferries! The Isle of Rum is located off the West Coast of Scotland and is the largest of the Small Isles. I was pretty excited as I had been to the Island before but hadn’t had a chance to do much exploring so now was my time!

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Day 1

We set off from Mallaig on the Monday morning bright and early. We were lucky with the journey as it stopped in at Eigg first so I got another glimpse at one of my other favourite Islands. We arrived and were met by Dave; one of the Island residents who takes visitors around on a buggy transfer!

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We checked into the Rum Bunkhouse met by Jed another one of the Island residents who runs the modern and very well equipped bunkhouse located right on the water and close to the heart of Kinloch Village. It was then onto the first walk of the day: this time a hike on the Northside Nature Trail. This circular trail took us 1 hour and is easy enough to circumnavigate and is ideal if you are just on the Island for a day trip. It takes you up and along the north side of Kinloch Glen, giving you views out into the NNR and a glimpse of the true wild Rum. We also passed by Croft number 3 who had a whole variation of animals and a lovely shed full of handmade gifts made on the inspiring Island.

We then went on the second walk of the day, this time to the Otter Hide! It is only a thirty minute return walk from the new pier and takes you through Loch Scresort’s southside woods. The walk itself is a gentle one along a good quality, but unsealed, path and can be enjoyed by all and passes some of the islands initial settlements. There are a few ruins of black houses from the Highland Clearances within the woods. We spent a great deal of time wandering through the woods and then taking in the sights at the Otter Hide, a fantastic and well-made building which blends right into the wild landscape of Rum. Sadly we seen no Otters but it is an ideal place to sit and just look out to the surrounding Islands and passing sea traffic.

After our two big walks of the day we then headed off for the Island Tea Shop to meet Kim the owner who provided us with a three course meal of local produce in the Island’s community hall. Rum Café is open 10am-4pm, Monday to Saturday, for soups, plated sandwiches, baked tatties and home-made cakes. Packed lunches will also be available on request. Evening meals available 6-8pm but must be booked in advance. Later that evening we set off for the third walk of the day: up to Coire Dubh (just to the back of the village), a 30 minute walk to the corrie with great views of Rum and Skye. There are so many self-guided walks available on Rum and I would recommend anyone that goes to the Island to just get out and explore, the only inhabitants of the Island live in the village of Kinloch so as soon as you leave the village you are met with a true wild and incredibly varied rich landscape where you tend not to come across another human for a very long time!

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Day 2

We set off early having hired bikes with Fliss at Ivy Cottage and headed straight for Harris, a 16 mile return trip to the rugged and exposed south west of the Island. The Harris road is fairly smooth with some rough patches and it’s just under 8 miles one way. You take the road out of the village up 2 miles to the crossroads, then take the left branch. It’s a gradual climb up to the highest point in the road, then it’s a brisk freewheel down into Harris Bay. As soon as we made it down to Harris Bay we were met with a large and friendly group of Rum ponies who happily greeted us along with a pack of feral goats who I was pretty surprised to come across! The Rum pony is an island type of the Highland Pony breed that is native to the Highlands and islands of Scotland and has been present since the last ice age. The first record of these ponies on Rum dates back to 1774. The ponies are a working herd and are used during the deer culling season to extract deer carcasses from the hill. They are also used as a grazing management tool outside of the deer culling season when they live out wild on the hill and can be found grazing at Harris.

Harris was the place on Rum that I was looking forward to going to the most, partly because of the unique and wild geology in the area but also because of the feeling you get when you are there. You truly feel like you are at the edge, it’s very barren, raw, elemental and feels like you really have to work to get there which makes it even more special. It’s also a breath-taking experience seeing the Rum Cuillins from the other side, the force of the mountains in their full majesty. We spent a good few hours wandering around Harris Bay taking in the bizarre sights of the Mausoleum, the farming remains of the old ‘lazy beds’ and of course spotting the many deer and Highland Cows.

It was then onto Kilmory Bay which is a 10 mile return trip from Kinloch Village. As we were at Harris anyway it took us a lot quicker to cycle on the pleasant path all the way down to the beautiful bay. Kilmory is located on the north coast of Rum and there is a 4WD road that you can take to get there. As soon as you reach Kilmory Glen you are met with the stunning views over to the Skye Cullin whilst entering the Kilmory Red Deer Project study area where we were met with many many deer, some even wandering around on the beaches! It was another few hours spent wandering around the stunning beaches that this part of the Island had to offer.

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The evening was spent in one of the Islands new unique properties that are available to stay in. The Rum BBQ Bothy is located right along from Kinloch Village and is set right on the water looking out to all the peaks on the mainland. It has all the amenities you need and is a unique self-sustainable build which I really didn’t want to leave! We ate local venison cooked on the bbq right in the centre of the bothy, the best way to end another full on adventure packed day.

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Day 3

On our last day on Rum we started the day off by joining onto the Ranger Walk from the ferry terminal. We met Trudi the local Ranger who took us on a leisurely two hour small group walking tour whilst telling us about the local flora, fauna and unique geology and history of the Island. After the Ranger Walk ended we headed off to the very quirky and eccentric Kinloch Castle for a small group guided tour with the castle warden. The castle itself is absolutely bizarre inside and is definitely worth a look, it seems so mad to have such a building on such a wild Island yet it is home to some of the most sacred objects from around the world and extremely historic paintings. Our last stop of the Island tour was meeting Sylvia, the local historian who had just recently opened a new Heritage Centre on Rum which is definitely worth a look around.

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After a whistle stop tour of the majestic Island it was time to head off on our Calmac Ferry back to Mallaig! Rum is a paradise for hill walkers and mountaineers. Even though this was a sponsored trip from Calmac I would highly recommend checking this Island out for yourself and can honestly say there is so much to see not only in the village where there are many businesses flourishing but in the great open expanse of the wild Island. Rum is home to some of the most spectacular mountains to climb, coasts to explore, wildlife to watch and is begging for you all to explore it for yourselves! Catch you on Rum, it won’t be long until I’m back for another big journey, this time I think I’ll aim for the mountains!

Here are all the links for the businesses I’ve mentioned in this blog post:

 

 

 

 

Sweeney’s Bothy – A window out to the West

My most recent project to start off 2015 was heading off to the Isle of Eigg (one of Scotland’s beautiful Small Isles) and working as Artist in Residence in Sweeney’s Bothy with the Bothy Project. My residency was the very first of the year January 3rd – 10th 2015. However I ended up being on the Island a lot longer than expected, the wild weather off the West Coast of Scotland brought in gale force winds hail storms and heavy snow, I really loved getting to spend a lot longer on the Island though!

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My intentions for the Residency were to think about the layers of the place, the formations, textures and the geological immensity and presence/ relevance of it through the dramatic surroundings and changes in the light and colour.

The experience from spending a week in the amazing Sweeney’s Bothy was just incredible, I had spent time in residence at the Inshriach Bothy last January http://www.thebothyproject.org/ellis-oconnor/ however the location and surroundings were completely different!

The Isle of Eigg is very special to me anyway, I had spent sometime there in December and had really connected with the place and people. On arrival I had already noticed that this was me in my element, a connection to a true place, a real natural horizon, an unwavering sense of what is important and my senses were already re tuned to the nature and vast mountainous areas around me. Being there on Eigg, with the framing of Rums impressive mountains that were constantly changing every minute, the Fog lifting and recapturing my attention of the place, I knew it was where I was meant to be.

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I spent the 11 days that I was on Eigg, exploring the Island (weather dependent) working away in the comfort of the inspiring Bothy with the backdrop of the dark basalt formations, building up a large body of new drawings, photographs and prints, roaming around speaking to the locals and re learning to slow down and connect with the place. I always realise on reflection of being within a place that is wild, remote and sublime. You’re thoughts become quieter, an open mind which mimics the open vastness of the horizon around you and knowing what it is you truly want to achieve away from the constant stimulation and pointless distractions of the outside modern world.

I leave on the Tuesday 13th when the weather settles, 11 days on the Island, longer than expected but on the Ferry back over to the mainland I find myself thinking I have to spend longer here. I have connected with this place in a way I have never connected with an Island before, walking all over, learning how to slow down and leave out all existential matters; just be here present in the place and matter. I feel we all have to do this now and then.

Against the weather warnings, and the wild west coast, I found comfort and sanctuary within the place, mentally and physically.

I will forever remember that window out to the west.

To read a more detailed account of my writings from my time spent at the Bothy Project on the Isle of Eigg please click here:

http://www.thebothyproject.org/ellis-oconnor-window-out-to-the-west/

 

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Isle of Eigg, ‘Waypoints’ exhibition.

Last week I returned from an amazing 5 day trip living on the Isle of Eigg.
The purpose of the trip was to install and exhibit an exhibition titled ‘Waypoints’ our response as artists to the residency we took part in with the Clipperton Project around the Northern Isles of Scotland.
It was also a brilliant excuse to have a reunion with all the other artists who had been on the boat!

And so it turns out the Isle of Eigg is very beautiful!
We climbed, we hiked to the top of two summits; An Sgurr and the Gods Finger lookout, we walked around the whole Island, made friends with the locals, installed our Waypoints exhibition with great success and lived in a beautiful Bothy on the south side of the Island for the week. My kind of lifestyle.
Eigg is impressive and here are some photos of my trip to show why!

I’ll be back to Eigg at the very start of January where I’ll be Artist in Residence at Sweeney’s Bothy with the Bothy Project. I cannot wait!

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Edges

The second big trip of the Summer was being Artist in Residence with the http://www.clippertonproject.com/ sailing around the Northern Isles of Scotland. I have spoke a lot about this in previous blogs but not at how influenced I have been from these places, these tiny uninhabited Islands, the remote inhospitable places right at the edge of the world.
Being back in the Studio, I have started working on my images from my time spent on board around these Islands. This year i will be working with the title ‘Edges’ exploring exposed and remote places on the egde of the world through visual photographs, prints and experimenting with drawing and paintings. Bringing out the unique atmosphere and wild untamed nature of them that most people do not get to see.

Here’s some photographs from my ‘Edges’ Series. You can also find them on my website with new work on http://www.ellisoconnor.com

These photos were all taken from my time spent sailing around the entire Coast of Shetland and the Islands of Mousa, Bressay, Noss, Whalsay, Out Skerries, Fetlar, Unst, Yell, Ramna Stacks, and Papa Stour.

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