The Hebredies are a collection of Islands scattered to the top left of mainland Scotland. Island life brings a much slower pace full of tiny communities. Without real roads and with stunning scenery there is no better way to explore the region than by the power of the wind. An intricate maze of sea channels, loch’s and bays await even the most hardy of sailor with one of the main adversary’s being the weather closely followed by rocks, sand banks and wrecks. As we were quick to learn wind and sail power is not the most efficient way of travelling when on a timescale and the waiting game is a big part of the adventure. Exposed water is a scary place in the wrong winds and perusing even the closest of coastline’s can soon become an insurmountable task and sometimes vomit educing pass time.
After a few days at sea dry land brings welcome sturdiness. Passing the bikes off the dingy onto the seaweed ridden pier was more than enough encouragement for the riding that awaited us on the island of Rum.
With hard packed paths a 21st century revelation in the Hebrides Rum delivered modern hardpack in bucketful’s. A slender slither of single-track leading us well into the hills offered breath-taking views down over the bay and the good ship Annito that had, despite the weather god’s interventions, safely transported us to this stunning island. With our first taste of granite leaving us hungry for more slab action we hiked up to a far-flung shoulder and galloped back down towards the safety of our floating home.
With our taste for riding temporarily quenched we quickly piled back into the boat and steered straight into a force 7 gale.
Skye and the promise of golden ribbons of singletrack flowing down from the now infamous ‘Ridge’ was but a stones throw away, but a stones throw was just that little bit too much. Moored up in the relative calm of Eigg whiling the time away through a pack of cards and the kettle was our only option. As we were quickly beginning to learn a life at sea was not one dictated by us, it was a story told solely by the seas and the weather. Huddling ‘round the radio waiting for the previously foreign language of the shipping forecast was our evening routine, trawling the charts to make sure our coming morning’s journey held no perils became somewhat a religion, the boat life had us, hook line and sinker.
Dry, even, un-rocking land can very often be taken for granted. Sand, grass and rock were all things we treasured one hundred percent more after a rough few days at sea. Finally with fresh, Scottish summer air in our lungs and the Skye Ridge towering above us it no longer mattered how or when we had arrived here, all that mattered was the green carbon lumps of joy that we were lugging up the hill above our heads. A glance back reminded us of the coast and the open water between us and Rum that now looked so deceptively calm.
In our eyes a trail is enhanced three times over by the environment and the surroundings that it puts you in. The centuries old path leading up from Glen Brittle has it all. The grip, flow and satisfaction of the granite slabs up top, spitting you into the rough, raw, rocky walkers path half way before a smooth line of velvet single-track glides you down onto the beach. Grinning cannot quite cover the happiness that a well flowing trail in a stunning location can bring you and to travel in such a way just makes it all that more worthwhile.
Gliding back down the Sound Of Mull towards Oban our journey suddenly made a lot of sense. The sun was out, the waves had subsided and the token Scottish whiskey was flowing, the usually high pace of life was long forgotten with the lapping waves on the hull and the occasional flutter of the sails. The spirit of adventure had once again taken us off the beaten track looking for that something different but this time is was different, we had experienced just as much on the way there as we had on the trail, after all, its not the destination, it’s the journey that matters. Cue emotional music, sunset finish and teary eyes!
Video/Photography: Sam Flanagan