Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ensay Attempt - Then Over to Rodel

In the morning of May 22nd we left the Small Isles in our wake to journey up the Minch. After four hours on a northwesterly course we passed the dramatic headland of Neist Point, with its lighthouse that marks the westernmost point of Skye.

Neist Point
Another two hours of steaming took us into the Sound of Harris, where we set our sights on trying to land on Ensay. I was hoping to get ashore so we could wander its rolling hills and take a look at its chapels and standing stone. The anchor was dropped just off Ensay House, but the wind was too strong and it wouldn't hold.

Ensay (2016)
It was a disappointment not to be able to land, but the sea and wind don't always cooperate with the best laid plans. If you are interested in Ensay, you can find a stunning photo of the interior of Ensay House that also shows the chapel at John Maher Photography - see the first photo on the left. (William, thanks for the tip on Maher's work, it's amazing stuff.) You can see more photos of Ensay in the February 27, 2017 post.

Unable to anchor off Ensay, Mark decided to motor over to Leverburgh, where we would spend the night tied to its pier. Leverburgh is not one of the most scenic spots in the isles, but once ashore we left the cluttered harbour behind to follow a meandering grassy shore path to St Clement’s church at Rodel.

On the path to Rodel

St Clement's Church
I think St Clement's is the best example of early church architecture in the Hebrides. A unique feature is that its tower is decorated with carved pagan stones, stones that may have once decorated an earlier structure on the site. The highlight inside the church is the magnificently carved tomb of the church’s founder, Alastair Crotach Macleod; the best preserved medieval wall tomb in Scotland.

Two of the carved panels are especially fascinating: one shows a highland galley (upper right). Another, below and to the left of the galley, shows Macleod's soul being weighed. I guess good deeds make for a fat soul. Macleod had a few sins to account for; including the massacre of 400 MacDonalds in a dank cave on Eigg on a snowy winter's day. In an effort to balance the scales Macleod built several churches. It all brings to mind these lines from Jethro Tull's Two Fingers:

I'll see you at the Weighing-In,
When your life's sum-total's made.
And you set your wealth in Godly deeds
Against the sins you've laid.

Alasdair Macleod's soul at the Weighing-In
In the morning, a sign that sea conditions were good, was the sight of the three St Kilda day-boats heading out at 8am. It was going to be a busy day on Kilda. With the boats gone the harbour was quiet as we enjoyed breakfast before heading up the Sound of Harris. Our destination wasn't St Kilda, but an island just as interesting; an island that's always a highlight of a visit to the Hebrides: Scarp of the Rockets.

To be continued...

Excited passengers looking forward to seeing St Kilda

The Kilda convoy leaves Leverburgh

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