hiking

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:

 

 

 

 

Week 1 of my Icelandic Venture.

I have just finished my first week here in Skagaströnd and it’s been better than ever expected. The town is quiet yet leaves you with room to think about your practise and roam around the surrounding mountains, the studio facilities and housing are very well equipped, the locals and fellow artists are lovely and the views out to the Westfjords from the town and coastal villages are breathtaking.

I’ve spent the first week here adjusting to the slow pace of life again, reflecting on what has been an intense year and then connecting to what it is I would like achieve and focus my practise on. It is a different level of time where everything is measured more slowly, it’s been a much needed adjustment and has left me with the space to really connect with nature again and the thinking behind my visual art work whilst being constantly inspired by Iceland’s wild raw mountains.

The weekend involved a mixture of settling into studio life, setting up and starting off a new series of drawings. I ventured out on a hike around the coastal cliffs around Skagaströnd, where the land meets the sea in this unique fishing town and spent a good few hours drawing on site, exploring the secret bays that erode into the sea and watching the mountainous snowscapes of the Westfjords far off in the distance. The light at the end of a clear day is overwhelming here, the golden hour where the sun sets significantly earlier and earlier every single day casting a glow over the bright weather beaten style buildings that lie dotted around the shore.  I’ll be spending my winter period through this and I’ve been told by the locals that the shortest day of the year is the 21st of December when there is only 2 hours of sunlight, yet it is still very much a subdued twilight glow.

There is an immeasurable level of more free time here yet it’s interesting how quick it fills up with things that truly matter to you. Reading, walking in the mountains, learning, cooking, painting, things that matter so much yet sometimes get overlooked in the modern over stimulated world.

I’ve also spent time throughout this week walking along the long black sand beaches that are north off the town, filming and listening to the wild arctic seas, walking by the wild Icelandic horses, late night studio chats and focusing on my new paintings directly connected to the land up here, lying out on the grass late at night away from the light pollution underneath the most breathtaking views of the Northern Lights. So far I have seen them on 3 separate nights in clear view, bright green and purples cast full over the sky  and I’ve been told it’s been the best of the year so far. I’m looking forward to seeing more and more and documenting them as much as I can.

On Wednesday we took the bus to the nearest town of Blönduós, and then onto Sauðárkrókur and further east to the Northern City of Akureyri. The journey itself into the North East peninsula of Iceland was tremendous and the mountains rise and rise forever surrounding the road as it weaves throughout the valleys. We spent a good few hours in each place and learning more about the culture, hiking and capturing the land!

Lastly, on Thursday, I successfully climbed one of the mountain ranges that surround Skagaströnd called Spakonufell which is an impressive rocky mountain that lies above the town. The terrain was quite rough, it was very windy yet the views out to the Westfjords and surrounding mountains were completely worth it!

I’ll be using this blog as a visual and written diary showcasing what I’ve been up to weekly throughout my time as artist in residence in the far north of Iceland, I’ve also included some of my photographs that I’ve taken here of my wanderings throughout this first week, please let me know what you think. Now that I’m all settled here it’s time to get on with the work! Updates next Friday!

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