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Interestingly this is now a better anchorage than it was because back in the 1930s it was obstructed by the pontoons of lobster fishermen. Long before that the Vikings gathered just north of here, in Horseshoe Bay, on their way to the Clyde and the Battle of Largs in 1263, where they were finally defeated by the Scots.
From the anchorage there is a quick scramble up to the site of an old iron age (?) fort at the top of a little flat knoll on the south arm of the bay. A few grassy lumps on its south side presumably cover the remains of the defensive walls. From here there are charming views up and down the Sound of Kerrera. The old decaying wooden hulk on the beach enhances the scene in a rather nice way and doubles up as a wrecked pirate ship with treasure (what on earth happens to plastic hulks, there must be thousands of them somewhere?).
One of the small cottages by the anchorage was once taken over by the only parrot sanctuary in Scotland, occasionally open to the public — one was not surprised to hear distant squawks more reminiscent of Treasure Island than the Hebrides when you anchored. Indeed you could easily have imagined Long John Silver hopping down to the shore. In 2010 there were 60 birds here in various stages of distress, or well-fedness, courtesy of Yvonne MacMillan who was clearly passionate about looking after them. The trouble was that by 2011 the sanctuary was full and she could only take more birds if one of her resident birds died. This is the same classic capacity problem we have in medicine — to see more new patients in out-patient clinics we have to discharge follow-up patients to make space, otherwise no new patients get seen. Not surprisingly some discharged follow-up patients become disgruntled, and with good reason if their GP cannot provide the sort of care they were getting in hospital. Sadly, in 2015 it looked as though the sanctuary was going to be closed and the parrots rehoused on the mainland. By 2016 it was all gone.
On a windless day with no sailing you could walk the circuit around the lower two thirds of the island. It is seven miles and takes about three hours or so, more if one stops off at the excellent Kerrera tea garden which is only about a mile from the anchorage. It has changed hands a lot over the years but a young couple too over in 2013 with great enthusiasm, so the very best of luck to them. There are tables outside but if it rains there is an atmospheric sitting room in an old barn. As well as food, there is a remarkable free-standing toilet to try, twinned with a toilet in Pakistan. There is also a bunkhouse where my son Oli and his friends celebrated his 21st birthday — certainly an unusual venue. Because no one comes here by car, most have to walk two miles from the ferry, one wonders how it makes enough money to keep going, but maybe that is not the point — it certainly has nothing of the feel of a mere money making operation, about as far away from those awful casino banks and their bonus-waving bankers as one could imagine (ph 01631 566 367).
This was clearly a favourite anchorage for CC Lynam who even on Christmas Day 1901 "bathed and found the water quite warm"! But in 1904 he complained that "the loveliness of the pretty spot is not enhanced by the row of three new cottages just built on the shore". These days we of course find them rather charming.
By 2019 the population of the island had risen to 65, including 19 children, encouraging. And attempts are being made to convert the now redundant school near the ferry terminal into a community centre.
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Little Horseshoe Bay from the air
The Kerrera tea garden bell
The Kerrera tea garden