A trip to Scarba

The Isle of Scarba is an uninhabited island off the west coast of Argyll. It lies to the north of the Isle of Jura and is separated from it by the notorious Gulf of Corryvreckan. North of Scarba lies the island of Lunga, which is separated from Scarba by the Bealach a’ Choin Ghlais, or the “Grey Dogs” as it is locally known.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

The opportunity to visit the island came about when I came across a message on a ramblers’ bulletin board (I hasten to add that I am not a rambler) advertising the trip and offering spaces to any comers with some walking experience. I contacted André, who was the mover and shaker behind the expedition, and managed to snaffle a place. We also managed to snaffle places for The Bikers, our illustrious neighbours, at the last minute. The last member of the party that assembled to board the Farsain, the charter boat from Craobh Haven, was a chap called Peter.

The forecast for the day was, frankly, crummy, and I’d prepared for a long day out in the wet with no shelter. There were showers as we crossed to Scarba, but it wasn’t raining when we landed. One delight on the crossing was my first ever sighting of puffins, two of whom were fishing on the water off the Scarba coast.
The intention was that we would make our way to the summit of the island, Cruach Scarba, and the route selected was following the pony track that ran southward through the centre of the island.

The next landmark we came across was Loch Airigh a’Chruidh. Unfortunately, where the map indicated a footbridge to cross the burn that fed the loch, this had completely disappeared into a deep gully in the peat; this was just about jumpable.

This picture shows the pony track itself as it skirts around some of the crags on the southern side of the island:

The views south over the Gulf of Corryvreckan and to the Isle of Jura were spectacular as the path itself was about 800′ in altitude at this point.


The climb to the summit involved an easy ascent for about one kilometre up grassy slopes. Towards the top, there was much gnashing of maps by the ramblers who set off in an oblique direction, while I used the basic Argyll technique of looking at the land and heading off towards the summit. This method secured me a quiet ten minutes at least at the summit before everyone else arrived.

The trig pillar at the top of Cruach Scarba is one of the “Vanessa” types, a concrete cylinder instead of the tapering square pillar more commonly found.
Lunch over, the party divided, with the rambling portion returning the way they came. The Bikers and I decided that it would be a shame not to try to attempt a different route back and we crossed north-east until we came to a burn that ran northwards, intending to follow it down until we came to the pony track that ran around the north side of the island.

The walking down this valley was fantastic; good going underfoot and primroses, violets and daisies in profusion. Deer watched us from the heights of the crags. The views forward over the islands to the north of Scarba were superb, for by this time the sun had come out and we were able to shed all the wet-weather gear.
We came down quite quickly to the pony track and, with plenty of time in hand, followed it around to the north-west corner of the island and drank in the views. We could see as far as Ardnave Point on Islay, the Isle of Colonsay, the Gavallechs, Ben More on Mull as the cloud finally began to lift from its summit and all the small islands to the north, including the closest, Lunga.

We made a leisurely trek back to the quay to await the Farsain, which arrived punctually to take us off the island. An excellent day out, and there are more photos on Flickr for those who’ve managed to read this far.

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4 Responses to “A trip to Scarba”

  1. Armin Says:

    Great story and beautiful pictures, thanks for writing it up! I think I’ll have to try to get there one day as well.

  2. Colin Campbell Says:

    Fantastic memories of my hillwalking and climbing days when I was at the University of Stirling. Not too many great days like you had, more blizzards, wind, rain, sleet, snow. Still great solitary activity.

  3. Pat the Chooks Says:

    Colin,
    Delighted I gave you some happy memories, although the island has to take the credit, rather than the traveller. It was one of those great days when the sun shines for you and the skies and seas open their secrets to the camera.

  4. A Flickr set for the Isle of Scarba « Pat the Chooks Says:

    […] the Isle of Scarba Sunday, 15 February 2009 — patthechooks Further to the post on the Isle of Scarba, I’ve added a set to Flickr with my pictures from that trip. There’s also a Flickr […]


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