A magical weekend on the Isle of Eigg

by backpackingbongos

The name Eigg has long conjured up in my mind images of a far flung Hebridean island with a bit of a social edge to it.  It’s long been on my radar as a place to visit.  Imagine therefore the excitement my partner and myself felt when we found out that one of our favourite record labels was to host a music festival there.  Weeks later I was sitting at my computer at work waiting for the tickets to go on sale, thankfully I was successful as I later found out that they sold out in just six minutes!

Fence records have been organising music festivals in their hometown in Fife for years now, something Corrina and I have not managed to get to yet.  However the ‘Away game’ on Eigg is something we just could not miss.  Check out their website, there is some great music to be found.  Not everyone has a beard!

We arrived at Arisaig on Friday lunchtime after a spectacular drive up through the Highlands.  It looks like Autumn has come early up there as the hillsides are a blaze of colour with the bracken already turned and the trees not that far behind.  Best of all the sun was shining and the clarity of the air was outstanding with a stiff northerly breeze.  The small village was soon swamped with festival goers heading for the small pier to catch the Sheerwater which had been chartered for the weekend.  Now I know that we were not expecting a big ferry but I was surprised to see such a small boat.  What was even more surprising was how so many people and their luggage squeezed inside.  Corrina and I bagged a place at the back of the boat which was not under cover (it’s a sunny day hey?) a decision we were soon to very much regret!

It was a smooth glide through Loch nan Ceall, then we hit open water.  To say the crossing was a little rough is an understatement, with the boat being thrown from side to side like a tiny cork.  Frequently waves would wash over those of us unlucky enough to be sitting without cover.  I had to sit and face the horizon rising and falling at the back of the boat.  To turn around would mean looking at the terror in the eyes of other people!  I thought that things could not get any worse when someone started throwing up overboard, unfortunately I was down wind and my jacket got a good splashing.  No problems as I was then washed down by another wave.

It was with relief that we reached the pier on Eigg, passengers setting up a human chain to put everyone’s luggage on a waiting tractor.  A ten minute stroll followed behind the tractor as it then shed rucksacks all over the place!  The festival campsite exceeded all expectations, a huge expanse of flat cropped grass right next to a sandy beach.  Being slightly unsociable buggers we pitched up a little way from the main throng.  Luckily toilet facilities had been provided with a huge hole covered by a wooden shack and a couple of toilet seats, it could have been a bit unpleasant otherwise.

Campsite views below.

A ten minute walk from the campsite was the pier plus the tea room, shop and toilets with views back across the bay to where we had pitched.

A further ten minutes uphill through some lovely woods took you to the community hall where all the music took place over the weekend.  Next door was a marque with another stage, this meant that when one act finished at one venue there would be another act starting on the other stage.

Now it has to be said that from Friday evening until Sunday morning is a bit of a haze and I never really got round to getting my camera out!  Friday nights music kicked off at around 9.00pm,  the highlight for me being Withered Hand whose CD is getting a huge amount of play in our household at the moment.  I love it when you see someone live who you have never seen before and they become one of your favourite artists.  We got back to our tents at around 4.00am after a simply storming set of banging electronica by Jon Hopkins.  Corrina keeps reminding me that I started dancing, something I usually avoid like the plague!

Saturday had a much more folky feel to proceedings with brilliant set after brilliant set, King Creosote being the highlight for us. The evening climaxed for us with a riotous set from British Sea power.  With us not being used to all this partying we found ourselves back in the tent by 1.00am with half the bill yet to play, we woke up at 9.00am on Sunday morning and could still hear the music pounding from up the hill!  The very few photos that we took:

Human don’t be angry (aka Malcolm Middleton) in the marque.

Cate Le Bon in the community hall.

The community hall.

Moon rising outside the marque.

The whole weekend I found the peak An Sgurr staring down at me challenging me to stand on top of its huge cliffs.  From the south of the island it really does look un climbable, simply a dome of rock rising straight out of the moorland.  A track up past the community hall through more lovely woodland leads to a pasture with the stunningly located buildings of Galmisdale underneath the looming monolith.

Behind the main house a cairned path leads off up and across open moorland, well marked with splashes of paint on the rocks.

This heads north around the peak climbing steadily all the time giving glorious views back towards the mainland.

And then the Isle of Rum puts in an appearance showing off all of its rugged jagged majesty with Loch nam Ban Mora providing a great foreground.

The summit ridge looking to Rum.

Right at the very edge of the ‘nose’ looking down towards the pier and the festival site.

Zooming in to the rugged outline of the Isle of Skye.

A close up of Rum.

Looking across to Muck.

I was accompanied on my descent by Sarah who it turned out played on one of my favourite albums by the brilliant James Yorkston, ‘When the Haar rolls in’.  A very pleasant way to end a cracking few hours on a stunning hill.  One of the great things about this festival was the ratio of performers to punters.  There was 150 tickets sold to the public with about 70 musicians playing that weekend, roughly a 2 to 1 ratio!

When I came back Corrina had done a stirling job in managing to catch a shower then laying in the sun reading a book!

Later that evening I caught sight of one of the most stunning natural spectacles I have ever seen.  The moon was rising over the mountains on the mainland.  As it came over the horizon it appeared massive and was bright red.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera as I was on the way to the tea room to get a pint.  I did however manage to get a couple of snaps later on when we returned to the tent.  I stood by the shore transfixed by the moonlit ripples on the water.  I have to say that it was absolutely bloody freezing cold and not being thermally prepared had to make a quick entrance into my sleeping bag.

Thankfully for the journey back to Arisaig the next day the sea was like a mirror, it was a very subdued bunch who returned back to the mainland.

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10 Comments to “A magical weekend on the Isle of Eigg”

  1. Yipee! Looks like it was a wonderful weekend. Well done for staying up till 4am on the Friday! I wonder how long I’d have lasted at my advanced age? I have the same reluctance to dance as yourself, though generally enjoy it when the old inhibitions have been dissolved in quantities of beer etc. I don’t know about Corrina, but my Fiona absolutely loves dancing, much to my chagrin.

    What was the Malkster up to, playing anything new? Will check out Withered Hand, methinks. Great pics, James and well done for getting up the Sgurr, though it was never likely that you wouldn’t

    • Pete, it was a great weekend, shame that you could not come along. I think that it was a combination of beer and vodka that kept me up until 4am and at least a quick dance kept me warm (it was bloody perishing!).

      Mr Middleton was trying out a new project as Human don’t be angry. Not my favourite of his as he seemed to be replicating Mark Knoffler type instrumentals. He had a vote half way through and people asked for his usual stuff (he took it pretty well considering what a fragile person he is!). I love the wordly cynicism of his lyrics. Definately check out Withered hand, they are a grower.

      Cheers once again for the offer Mon night, we did manage to get back in one day but is was a long one!

      • Mr Middleton, cynical? I’ve been listening to an ode to ‘Autumn’ off ‘Into the Woods’ recently, with the memorable opening line ‘Ahh, autumn, ya f**king c*nt’. Full of the joys of the changing seasons. Gave Withered Hand a listen on myspace. Album called ‘Religious Songs’ I think. It’s pretty good on a first listen, though the lyricist seems to have a thing about women’s underwear. I know he’s not alone, but…

        Anyway, glad to hear it was such a hoot. I’ve been sweating on getting the mountain-biking guide finished for Monday and I’m about done, yipee! Next up… I feel a trip to the Small Isles looms.

        Cheers James

  2. What a magical place James, stunning views seemingly in every direction, An Sgurr looks like something from the lost world. Inspiring stuff as usual.

  3. Beautiful, beautiful pictures! The nature looks stunning out there.

    Sounds like you had a good weekend combining both culture and nature!

  4. Another incredible trip James and glad you managed to get up high – even after a few days of beer and vodka!

  5. Mac, An Sgurr is the sort of place where you almost expect to see dinosaurs roaming! A stunning spot.

    Maria and Marcus – thanks!

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  7. Apologies for the unfortunate puke incident.

    I shouldn’t have had that coffee and cake on the drive up.

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