Ardtornish Day 8

Day eight dawned and instead of shooting the sunrise I had got a lot of gear to pack. So Allen and I had a hearty cooked breakfast and pulled out everything we’d in the living room of the bunkhouse and set about packing it up in dry sacks. For today we were heading across Ardtornish bay for the cliff shrouded cove of Inninmore and the remote bothy that stands between the cliffs and the sea. We packed the car and set of to the jetty where we were meeting Chris Lorimer and his RIB. We also met an ornithologist, Matt Wilson, who is up here studying the Sea Eagles and the other birdlife in the region. We had a brief chat and exchanged numbers, arranging to meet up later in the week to have a talk about what we can expect to see and where.

Luckily the day was still, the Sound of Mull was as calm as a millpond. At 10 o’clock we started loading the boat and, once done, we cajoled a very nervous Charlie into the stern. A salty sea dog he is not, and as the outboard engine revved-up and headed out to sea his tail went between his legs and he looked up at his master with a ‘what the hell is going on?’ expression on his face.

A little while later the smells that filled his nostrils got Charlie’s attention and he began to get into the ride. It’s only a couple of miles and we soon cleared the point and Inninmore bothy came into view. As I’ve said before, this is a wonderful, remote little cottage that consists a small living room with a big open fire, a small bunkroom and a bedroom. There’s also an outhouse used for storage and a woodshed. As you can imagine, being so close to the sea and little used, the place is quite dank and heavy with salty moisture. However, once aired out, the bothy, that has been a holiday residence for a Yorkshire-based family for the past fifty years, is very homely. Rather than the stark four walls of Leacraithnaich, this little building is decked-out with rudimentary furniture fashioned from driftwood, and has pots and pans of all descriptions, hanging from the stone walls. We were kindly allowed access to Inninmore bothy and as the RIB slowed and worked its way through the kelp beds to the shore, my excitement began to grow. Inninmore Bay looked spectacular. The 800ft cliffs provided a towering, cloud-shawled backdrop and the little bothy looked dwarfed by its awesomely beautiful surroundings.

We unloaded the first cargo and then I went back with the RIB to collect the second load that included the sea kayak while Allen hauled the gear up the beach and got to cutting wood and getting a fire going.

Why so much gear?

Well I’ve been going camping and living under the stars since a lad, and that means forty-odd years ago. And in that time, I have learned that nothing is better than being well-fed and comfortable. Therefore gas stoves, gas lights, camp beds, chairs, big sleeping bags, bad weather gear and the obligatory fishing tackle, alongside wet-suits and life-preservers for the kayak all had to come. Add to this our food supplies that includes a purpose-made carry-all holding spices, herbs and all manner of other seasonings, and, of course, all the camera gear and you get an idea of my approach.

I found-out to my cost 35 years ago on the frozen Norfolk Broads, anyone can carry a tent, blanket and a few cans of sausages & beans and go ‘al fresco’ for a few nights. But at 2 o’clock in the morning, when you’re freezing cold, damp and hungry, you’ll be laying there shivering just wishing for the dawn. And when it comes, you grudgingly get up bleary-eyed and have to face another day feeling like death. I missed landing a big Pike that morning due to sleep-denial and cold apathy and ever since I’ve shunned the ‘rufty-tufty’ attitude of ‘less is more’. It leads to not getting the energy and mental inspiration drummed-up to go hiking around mountains and rocky shorelines, looking for decent photographic opportunities. So as the RIB’s engine faded into the distance and I dragged the second load up to the bothy, I new we had everything we needed for a very comfortable and enjoyable time.

Allen had the fire blazing and we went around lighting candles and gas lamps to take the damp chilly-dank out of the rooms. Then we set about scouting around and I got the chance to get the cameras out. I set up at the rocks at the end of the bay and played with my filters for a few hours, trying to accentuate the scudding clouds over the mountains of Mull, that were being lit up by the lowering sun. You can see the results in the ‘Highland Winter’ gallery of the Portfolio section.

As the light faded, I returned along the sweeping beach to the bothy. While not quite the freezing conditions I came prepared for, there was still a spiteful bite in the evening air and I quickened my pace to get the blood flowing. Upon entering the bothy, the warmth of the blazing fire welcomed me home. I put my cameras away and set about cooking some delicious venison steaks – purchased from the Ardtornish Estate Visitor Centre - pan fried with onions and garlic over the open hearth fire, while the veggies and potatoes were knocked-up on the stove. That’s the way to do it!