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Directions for a 3 mile walk around Sandaig (Camusfearna)

by Mike Clark

Take a pilgrimage to the former home of writer Gavin Maxwell and the otters featured in his autobiographical writings and immortalised in the film Ring of Bright Water. Before moving to Eilean Bàn, he lived in delightful Camusfearna, an isolated lighthouse keeper's cottage overlooking the Sound of Sleat and Skye's Cuillin hills.
The cottage was destroyed by a fire, but you can see the rowan tree that guarded it and explore the
coastline. Nearby is a memorial to Edal the otter, who died in the fire.


1) Start
Park at the roadside at grid refence NG 784 151 (see the map below). A forest track on the right marks the start of the walk.

2) 0.5m / 0.8km
Follow the track through conifers until it crosses Allt Mor Shantaig (Big Sandaig Burn). Just before the bridge, turn right onto a path following the burn sharply downhill towards the coast.

There are some great views of Sandaig Islands, the Sound of Sleat, and Skye beyond.

Sandaig Islands, photo by M.Clark

3) 1m / 1.6km
The path emerges from the forest, and you will find yourself almost at shore level. Across the burn is some rough meadlowland, then sand dunes with the beach beyond. Cross the burn by the stepping stones and ahead you will see the remains of a stone wall, with a dead rowan tree adjacent. A closer look will reveal the cairn, with its plaque and epitaph to Edal. Maxwll's first otter was Mijbil, whom he brought to Camusfearna in 1956. Otters were considered vermin in those days, and in 1957 Mij was killed by a workman. Edal was obtained in 1959, from a doctor in Torridon who was emigrating to Africa. There is also a memorial to Gavin Maxwell, who died in 1969, with a message that his ashes lie below. This the site of Camusfearna or bay of the alder trees in Gaelic.

4) 1.5m / 2.4km
Explore the site and see if you can spot the rusting remains of the trailer for Maxwell's boat, the Polar Star. Head south, and pick up the forest track as it heads uphill into trees. Keep an eye open for roe deer.

5) 2m / 3.2km
Where the track bears sharp left, you have two options. For an easier return, stay on the forest track, cross the bridge, and from there go back the way you came. For the main route, find a rough footpath straight ahead. This brings you back to the burn, upstream of the bridge. The path then follows the burn upstream to the public road.

6) 2.5m / 4km
Turn left when you reach the public road by Upper Sandaig, and follow the road back to the start.

Sandaig walk grid reference NG 784 151

Start roadside at grid reference NG 784 151.
Route 3m/4.8km, a little rough and steep in places;

the site is remote - take suitable clothing, food & map.
Map OS Landranger 33
Not suitable for wheelchair users.

How to get there

walk location in relation to Kyle of Lochalsh Turn left off the A87 just past
Sheil Bridge campsite, taking
the unclassified road to
Glenelg and Arnisdale.

information Tourist Information Centre, Kyle of Lochalsh
(seasonal opening), car park, Kyle of Lochalsh IV40 8AQ,
Tel. 01599 534390
Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board, Tel. 01997 421160
Parking Roadside parking at reference NG 784 151
Bus Kyle - Glenelg - Arnside Postbus, Tel. 0845 7740740
Train Kyle of Lochalsh 25m/40km
Refreshment The Glenelg Inn, Glenelg,
by Kyle of Lochalsh, Rosshire, IV40 8JR,
Tel. 01599 522273
Toilets and baby changing facilities Glenelg.

Other places Nearby
Bright Water Visitor Centre, The Pier, Kyleakin,
Tel. 01599 530040
Glen Beag Brochs at grid reference NG 829 173

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell: ISBN 0140039236
More by Mike Clark: on his site 'Ring of Bright Otters'
and externally at www.britishexpat.com, on the page http://britishexpat.com/category/expat-uk/clarks-caledonia/.
More about: www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk

This article originally appeared in Living History magazine, April 2003.