This morning we headed out on the first foot ferry of the day to Handa Island. The ferry is a small inflatable which carries 12 people and after donning a lifejacket we set off for the island. The boat ride took about 20 minutes and at the beach waiting for us were 2 volunteer rangers who dragged out a makeshift jetty to help us disembark. We were now in the historic village last inhabited in 1847 as a result of the potato famine when all the remaining inhabitants were moved across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia. In the small shed we were given a very detailed introduction to the island track and important safety instructions.
We then headed out on the path to the ruins of the village and continued to Puffin Bay where we saw an array of birds nesting on the cliffs. A little further on is the area known as the Great Stack which is a huge tower of sandstone set apart from the main island. Here there was an incredible density of seabirds and we saw our favourite birds the puffins, a gorgeous bird with a red/orange beak and legs which we first saw in Newfoundland last year. (Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t working because someon , I won’t name him, left the camera card in his laptop so we tried unsuccessfully to take photos on our iPhone). The remaining track is along the coastline with stunning cliffs and a view across the ocean. Today we didn’t see any seals, otters or other marine animals but the 6-mile walk was fantastic. We returned to the mainland and headed along the A838 coastal road once more.
We stopped at the visitor centre in Durness to find out about the car ferry to Orkney and where to go to continue our genealogy quest. The lady there was the registrar of records before they centralised all the highland records in Inverness and was extremely helpful. We will continue our search when we are back in Inverness.
Last stop of the day was Smoo Caves 1 kilometre from Durness. We walked down the steep path to the caves but unless you go on a tour you can only see a very small section which is striking. The last boat tour of the caves had begun just before we arrived, so we decide to wait until tomorrow and go on the first boat trip of the day. We walked out to the headlands, but the wind had really picked up this afternoon and it was hard going to walk in and cold. Even the sheep were having a hard time!
Our campsite tonight is just across the road from the entrance to the caves in a layby on the A838. Hopefully the wind will settle down overnight.