Caught in my torch beam, a tiny plover chick crouched low to the sand and froze. All the colours of its adult plumage were mirrored in its coat of fluffy down. The thin golden ring round its neck sparkled like tinsel. I looked up to prospect the much anticipated midnight wade across the sound of Erraid and was mildly disappointed to find the channel completely dry, as though the the waters had been parted.
Night marches with heavy pack are normally the preserve of the winter season. We had been served up an opportunity to enjoy one in the height of summer courtesy of the 2230 ferry from Oban and the best part of forty miles of Mull single track from Craignure. To make the walk a bit more sporting Donald and I were carrying a case of lager between us in a Tesco bag-for-life. As we crossed the hinterland of Erraid towards Traigh Gheal, the white beach, heather and dwarf willow tugged at the bag, impeding our progress across the moor. The night was moonless. Above the lurking shadows of the craggy granite hillsides stars began to sparkle.
It is always a great pleasure to emerge into a beautiful landscape from a tent pitched in the dark. The campsite was pristine, short grass beside a beach of whitest sand. Litter was conspicuous by its absence, there was not even the usual flotsam – no fishing nets, floats, rubber gloves or shampoo bottles. Orange and yellow lichen complimented the feldspar pink of the granite domes.
An otter hunted for crabs amid submerged broken blocks. As he enjoyed his catch he floated on a fringe of seaweed, its spaghetti strands pressed by the wind onto the surface of the turquoise water. A warm sunny day was dawning, perfect for a morning’s climbing on the clean granite crags that had drawn us here.
The area is featured much more prominently in Gary Latter’s new Scottish Rock guidebook than in it was in the old SMC guide so it is bound to grow in popularity. I hope it remains unspoiled. The rock is excellent, the location peerless.