Friday, 26 August 2011

The Carsaig Arches

Some places feel like they are in the middle of nowhere. Carsaig is not like that. It is more profound than that. It is a parallel universe that exists in its own space, separate from the rest of the world. Perhaps it was a place like Carsaig Sorley Maclean had in mind in An Ceann Thall:
An ceum a thug thu mu dheireadh
gu fàsaich an ràin bhaoith,
far nach cluinn thu ach magadh
aig sruthan, eabar agus gaoith.

Seo an t-àite mu dheireadh
an dèidh bòst curanta do spèis,
an ceann thall far nach eil tilleadh
ach bristeadh cridhe ’s uaill gheur.

The path that took you at last
to the wilderness of the foolish cry
where you heard nothing but mockery
from streams and mire and wind;

This is the ultimate place
after the brave boast of your aspiration
the farther end whence there is no return
but broken heart and sharp pride.
It's a long way to Carsaig, up and down a steep hill on a potholed road with parking space for just a half dozen cars at the end, and once you get to Carsaig, you feel you have come out of the world and into a different one. What other kind of place has volcanic rock over fossils?

Carsaig fossils:

What other place has a grey beach of volcanic sand?

Carsaig bay:

Where else would a public telephone box be placed next to a rushing waterfall?


The roadend at the hamlet of Carsaig is the start of one of Mull's best walks, along the coast to the Carsaig Arches. This used to be a little known route for the bearded connoisseur, but the internet has put paid to its obscurity. We saw a Spanish family straight off the ferry, and half a dozen other carloads also doing the walk. It was a lowering, overcast day.

Man on a dyke:

Once round the bay, lush crumbling cliffs of grey basalt and tuff towered above us as we picked a way along the shore, basalt dykes fingering out to sea and the distant Paps of Jura, bridal veil waterfalls tumbling over the cliff edge. I half expected to see pterodactyls soaring along.

Cliff scenery:

Shoreline at Nun's Cave:

The big draw, the terminus of this walk, is the Carsaig Arches. I had attempted to reach these before, years ago, but had to retreat and get my ferry home - the walk takes longer than you might reasonably expect from the map. So I was excited to approach the arches for the first time!

Carsaig arch:

Unfortunately the route over to the second and more picturesque arch is steep and narrow and we were minded to err on the side of safety. But late on a weekend afternoon, it was a fine place to be. One day I will return, perhaps taking the even more adventurous western approach?

Geograph: coast west of Carsaig Arches:


Dave said...

Glad you got there. It is a superb place with a unique atmosphere. And that walk is very rugged - it took me longer than I thought. An approach from the other end is a good idea.

blueskyscotland said...

Fantastic place.Did it years ago with some folk from my club.We met two girls from Greenock on the way in.One of them made it all the way under the arch and followed us round the headland to the Chimney stacks formation the other got tired and waited at the nuns cave where she had the consolation of
seeing an otter.Its a long way from any direction.We all had sore feet that day.

Linda said...

What a coincidence - I just posted about the black beach at Talisker this week, and now I find your blog with a photo of another black beach!

Robert Craig said...

Linda - think your beach pictures are better though! Love the silvery-grey one with pebbles.

Bob/Alex - I'd been at Carsaig before but never made it as far as the arches. A long but satisfying walk.

Dave - if you're up for an approach from the west maybe we should make a time for it. It will be pretty hairy I reckon.