The shoreline from Laide beach to First Coast is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon or an early morning, just as the sun has risen over the bay. Wandering amongst the rocks it’s easy to find that several hours have passed you by as you’ve been taking in the views over Gruinard bay towards the Summer Isles. Gruinard Island with it’s circling Gannets, the huge variety of rocks scattered along the shoreline at low tide, the multitude of birds & wildfowl. The distractions are endless.
Gruinard Island itself has quite an interesting & chequered history. In the 16th century its recorded as being an island for harbouring thieves & rebels. Whilst there is evidence of the island being populated as recently as 100 years ago Gruinard Island is probably best known for being used for the testing of Anthrax during the 1940’s.
As you near First Coast there are a few caves along the way which also have an interesting recent history. In the 1800’s the larger of the caves was used for worship. Here is an exert from J. H. Dixon’s Guide to Gairloch first published in 1886.
“A footpath leads down (to the left) … and should be followed to the beach. There, one of the old caves has been enclosed by a wall and put under lock and key. It is regularly used as a chapel by the Free Church following the disruption of the church in 1843 and numerous worshippers gather on Sabbath and seated on the boulders that form pews, listen to sacred words and sing Gaelic psalms … Close to this is another .. It is the home of an old woman of seventy and a girl her sole companion … The fire is close by the door and the bed lies on the ground on the right. The old dame seemed as bright as sunshine when we visited her this summer and declared that though rough, the place was more comfortable than it looked … her Gaelic Bible her only literature, the wild rocks round and the splash of the restless waves in her ear … But this is not the place to enter into her story”
The ancient rocks in this area form the foundation of the North-West of Scotland, the oldest part of Britain. The fantastic array of rocks along this coastline include Lewisian Gneiss, Torridonian Sandstone, Cambrian Quartzite and many more. The colours and textures are fascinating – a Geologists paradise.
Walking amidst the rocks it’s fascinating the variety of colours that are exposed when the tide is out. A recent guest informed us that he noticed a rock in our garden which is several million years old, another thing to add to the To Do List – learn to distinguish the rocks along the coast of Wester Ross.
Midway between Laide & the caves near First Coast you come across a kind of shelf in the rock face. In the past we’ve had a good look at the overhang & found a fairly substantial mound of Otter spraint. It’s clearly a hangout for the resident otter & who knows might even be used as a place to bring its catch when the tides is in.
At the cave we watched 3 Cormorants on a break from fishing and a Rock Pippit with an insect in it’s beak. The Rock Pippit perched on the top of a rock for quite some time letting us edge our way closer. We’ve also seen seals near the caves. They can often be seen either snoozing on the rocks nearby or bobbin their heads in the water.
On one of our trips to the caves we spotted a juvenile cuckoo being fed by its foster parent, a meadow pipit. We really felt for the “parent” bird. It’s fair to say that it did have its work cut out feeding its greedy ‘chick’! – Apologies for the terrible photo we had to run along the rocks to try and keep up with the Cuckoo, it just refused to sit still for more than a few seconds.
Everyday the light over the bay is different and the contrast in the colours of the sea, and sky is staggering. Some days the water is a sparkling blue under the bright sunshine then a little cloud will appear and turn it a beautiful turquoise. When it’s raining over the bay the Summer Isles and the water take on every shade of steely grey imaginable.