I was really looking forward to today: our boat tip on the Birthe Marie a gaff rigged ketch bult in the 1930s. Birthe Marie In 2021 Ben Fogle was also a guest on the boat and it has featured in his BBC series, Sacred Islands, still available on IPlayer. Having boarded and been given our safety talk we motored out into the Sound of Iona. As soon as we were well out from land, Mark, our skipper, put on all canvas and, despite only light winds, once the motor was cut, we sailed majestically under red sails with only the sound of the the water chuckling under the boat to accompany us. The bird watchers among us enjoyed watching distant diving gannets and, closer, black guillemots and later a couple of rafts of common guillemot. As we sailed north we had tempting views of the Treshneish Islands and more distantly Coll and Tiree, as well as up into Lochs Scridain and Na Keal. Once we turned back into the wind we instantly felt its chilling effects.
After the morning's activity, Heather and I had lunch in the garden and then Heather did some drawing while I took some long exposure photographs and caught up with my blog.
A warm but overcast start to the day today, but the sky soon cleared to give a perfect day. The down side to a perfect day is that one of the group tested positive for covid last night and has gone home today, A second member tested positive this morning and is now self isolating in her room. We tested clear this morning but we are now all on tenterhooks. Still, it is what it is; such is life.
We didn't let this disturb our day, however. With Nigel and Jackie we walked the southern half of the Iona Pilgrimage. We started at the Abbey and wound our way through the village to Martyr's Bay, the site of the slaughter of 68 monks by Viking raiders, where we headed inland to the Machair and the Bay at the Back of the Ocean, passing the Hill of the Angels and several calling corncrakes. Walking across the machair we once again had wonderful views of the bay and we then climbed up to Loch Staoineig before descending to Columba's Bay where we had lunch. We had an enjoyable time pottering and beachcombing, Nigel and I watching the shags flying to and fro.
Our final destination was a tiny bay which was once a marble quarry. There are large blocks of waste lying on the beach along with much of the old machinary. Iona marble is a white limestone with seams of green serpentine in it; the high altar and font in the Abbey are made of it. Marble was quarried here until 1918. Climbing up from the quarry we followed a faint boggy path over the moor before descending into the village and a very pleasant couple of pints in the garden of the Argyll Hotel. After our evening meal the four of us wandered up to the abbey for a service before retiring for an early night.