A wilderness slackpack on the Isle of Rum pt2 – the rugged coast

by backpackingbongos

Pete upset the spirit world by proclaiming that he does not believe in ghosts.  The Dibidil spirits got their revenge by paying him a visit in the night.  Nothing explicitly went bump in the night but he said that he was aware of something entering the room whilst he was sleeping, whatever it was touched his hand.  Rich spent the night in the other room and did not get up and I had not felt the urge to hold Petes hand that night.  I had read of a few ghostly going on in Dibidil prior to the visit.  The best one being three climbers who has bedded down for the night on the floor, all in a nice neat row.  They woke up the next morning to find that they had all rotated 180 degrees in the night.  Beware if you visit Dibidil on your own!

Day 2 – 5.8 miles with 530 metres ascent

I slept the sleep of kings in my bothy bunk, comfy in my down cocoon.  Although only 8am it looked like Pete was long gone, he had decided the night before to finish the horseshoe if the weather looked ok.  It was a bit cloudy outside but the hills were all clear.  Rich had wisely invested in a lie-in and was just stirring in the room next door.  I would love to say that I quickly packed up and headed out for a big mountain day but instead continued the bothy pottering theme.

A couple of hours later I decided that I would start my slow walk to Papadil lodge along the now much fainter pony path.  My knees had not suffered too much the day before and I wanted to continue to take care of them.  There was also the small matter of possibly the roughest section of coast on this backpack beyond Papadil.  Slow and steady would be my motto.  I arranged for Rich and Pete to meet me at the ruined lodge and started the climb up the large boggy tussocks to the path contouring above the bothy.  As I gained height I spotted Pete ‘the mountain goat’ making quick progress down from Sgurr nan Gillean.  The views back to Beinn nan Stac and Askival were stunning, I felt a bit deflated that I had to leave out such magnificent peaks.  However just to simply be in such wild and remote coast and mountain scenery is a privilege.

I managed to lose the path completely near Loch Dubh an Sgoir probably because I was spending too much time gawping slack-jawed at the scenery.  Sgurr nan Gillean looked fantastic from there with just a small amount of mist grazing its summit.

Relocating the path once again due to a cunningly placed cairn, I made steady progress to Loch Papadil which suddenly revealed itself nestled in a bowl in the hills.

Approaching the loch from above the location of the path once again eluded me and I ended up surrounded by the usual tussocks from hell as I struggled to pick my way down.  The lack of stability underfoot was less than perfect for my knee, helped even less by a big hole that swallowed one leg.  By the time I reached the trees I was rather hot and flustered and had to flick off a few ticks that had managed to hitch a lift from the long grass.  I knew that there was a lodge somewhere in the woods which had been taken over by rhododendron and it was a boggy battle to find it.  From what remained nature had clearly won the battle.

Across the river there was a lovely grassy clearing with the low walls of ruined buildings.  I made myself comfortable and ate lunch whilst I waited for the other two to appear.  There are several areas in the direct vicinity that would make perfect wild camping spots, flat and grassy and the remains of an old fire pit to have a campfire with the plentiful supply of fallen wood.  However Papadil does have a bit of an atmosphere about it, fine in the daytime but I think that I would get the willies if I spent the night alone there.  This feeling may well be influenced by stories I have read of campers nearby fleeing in the night after being visited by some invisible force.  The accounts are the same, campers wake up with the sensation of being sat on, pinning them down.

Anyway within half an hour Rich and Pete appeared on the hill above and managed to make a rapid descent to where I was sitting.  Plans were made for the rest of the day.  Pete had been keen to push on to Guidil bothy whilst myself and Rich fancied a wild camp next to Harris bay.  The talk of a fine forecast (I had managed to check the weather on my iphone) and a driftwood fire on the beach soon changed Petes mind and we all headed off together towards Harris.

The route to Harris is rough and pathless and you have to pick a line with care to avoid cliffs shelving steeply into the sea.  We made a beeline straight up steep slopes to roughly the 120 metre contour which gave fine views back to the loch and the pinnacle which guards its seaward side.

The Allt na Gile makes a deep gash in the hillside and we contoured its steep slopes to cross the stream before contouring round the other side.

Traversing further along the coast we constantly had to adjust our route as lines of cliff rose up to meet us.  The going was rough but not half as bad as the map suggests and we had the company of some outstanding coastal scenery.  Wild, remote and rugged, these days it is this sort of landscape that really rocks my boat.  Mountains and the sea blended together in perfect harmony.  I have the feeling that not many people explore the coast between Papadil and Harris bay which is a shame because they are missing something special.

Approaching the 200 metre contour I needed a rest as I was struggling to keep up with the other two.  I hoisted my pack off and arranged to meet them at the spot we had picked as a potential camp spot.  I sat there for a while taking in the scenery, happy just to be in such an isolated spot.

Towards the near horizon I spotted a cairn, unusual considering that there is no vestige of a path.  I also spotted Rich and Pete loitering at the cairn getting ready to set off once again.  A steady traversing ascent brought me to the cairn and a breathtaking view to the north, Harris bay looking magnificent with Orval as a backdrop.  I could just make out the other two as specs on the hillside, looking insignificant amongst the grandeur of it all.

From the cairn a vague path started and it was good to disengage the brain and simply follow it as it gently took me down at an easy gradient to the new bridge over the Abhainn Rangail.  I soon came to a raised beach, something that I have only ever seen on the Isle of Jura.  An old settlement had obviously used the rounded stones to build their boundary walls.

I made my way down to the chosen wild camp spot and what a great spot it was.  Perfect flat short-cropped grass like a bowling green, an oasis amongst the rough ground.  The sea to one side and the mountains on the other.

There was however a distinctive smell in the air and the reason for the cropped grass became apparent with all the animal droppings on the ground.  The heady aroma was coming from a few metres away, a herd of wild goats had made camp on the beach and we were spending the night in their on-suite.

Thankfully camp was completely tick free and it was nice to be able to wander around without having to watch out for them crawling up your leg.  My boots were like two sponges full of bog water and my feet like prunes, it was good to lay in my tent for a while giving them some air whilst listening to the waves lapping the shore.

After a long mountain day Pete was the first to get his dinner on the go, cooking his favourite backpacking treat of tuna fandango.  This looked a damn sight more appetising than my freeze-dried add water to a pouch muck.

Fed and drift wood gathered around an old fire pit, I wandered up the slope behind camp to get an overview of our chosen spot.  The location really could not be any better.  There was not a soul around for miles and we just had goats on the beach and highland cows by the lodge and mausoleum for company.

As afternoon drifted into evening the camp fire was lit, the dry bleached driftwood catching with only a twix wrapper as kindling.  Some of the driftwood almost looked too good to burn, like the skeleton of some long extinct animal.  The heat of the fire took the chill out of the air and it was a fine way to pass a few hours.


82 Responses to “A wilderness slackpack on the Isle of Rum pt2 – the rugged coast”

  1. The route out of Papadil looks great – must go back for that.
    You were lucky with the weather – the Jet stream has been battering Scotland for 10 or more days now.
    I was all set for a 2 week trip in Wester Ross but had to cancel – my backpacking buddy is all alone in the teeth of it now……………
    Watching the Scotland mountain weather forecast for nearly two weeks – its a form of cruel voyeurism…….
    Poor soul

    • It is worth doing Keith and make sure that you spend a night at Harris bay, a lovely spot. I think that we experienced the first two days of the jet stream battering the west coast at the end of our trip. Sorry to hear that you had to cancel a trip to Wester Ross. Stop watching the weather it is bad for the soul.

  2. Good to see the old lodge at Papidil, I spent a night there as a part of a fortnights trip with the Lakes School in I think 1972 or possibly 73, after we’d climbed Askival and Halival. It was surrounded by Rodies then, we slept on old sprung bedsteads (no mattresses), we then walked out to Harris and back to our campsite at Kilmory. Your blog of your trip is reminding me of the great time I (only 14 at the time) and others had on Rhum. It was rather balmy for our trip in that August, although I can still remember the ticks and midges!

    • It would have been good to see Papadil before it fell into ruin, it definately is an atmospheric spot. Was access to the island more restricted back then?

  3. Wow, what a wonderful fun trail. Maybe one day in my dreams. 🙂 Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

  4. Love the spirit story — spooky!

    Beautiful pix … looks like an amazing spot.


  5. We loved Keith too, but mainly for the distilleries. Love the pictures. So desolate, rugged and beautiful.

  6. Really nice photographs! I plan on backpacking one day!! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I am glad you shared it.
    It is good to know about great places and even better to know when they are great.

  8. a trek is what i need right about now. pictures look fun and it looks like a good time out there.

  9. What a stunningly gorgeous place! And congrats on being freshly pressed. Hang on for the ride!

  10. Yes access had to be applied for from the nature conservency? I think! We were only the second school party to visit, sedbergh school having visited the year before. The north-east “corner” of the island was out of bounds at that time for studies to be carried out on red deer. The bothy/building below Bloodstone Hill was a roofless ruin then, I recall a savage descent from the summit to explore the bay and its caves. As I say great memories of a holiday which although I didn’t know it at the time would shape much of my life!!

    • That is pretty special Al to be only the second school group on the island. I did not manage to get up Bloodstone hill but I would imagine the views to be stunning.

  11. Awesome place – just perfect for camping and I guess the midges havn’t put in an appearance yet either!

    • No midges just yet Pete but they will be along pretty soon I would imagine. All the ticks make up for it on the insect front though.

  12. Great pictures! Good job!

  13. Hi
    Quote […] visit in the night. Nothing explicitly went bump in the night but he said that he was aware of something entering the room whilst he was sleeping, whatever it was touched his hand. [unqte].

    More, more on that! – – – – Tags on this stuff?

    Too old for backpacking, afraid to break a leg or skull, I love stories of entities. BTW excellent Post! – see you – Niek

  14. Hrm, I’m just a photography newbie, so I admit I don’t have much of an eye for pictures yet. But I think some of these shots would look a lot better in black and white. Especially the ones of the shoreline. Nice blog!

    • Hi James, I am experimenting with some future photos on the blog, especially interior bothy shots. A couple of black and white ones coming up.

  15. Wow, what a great effort! And your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to snooping around the rest of your site to try and gather some ideas on how to write a compelling travel blog. I’m heading over to Thailand in May for a few months and need some inspiration! Thanks again.

  16. A quick hello and thanks to everyone who commented above after getting to my site through freshly pressed. Thanks for your kind words and I hope that you stick around for future blog posts. Since last night my site traffic has gone through the roof!

  17. What a great adventure, soggy socks and all… beautiful photos

  18. Congrats on being FP! Was a good read with nice photos. I would love to do a trek like that some day!

  19. That sounds like quite an adventure.

  20. Wild goats? Can we eat them? 😀

  21. Love your blog!! ❤
    Question: How do you post those maps that show where you've been?
    thanks! Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, thanks. I have digital mapping on my computer, I open up the programme and then do a screen shot of the area I want to use. I then add to WordPress as a jpeg. Hope that helps.

      • sweet. what is the program called? did you purchase it or was it a free download or did it come with your PC/Mac? I also noted your backpack – is it Eagle Creek? I’ll be spending approximately 18mos solo traveling/volunteering through the jungles of Latin America with only what i can carry in my pack, so if you have any scoop abt a good one I’d appreciate it!!! peace, L

      • The programme that I use is called Anquet and it has all the UK’s ordinance survey maps on it. I cost me about £100 at the time. My backpack is a ULA Catalyst which I ordered over the internet from the US. It has done me really well and is nice and lightweight as well, not cheap though. I am envious of your trip, it has been many years since I spent a few months travelling. I hope that you have a great time.

      • thanks for the 411 on the software and backpack! I look forward to reading more about your adventures – the photos are inspiring. 😉 L

  22. This is quite beautiful. I am quite jealous of your journey. I’m going to Scotland at the end of April but I’m sticking to the city, I wish I could see that side of though. Thanks for sharing.

    • Enjoy your trip to Scotland, although I have to say that you will really be missing out if you just stick to the cities. The countryside is out of this world, if you get an opportunity have a quick look!

  23. wonderful post and what amazing photos……the only word out my mouth right thru reading this was ‘WOW’! 🙂 I am so jealous!! It is my goal to visit at lest 100 of the UK’s many islands and after watching Simon King of Springwatch on Rum Island and now reading this……..time to plan a trip me thinks. thanks for a great read and congrats on being ‘freshly pressed’ (and fortunately this is by wordpress and not those creepy spirits!!!) 🙂

  24. Thank you very much Cindy, glad to hear that you liked the post. Rum is well worth a visit and you could also go to the other small Isle of Eigg, Muck and Canna whilst you are there. Part three of my Rum posts is up now if you want to get more of a flavour for the island. Visiting 100 of the UK’s islands is a great goal to have btw!

  25. Spooky ruins and fine trails. This trip is getting better and better.

  26. Right! The Isle of Rum is actually the Isle of Rhum which is a part of the Hebrides.

    • I think that I am going to have to correct you Jimsto. The Isle of Rum was changed to Rhum by the Bullough family who owned it and has since been changed back to the original Rum. It is part of the Small Isle in the inner Hebrides.

  27. You made my morning. Wished i’d done this sort of trail when much younger…to dream is to live for another day. I’ll see you on the trail, soon. Lovely pics.

  28. While I was reading your blog, I felt very cold. What’s the general temperature in the area you were in? By the way, I believe in Spirits.

    • The temperature was no too bad, probably about 12 celcius during the day and single figures at night. Maybe it was the bothy spirits making you feel cold!

  29. thank you for the wonderful pictures and amazing journey. it is lovely to see how you read the landscape.

  30. The campfire photo is my favorite.

  31. great post!!! it’s just great!

    ooh if Only I could spend my time wandering the whole world..

  32. Good scenery, you really had your time, that’s a journal that make many people jealous. I must put it in my wish travel list..

  33. That’s a great report from an island I’ve unfortunately only visited for an afternoon. Hoping to put that right in the next couple of years when I’ve hopefully finished Munroing. The hills there look a bit challenging but very interesting. Nice to see the old ruined lodge – I like things like that and would have sought it out myself. Bit worried about the haunted bothy at Papadil though as I’ll probably be staying there on my own! :-0

    • Hi Mountaincoward, thanks for your comment. I would highly recommend the Rum hills, as good as anything on the mainland, just a little bit lower. Good luck if you stay in the bothy on your own! I am sure that the ghosts are friendly……..

  34. That spooky story is as great as the photos!

  35. Such rugged beautiful landscape. I’m not one for backpacking myself, but I can see the lure of it…

  36. Dr and Mrs Rintoul-Edwards heartily approve of your fine post, Young James, and we’ll be in touch as soon as we’ve returned from our nuptials. Got a great idea to share! Much love x

    • I am very glad that I got the Rintoul-Edwards seal of approval. I hope that your big day went well, you certainly had good weather for it. Enjoy the nuptials, I look forward to the idea that you have (did you win the lottery and want to give me half?).

  37. nice pic … i like your post

  38. Wow, wow and wow – fabulous pics and what a great trip! Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world – congrats on FP 🙂

  39. nice pic amazing post …… nice tour

  40. Wow, what a great effort! And your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to snooping around the rest of your site to try and gather some ideas on how to write a compelling travel blog. I’m heading over to Thailand in May for a few months and need some inspiration! Thanks again.

  41. Amazing nature in that area of Scotland. Hope you get to taste some more splendid scotch before you leave.

  42. brought back lots of memories lived on rum with my parent from the late 60`s till 1977

  43. Amazing nature of Scotland. Brought back lots of memory about Scotland….If you want to know more please visit the website ittechinfoo


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