The Scrambling Stags of Scarba: pt 3

It rained through the night and I woke up feeling like I could have had a few more hours, an extensive day of walking, climbing scrambling and dog carrying had done me in. An unzipped tent door revealed a cool grey cloudy morning with a sky that promised more drizzle, all signs were pointing towards today being a slow day.

Lately I’ve become a bit bored and jaded with the usual backpacking food, those expensive foil packets of dehydrated matter that never quite fill you up or make you feel as happy as the people look on the packaging don’t seem to do it for me at the moment. On this trip I decided to give things a little balance and tried something new, the previous night I cobbled together some fresh ingredients to make a french onion soup with a little butter, cheese and seasoning. Seeing as I was so knackered this morning I knocked a few tasty flatbreads together using flour, water, butter, cheese, onion and chorizo. So much more satisfying than the usual affair, though I’m not sure I’d bother in a tent. Watch this space for future outdoor culinary innovation.


The more subdued conditions gave a good opportunity to wander the lower level and more sheltered eastern coast of Scarba which offered a softer greener alternative to the rocky jagged west. James and Pete had both ventured out an hour or so earlier, feeling a bit more idle Rob and I headed out mid morning and entered into a world of hebridean murk. As James had said, it’s good to see an island in all of its moods, the oppressive grey clouds and light drizzle fostered a very different feel to the island, the rain doing a fine job of making the greens, yellows and oranges of the landscape present more vividly. It didn’t half make the rocks slippy though.


We soon came across James calling his wife to be from an ornate cave, he looked quite at home, like a tweeting hermit. The cave had been stocked with a pile of logs, possibly by a forward thinking sea kayaker making a nest for a future visit. Sea kayakers and stalking parties probably represent the entire demographic of Scarba.


Rob decided to head back to the bothy at this stage, a decision he’d later regret as he had been keen to see some otters on the trip. Within a few minutes we spotted no less than three swimming off the coast, their lengthly bodies gently twisting around on the surface giving them away. Again my budget photography set up isn’t really going to provide much of an insight, but if you like blurry dots against a blurry grey background, brace yourself……



My personal low points and high points of the trip occured within ten minutes of each other, a lethal combination of an unzipped pocket and leaning forward meant my iPhone met a watery grave in a rock pool. It survived the plunge but developed some strange Hal like independence turning itself on and off and opening apps all by itself. Note to self, buy waterproof covers for anything worth more in value than a waterproof cover.

All of lifes problems were rendered entirely insignificant in the minutes that followed, as we entered an area of woodland I found the remains of an enormous stag, only the bones remained and the boggy undergrowth and lack of sunlight had given the skeleton a coating of green. The skull came complete with both antlers in fine condition with eleven points, I would guess that the animal had laid here for some time, and had I not found it would have rotted into the ground. I had no qualms about lugging the great heavy thing back to the bothy for a bit of a scrub up.

With my new pet in tow, we shortly arrived at the remains of the chapel, a scattering of weathered headstones from the 17th century sat adjacent to a mossy block of stones that had once served as a place of worship. A reminder that the island had once been the home of small number of families.



After leaving the damp dark woods we rejoined the main track and once again passed Kilmory Lodge, the sky remained grey and moody. A phone call from Duncan the day before warned of some more dramatic weather on the way, Duncan didn’t fancy our chances camping in the gale force 8 winds that had been forecast for later in the evening and had offered to collect us a day earlier. With our collective testosterone levels peaking we opted to stay and brave the elements, the spooky old bothy would always give us a place to shelter if necessary.

James, Reuben, the rotting stag head and I made our way back to the bothy, the return journey was made more lively by Reuben who terrified some sheep by running up to say hello by heading them off, the poor things were terrified.





I spent the next hour giving the deer skull a thorough scrub in the burn,washing away months and months of accumulated earth and detritus, great way to spend a sunday afternoon. My discovery had understandably fostered a fair bit of envy from the others and took pride of place on a windowsill as day turned to night. I’ll post some pics of it when its a bit more presentable.


We had another evening in front of a roaring fire, made infinitely more cosy by the howling winds that had picked up outside, a small shattered pane in the bothy door allowed the wind and rain to whistle through. The time came for us to reluctantly leave the sanctuary of the bothy for our tents. The weather peaked and troughed throughout the night, even though we were relatively sheltered there was rarely a moment when our nylon canopies weren’t being bowed by the wind and blasted by rain and hail. No damage was done, it was refreshing to spend a night in a tent whilst a storm raged outside, such nights can test your resolve and your gear and provide a night to remember.

The following morning was best described as ‘changeable’ as in the sky changed colour every 5 minutes. In true hebridean form we had all four seasons in regular succession, sunshine and warmth, freezing hail, moments of calmness interspersed with violent gusts, heavy showers and blue skies. Pete recalled a bit of local wisdom, “if you don’t like the weather in Scotland, wait twenty minutes”. As it was our last morning we made the best of it, Pete and Dougal wandered off up the glen whilst James, Reuben and Rob stayed by the bay. I wandered up into the neigbouring glen to catch a final glimpse of the sun poking through the grey over Jura and the Corryvreckan.







On the walk back in I noticed a lone seal swimming amongst the cold grey waves close to shore, it was close enough to see it’s black glassy eyes and meant that my photo could graduate from a faint grey dot to a small black lump.


We gave the bothy a good once over before we left, sawing the wood down and giving the floor the a sweep. Attaching the skull to my pack was a bit of a mission, the final result making me look like a budget extra in Game of Thrones I made a conscious effort to not turn around quickly and give any poor passer by an antler in the eye.


We closed up the bothy and headed out to meet Duncan by the jetty, a strong wind was now constantly blowing in from the West making the sea choppy and flecked with white. We sheltered by Kilmory Lodge, an open window gave us chance to peer in and be nosy, it certainly looked more comfortable than the bothy. The Farsain was soon spotted bouncing into the wind, putting to bed any thoughts of being stranded.



The return journey was on the dramatic side, Duncan had to rescue his boat after it became snared by a lobster pot and just as we neared the harbour we watched as a wall of hail came in from out of nowhere under a black sky. Our wee vessel was flung about on the waves for a few minutes whilst the deck was covered in hailstones. There was a sense of relief when we moored and ound ourselves once more on solid ground.

Lock up your daughters.




A perfect four days was ended back at Pete’s with a much needed hot shower, proper food and a few good drinks. It normally takes me a few days after a trip before the thought of getting back out into the wild enters my mind, on this occasion I was missing Scarba before I even left. It had been a real treat to be within such an incredible part of the world with good friends (and dogs) for just a few days, I implore James to become a serial bigamist so he can have several stag parties each year.


5 thoughts on “The Scrambling Stags of Scarba: pt 3

  1. People have a wedding anniversary each year so I was thinking of having a stag doo anniversary as well.

    Anyway, Jura I reckon at the end of Oct……………

  2. Lovely. I bet you’d trade in your iphone for Kilmory the Stag any day of the week. I can’t help thinking that a purely decorative deceased stag’s headgear is far more useful than a ‘smart’ phone, anyway. Splosh. That wasn’t very smart now, was it?

    Mind you, I like the idea of smart phones gaining HAL-like self-determination en masse. That’d put the cat among the proverbials…

    You’ve done a great clean up job on he of the eleven points, Rich; all those teeth gotta go tho’, man!

  3. I often check on any sights on the computer I can find which gives me information on Scarba, the place where my Mother was born along with her other siblings as her Father was the caretaker of Scarba for a Lord who was the owner of Scarba. I was fortunate in having the opportunity to visit Scarba with my Mother and some of her siblings before they all passed on. I would have loved to have had more time to just walk the hills as they had done as kids but our time was limited and so we could only see the building where they lived and to hear them recall their many childhood memories. It was not an easy life living on Scarba and she lost one of her brothers to drowning while there. It was so nice to see your many pics and I think of my Mother and her siblings walking those hills many, many years ago. I am so proud of my heritage and Scotland and particularly Scarba which will always be in a special place in my heart. Thank you so much for posting your pics and information. I remember my Mother mentioning the big stags on Scarba and how the Lord would bring his friends with him on many hunts there, guided by my Grandfather. Your stag must have been a beauty. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that my Mother and all her family immigrated to Canada in 1912. I thought maybe you would be interested in a little history on Scarba. Thanks for the memories, Mary

    1. That’s amazing Mary, thanks so much for your comment and sharing that, when did you visit Scarba?
      The island is truly a wonderful place to visit though I can imagine living there had its challenges. Did your garndfather live in the main lodge or did he stay in the cottage down by the beach.
      The stag I brought back is a thing of beauty, looked like it had died of old age and had been laying in the bracken for some time.

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