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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2008


Getting to the Point

On some walks the journey itself is everything – the scenery, the position, the challenges of navigation or terrain all entwine to create the experience. On others it is the destination that is the objective – a notable summit, location or viewpoint. The walk to the Point of Sleat falls into the latter category.

Leaving my car near to the church at Aird of Sleat, noting that I am as yet the only visitor, I set off along the metalled road that heads west to the Point. The walk is rather dull at first with derelict machinery and murky pools and few good views out to sea but it loosens the limbs after the previous days hill walk.

After about two miles the sea does come into view at a small group of cottages but my path diverts left from the made up road to skirt them. This is the scene of the first of the day’s memorable incidents. As I stoop through an overhanging tree a burst of delicate song breaks out and there right next to me is a Goldcrest. He is oblivious to my intrusion and trills sweetly for what seems like minutes before flying away to find more cover.

The path continues over several hillocks and a series of well made steps drop me down to a beach where the pink thrift contrasts with the yellow lichen on the blackened rocks. This particular colour combination is very pleasing and I explore the photo potential for a while. The walk proceeds along the litter strewn tide line to a neck of land that creates the final Point. A marked path goes left to a Sandy Beach but I decide to leave it for later and press on.

Rum&Lichen

Over the next hill the view really opens up – out to sea the island of Rum dominates the scene whereas to the North West the Cuillin are just appearing beyond the Elgol peninsula.  The sky is clear and the views are tremendous. The lighthouse appears over the next crest and I progress through a massive carpet of thrift to get to the Point. It is time to get out the lunchbox & flask and just savour this place.

It is early enough in the day for Rum to be well lit by an eastern component of the sun and the topography of the hills of the Rum Cuillin are clearly discernable. It reminds me that I have unfinished business there – the Southern group of hills eluded me on my only visit so far. They beckon tantalizingly! My attention is then caught by a disturbance close at hand – a rushing sound in the water below me. The surface is being stirred up by something over an area of a few feet and a closer look through the binoculars reveals a shoal of fish cruising around the shallow water close to the rocks. As they pass over a sandy area they become clearer and the striped colouring and distinctive shape confirms that they are mackerel. They circulate steadily for the whole time that I stay at the point – indeed I note several patches of water further out that I suspect to be other shoals.

A small yacht comes into view – its sail power is being supplemented by a droning outboard but it probably needs it to push into the strong current flowing off the point. I reckon it came out of Ardvasar about six miles away and is probably just out for the day. It disappears from view round the coast to the North and I see it later anchored in a small bay near the group of houses.

Thrift&Knoydart

After lunch and an exploration of the rocky headland and a thorough scan of the bird life – Gulls, oystercatchers, eider & gannets out to sea – I set off back. Over the first hill the view into the Sandy Bay opens up and it is not empty – a pair of skinny dippers are running out of the water oblivious to my presence. They return to their clothes and I wait awhile until I judge it ok to descend to the beach without disturbing them. When I do meet up they are drying their feet after a paddle commenting coyly that they had considered a swim but thought it too cold! I agree and offer to take their picture with their camera to recall the beach – I hope it appears in an album and kindles fond memories of their risqué activity. It is a fine beach with warm sand and lovely rock features – I indulge in a paddle then depart.

The return journey is punctuated with only one event of note. As I approach the bush where I saw the Goldcrest I become aware of a swooping falcon – probably Kestrel - as the same little bird heads for cover in the bush again. After a while he starts singing as if to celebrate his narrow escape. So ends the journey to the Point of Sleat and I muse that it was well worth Getting to the Point.

© Keith Ratcliffe

May 2008

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