We had our first trip to Mingulay this week, taking a private party on slightly different route than normal as we cruised down the West coast of Barra instead of the East. The weather for the trip and the sea conditions were excellent apart from a bit of a swell around West coast of Mingulay and Barra Head.
Departing from Eriskay, the trip started off well with sightings of Bottlenose dolphins in the Sound of Barra. They weren't too interested in us today as they were feeding but it was great to see them all the same.
We've never taken the boat down the West coast of Barra before so it was interesting to see the contrast to the West coast of Uist. Where we have almost 20 miles of unbroken beaches in South Uist, the Barra coastline comprised of sea battered cliffs and the occasional beach. Even with the good conditions the sea spray was blanketing the coast, I hope the new wind turbine on the north of Barra has rust proof paint!
The coastline was pretty remarkable all the way down to Mingulay and one of the travellers on the trip, Iain Smith, got this spectacular shot of a cliff face and it really does look like the cliff face of some ancient sea God coming out of the water.
As we sailed around Mingulay we came across various seabirds flying out to sea to feed and also up the high cliffs but it was a group floating on the water that got the most attention, Puffins! There was a particularly heavy swell in the area so we only spotted them as we came over the crest of a wave and they took off in all directions, surfing along the top of the water, not quite flying. Tiny little birds with a lot of character.
We travelled round to the beach on the East coast of Mingulay and my initial thoughts were "Oh no, the beach is covered in seaweed" I was very mistaken though as when we got closer it became obvious that the beach was covered in Grey Seals, over 1000 of them!
We got closer to shore and as we floated in the bay we spotted a Golden Eagle in flight over the ruin in the picture above. A massive bird that stood out from the surroundings even though it was spotted at a distance.
We put the travellers ashore where they explored the abandoned village, in many ways Mingulay is similar to St Kilda. One of the main differences is that the houses weren't maintained but they still offer a glimpse into the rich historical past of this island.
Of course when our group went ashore the seals made for the water, keeping an eye on the visitors to their beach. Iain once again got a spectacular shot of them and many thanks to him for allowing us to use his pictures.
We eventually left Mingulay behind and popped into Castlebay for a wee look at the castle before returning to Eriskay. It was a really enjoyable trip for Iain Scott, our skipper for the day, and myself as well as everyone else on board. We seen a lot of wildlife, had an exhilarating journey on our RIB the "Island Adventurer" and as a start to the 2016 we couldn't really have hoped for better...
But better it got, we took another party from Eriskay to Lochboisdale and with Roddy at the helm he put the boat up to full speed, much to the appreciation of the guests on board. We stopped into a couple of coves en route and were treated to the site of another Golden Eagle, this bird was huge but unfortunately my camera battery had gone flat, some others on board got photos so keep an eye out on our Facebook page for pictures of the eagle and other parts of our trip. We arrived back at the marina in Lochboisdale to smiling faces and windswept hair, all in all a good day out with Uist Sea Tours.