A Hidden Gem

After our Loch Sunart pilotage exercise a Scottish friend and local sailor, Millicent, suggested we try another hidden gem of a loch with a moderately challenging entrance, or more exact, choice of entrances. It lay to the north of our Admiralty leisure Folio 5611 West of Scotland Mull of Kintyre to Ardnamurchan Point but only just. In yet another visit to Tobermoray we purchased a pilot guide for Skye and the surrounding area. That plus our electronic charts would get us there.  Oh and we took the opportunity to have another couple of pints in the Mishnish whilst we were there.

Pilot Guides or Sailing Directions are the yachtsman’s bibles. Aerial photo’s, hand drawn chartlets detailing almost every rock and bend together with detailed written instructions on transits, tides, local facilities etc every boat has a library of pilot guides but as each represents one man’s (or in the case of Annie Hammick, one woman’s) life’s work they are, not surprisingly, expensive. Some authors are a great read too, Tom Cunliffe being a particular favourite; in describing Gosport he says“….and the streets beyond hold further possibilities for the adventurous diner including a Chinese takeaway”. And of a marina in Poole Harbour “ Charges here are so notorious high that even hardened South Coast yachtsmen have been  found slumped in the gents weeping silently to themselves”.  A pilot guide author who knows who his true audience is – your average impoverished amateur yachtie with a desire to seek out the highways and byways of the coast.

This particular volume was twenty seven pounds but the destination was more than worth it. A fairytale location with an almost circular conical shaped pine clad island and close by a lower rocky islet joined to the shore by a low sand bar or causeway complete with the ruined castle.

The route in through the Southern channel was tricky with twists and turns but at half tide (on an incoming tide) we could see most of the stuff you’d be likely to hit and the directions guided us around the few dangers that lurked below the surface. After thirty or forty minutes of nail bitingly tortuous pilotage Temptress was securely anchored in a few metres of clear water just off the Shona Island jetty with a grandstand view of the loch’s main attractions whilst yet more pine clad islets could be seen further up the loch. We are tempted not to reveal the location of this wonderful place but, as long as you don’t let too many people know, it is Loch Moidart and the castle is Tioram (pronounced Cheerum). The castle was burnt by its departing owner when he set off expecting death in battle more than a couple of centuries ago and is now the subject of a protracted struggle between its current owner and the Scottish quango responsible for historic buildings over whether it should be restored into a modern dwelling or simply prevented from falling down, meanwhile it lies badly fenced off as the crumbling walls are liable to kill an innocent visitor who gets to close. Our view of all this was a picture postcard summarising everything that is the Scottish Highlands; craggy mountains, clan castles, granite outcrops, bracken, heather, pine trees and sea loch all in glorious sunshine.

Tobermoray – Loch Moidart 29nm, 787nm total