By the time we reached the Cumhann Beag (Little narrows) separating the hidden upper part of West Loch Tarbert from the middle part, the tide was running through like a river. Our plans had been formulated to take advantage of each of the tidal streams we encountered during the journey, or at least planned to avoid paddling against the flow. We'd also taken the wind direction into account in the wider route we envisaged...after all, our sails could help us!
Turning south west into the middle part of the loch, we headed into a searing early evening sun, the angle above the horizon a reminder that we should push on to find a campsite. Although the bothy at Cruib Lodge would have made a fine base for the night, it would have left us a prodigious distance to journey on the following day, so we paddled on past towards the Cumhann Mor (big narrows) separating the central part from the wide outer loch.
Although we were keen to reach our camp site, there was a place to explore which simply couldn't be passed by. The raised beaches near the Cumhann Mor are one of the most remarkable places in Britain, and so remote that most folk wouldn't even know of their existence.
The pebble ridge rises in a series of steps above the present day sea level - relic beaches from a time when the ice pressed down on this part of Scotland and the land was lower.
The top of the ridge is 15 metres above the present high water mark, and the pebbles are left clean and smoothed as if raked....just as they were left when the tide last went out here some 10,000 years ago. Maurice and Sam hadn't been here previously, and the place had left a lasting impression on me from my previous visit....an remarkable landscape simply not to be missed.
After visiting the raised beach we paddled a short way along the south shore of West Loch Tarbert to another raised beach, this one much lower and backed by a level grassy bank - a good camping spot with fresh water nearby. As a bonus, the Paps of Jura heaved into view over the glen behind the beach, and the sky was starting to colour with the imminent sunset.....time to get the tents up and dinner on the go.
When it came, the sunset was a show-stopper. Dipping first beyond the northern headland of Loch Tarbert and then beyond distant Colonsay, the setting sun fired the sky to an intense burnt orange shade. We saluted it with a dram distilled on the very island where we sat - and there was something extra special about enjoying whisky "in its own place" with such a spectacular view in front of us.
The noticeable drop in light levels as the sun set was followed by......
The effect of an increase in light levels as the sun began to illuminate the sky from below our visible horizon - it really was a sunset (and a dram) to savour. More subtle than those pyrotechnic sunsets where there's some cloud to catch the light, this was a slow procession of gorgeous shades washing the whole of the western sky.
Well over an hour after sunset, a band of bronze light was still burning on the western horizon, rendering the low outline of Colonsay into sharp relief. It seemed a long way out into the sea, but there lay tomorrow's destination. We sat and chatted long into the evening... just enjoying the sense of place in this remote and wild spot.