A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Posts tagged ‘Blue Men of the Minch’

The Shiants, part 1

Was up early this morning to sort out hens, dogs and prawns before I headed of to Sheildaig to tag along with Torridon Tours trip to the Shiants, a group of islands of the Outer Hebrides. Made it with five minutes to spare but all on board and away we went. Passed Shieldaig Island with its resident sea eagle. Unfortunately this year they lost their chick, fallen from the nest, and their activities have been different. They are not seen going back and fore to the nest as in previous years. The island has changed from being a busy heron residency to the home of an eagle.

Shieldaig has a history going back to when the herring industry was booming and there still is a legacy from that are in the front gardens of the houses built on the shore. They are made up of Irish soil brought in as ballast in the barrels, which were emptied out and then filled with Torridon salted herring. We were not out of Shieldaig more than 15 minutes when we came across a pod of about 50 dolphins.

They were magnificent. Its great when they come to you so you know you are not disturbing them if they are feeding or just chilling.

After a brief stop it was off out to Rona where we saw our first minke whales lazily feeding , coming up for air and then disappearing on dives for about four or five minutes. The next land mark were the cliffs of Staffin and although the weather had closed in they still looked spectacular. Interesting to see the geology so clear, the basalt sitting on top of the Jurassic.

From Staffin it was round the north end of Skye and across The Minch to The Shiants, stopping only for another minke spotting.

As we approached the Islands from the south-east we went over some tidal rips and even in slack water and a gentle north-easterly breeze you could see and feel the boat being tugged about. No wonder there has emerged stories in Celtic folk-lore about the Blue Men of the Minch. You can imagine in severe weather sailors under dire stress seeing apperitions such as The Blue Men. Some say that they originated from fallen angels who were not quite guilty enough to go to Hell. They lived in underwater caves inhabiting the waters around The Shiants. There is a channel to the west of the islands called The stream of the Blue Men, in gaelic Sruth nam Fear Gorm. They had glossy blue skin, long grey faces, long arms and were very strong. Sailors who were abusive to Selkie Folk were in pretty serious trouble if they encountered the Blue Men. Their appearance portended storms but you managed to escape their clutches if you could recite poetry to them. On to the islands and the birds.

We steamed round the islands anti clockwise going through the two main islands and stopping to see the numerous bird colonies both ashore and on land. The weather closed in a bit and it added to the atmosphere, misty and ethereal. Birds did not seem to mind our presence and carried on their own activities.

Passing rafts of guillemots, razorbills, puffins with kittiwakes and gulls flying over us we made our way slowly round the islands to anchor on the more sheltered west side and lunch of smoked salmon and prawns.

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