Life at the end of the road

April 29, 2011

A grand day out :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, harbour, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:17 pm

Probably as a result of ‘the wedding’ I’m a little late in posting tonight, I’ve been trying to upload some ‘real royal’ videos of the PS Waverley’s triple expansion but I’ve had to give up. I suspect that half of London is trying to upload cr4ppy videos of Kate and Wills from their mobile phones 🙂 OK, I realize that my blurred and shaky images of a triple expansion steam engine will probably appeal to far less folk than the wedding of the decade but there’ll be a gazillion miles of that footage in the media for the next month and beyond. On the other hand steam reciprocating engines will attract far less media attention, unless of course one happens to self destruct and take some royalty with it 🙂

Not that I’ve anything against the whole ‘royal thing’, I feel the same way about the Grand national, Wimbledon, World cup, Olympics, Pope’s visit and X factor. I am, in short a miserable old git that feels these events are a diversion from the real world and have much more important things to do than watch them or read about them 🙂


I was kind of distracted yesterday by having to go down to Oban for my biannual ‘ENG1’ medical, something that displeased me greatly on such a fine day. It displeased me greatly because I couldn’t get one in Portree until June, or Inverness and Fort William until May, and it’s not like I didn’t book early enough, I started phoning up almost a month ago 😦

Anyway, as the trip to Oban necessitated an overnight stay we decided to make the best of it and wifey and I left the family and croft behind and decided to make the most of it. So after feeding all the pigs we headed south to the ferry terminal and the 8:55 ferry to catch our first glimpse of the PS Waverley at Raasay pier.

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It wasn’t such a nice day as Wednesday so I didn’t feel quite so bad about leaving my unpainted roof, in fact I believe there was a little light rain during the day.

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Now that is a very wide boat 🙂

The drive to Oban was pleasant enough and we arrived an hour ahead of my 14:40 appointment in time to do a little shopping before going to the Lorn Medical Centre for my appointment. Unfortunately they were running late and I was in there for over two hours which put our ‘plan’ all to pot. We had intended to return via Mallaig but the last ferry departs there at 18:00 and we would have missed it, or at least had to drive like maniacs to catch it. Rather than risking frayed tempers and an accident we opted for the leisurely option of a meal in Fort William and a night at my parents 60 miles north. This would give us the chance of an early start to join the Waverley on Raasay for the voyage around the island.

A ‘right royal’ day out

To say that there was a buzz of excitement around the place on our arrival at 10:50 would be a bit of an understatement, the sun was out and the ferry terminal packed. OK it wasn’t packed by central London standards but I’ve not seen such a crowd there since the harbour opened in August of last year.

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When she arrived shortly before 11:00 there was already a couple of hundred on board who’d joined her at Kyle and Broadford.

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They were soon accompanied by 140 more from Raasay and in a matter of minutes we were off on an immaculate ship anticlockwise trip around the Island.

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With her turn of speed of around 14knts we were passing the old pier at Suisnish in no time,


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its rotting timbers, rusting sheep piling and aging concrete no match for our new terminal.

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Rounding Rubh na Cloich and passing Eyre light we came to Raasay’s second most isolated outpost that still gets mail, Fearns and then Rubh na Leac

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Then we passed Sorley MacLean’s Hallaig with its still visible fields, one hundred and sixty years after they were abandoned in favour of sheep.

Hallaig (translated) by Sorley Maclean

Time, the deer, is in Hallaig Wood

There’s a board nailed across the window
I looked through to see the west
And my love is a birch forever
By Hallaig Stream, at her tryst

Between Inver and Milk Hollow,
somewhere around Baile-chuirn,
A flickering birch, a hazel,
A trim, straight sapling rowan.

In Screapadal, where my people
Hail from, the seed and breed
Of Hector Mor and Norman
By the banks of the stream are a wood.

To-night the pine-cocks crowing
On Cnoc an Ra, there above,
And the trees standing tall in moonlight –
They are not the wood I love.

I will wait for the birches to move,
The wood to come up past the cairn
Until it has veiled the mountain
Down from Beinn na Lice in shade.

If it doesn’t, I’ll go to Hallaig,
To the sabbath of the dead,
Down to where each departed
Generation has gathered.

Hallaig is where they survive,
All the MacLeans and MacLeads
Who were there in the time of Mac Gille Chaluim:
The dead have been seen alive,

The men at their length on the grass
At the gable of every house,
The girls a wood of birch trees
Standing tall, with their heads bowed.

Between The Leac and Fearns
The road is plush with moss
And the girls in a noiseless procession
Going to Clachan as always

And coming boack from Clachan
And Suisnish, their land of the living,
Still lightsome and unheartbroken,
Their stories only beginning.

From Fearns Burn to the raised beach
Showing clear in the shrouded hills
There are only girls congregating,
Endlessly walking along

Back through the gloaming to Hallaig
Through the vivid speechless air,
Pouring down the steep slopes,
Their laughter misting my ear

And their beauty a glaze on my heart.
Then as the kyles go dim
And the sun sets behind Dun Cana
Love’s loaded gun will take aim.

It will bring down the lightheaded deer
As he sniffs the grass round the wallsteads
And his eye will freeze: while I live,
His blood won’t be traced in the woods.

This east side of Raasay is seldom visited but is its most rugged and beautiful and best appreciated by sea. I spent many years clam diving around here and it never failed to impress, both ashore and underwater.

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Raasay’s highest peak, the ancient volcanic plug of Dun Caan is at its most majestic viewed from here.

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And it never fails to amaze me how these walls were built so ‘square’ in days gone by.

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This huge lump of rock that detached itself from the cliff millennia ago is known as ‘Church rock’, actually it’s known as something I can’t remember in Gaelic but that’s about the gist of it 🙂

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Whatever it’s called this huge piece of white sandstone is pretty impressive and so is the underwater scenery below it.

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A little further north we came to Brochel castle,

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where the geology changes from the ancient pre Cambrian sandstones to the really ancient Lewisian gneiss of the ‘north end’. That unfertile bit of Raasay where the population were driven by the infamous George Rainey, one of Raasay’s more brutal landlords.

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This being the eastern end of the hated wall that he built to keep the people off ‘his land’ which is now on the ‘common grazing’ that I share with my neighbour.

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A little further north we came across a Vanguard class SSBN they were probably on the surface so they could get a TV signal to watch the wedding 🙂

Being ahead of schedule our captain took us around the island of Rona as well,

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another place where they were exceptionally good at building walls 🙂

Reluctantly but forced by pains of hunger I went below for something to eat,


but got distracted 🙂


and being a fan of both machinery and Ritchie Hawtin you can see why 🙂


Mind you I’d not be seen dead with a hairdo like that 🙂



That’s not the end of it by a long way but it’s after midnight and time for bed so I’ll just leave you with some shots of the bridge.

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One good turn deserves another as they say and a few years ago my good wife gave the purser of the Waverley a lift in the car 🙂

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  1. Hi, Paul

    Stuuning pics of the east side of the island. I know it well from walking there, but the features look very different from the ground, so your photos of the field outlines and the amazing walled compound are good to see.

    Love the ‘Waverley’ pics – what a great day out!



    Comment by Sue — April 30, 2011 @ 7:23 am

    • Hi Sue,

      I’ve swam right round Raasay underwater, sailed around it it dozens of (if not hundreds) of times but never done the east coast walk 😦 One day 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 30, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  2. Looks like you had a grand day out. And it was dry and clear. And…that’s what I call a con-rod!

    Comment by Iain — April 30, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    • Hi Iain,

      I could watch, and more importantly listen to that engine all day, it’s a far cry from the screaming Volvo’s in the Loch Striven, music to the ears 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 30, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  3. Love the pics, and await the “west side” of Raasay. You had a good day for the cruise.

    Comment by sotw — April 30, 2011 @ 8:55 am

    • Hi She,

      bit thin on the west side pics I’m afraid 😦 too busy eating 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 30, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  4. Is Church rock “Creag na Cille” in Gaelic?

    Comment by Tony Giles — April 30, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    • Hi Tony,

      perhaps it’s ‘Cathedral rock’ Eaglaise something ????

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 30, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

  5. Hi Paul, Glad you had a super day on the Waverley. I was on her on wednesday, not for the first time but she is still always so impressive. Would have been on her again yesterday but it only seemed fair to let the Quarryman go on the hill. Someone had to look after Finnie being as he’s not allowed on the Waverley.
    So, are you going to explain this triple expansion steam engine to us? Even as a ‘girl’ I would like to understand it otherwise it’s only half the experience.
    Nice to see her berthing at your new pier, hope she does so next year.
    P.S. Do you know why she was so late leaving Raasay on wednesday?

    Comment by Carole & Finnie — April 30, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    • Good morning Carole and QM,

      I’m no expert on the ‘triple expansion’ steam engine but basically water is heated in a boiler to make high pressure steam which is then fed into cylinders of greater and greater volumes as it expands in one cylinder and is exhausted to the next. there’s a little animation halfway down the page. Once the steam has had all the energy extracted in the last cylinder (some have four and are called quadruple expansion) it is condensed and re heated.

      I think the ferry was late leaving Raasay due to and ‘ambulance run’

      PS, any chance the QM could pick up something from Ben????

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 1, 2011 @ 6:06 am

      • Hi Paul
        No bother just give us destructions.

        Comment by Carole,Finnie and the Quarryman — May 1, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  6. Last night on the weather forecast, they said that Skye had been the warmest place in the country on Thursday, so I’m sure Raasay was very similar. Bet it was easier cruising along the east coast of Raasay (and Rona) than walking it! Great pics, hope there’s another instalment coming soon. Did you ever take any pics underwater?

    Comment by francesp — April 30, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

    • Good morning Frances,

      7:00am and already 12 degrees 🙂 looks like being a scorcher 🙂 I did take some picture underwater but they were without exception rubbish 😦

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 1, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  7. Waverley still doing those great summer jazz evenings from the Broomielaw? Fond memories of long ago … I know summer hasn’t arrived yet but here’s hoping.

    Still enjoying your blog Paul.

    Comment by Mary F — May 1, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

    • Morning Mary,

      this IS summer, July and August, especially August are wet 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 3, 2011 @ 6:09 am

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