Touring The Inner Hebrides

Date of Journey June 2014
Michael Steciuk South Wirral

I have a fascination for islands. Islands have a spiritual presence, an essence of personality. Islands have the power to stir the imagination with impressions of isolation, remoteness and seclusion. And so it was with anticipated wonder that in June 2014 I set sail for the Isle of Eigg, sensing the sting of adventure.

 Eigg is the true essence of an offshore island – it is only accessible by a foot passenger ferry - all visitors have to leave their cars on the mainland. This meant that I had to be sensible and travel light. I also realised that I was travelling over to one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides group on the west coast of Scotland where the weather at any time of year is notoriously fickle so I had to seriously consider strong, adaptable and protective clothing.

I have worn Rohan clothing for many years so fully acknowledge the unique lightweight nature, versatility and, a vitally important consideration on this trip, the packability capabilities of the clothing range.

Day after day I walked endlessly on Eigg. Carrying a heavy photo backpack and tripod for long walks between locations can be warm, weary and sweaty. Wearing layered Rohan clothing allowed me the versatility and capability to be comfortable at all times and not having to worry about the performance of my clothing allowed me the freedom to be more creative and expressive with my photography.

The island is only 5 miles long and around 3 miles wide but has the distinction of possessing arguably two of the most dramatic and photogenic beaches in the whole of Scotland, Bay of Laig and Camas Sgiotaig – the Singing Sands. They are separated by a wild and windswept headland where the beautiful expanse of white sands and stunning rock formations on both beaches can be wonderfully observed. The headland’s elevated position also offers a spectacular viewpoint of the aquamarine waters of the Bay as they stretch smoothly and seamlessly to the cloud capped Isle of Rum which must surely boast the most dynamic photographic backdrop imaginable. This is wild landscape at its best so understandably as a keen photographer I spent a lot of my time on this exposed headland either walking between the two beach locations or just simply waiting for suitable light to photograph landscapes, seascapes and stunning sunsets.

My collection of Rohan Core ‘T’ shirts were worn as daily base layers as I have long been impressed by the superb wicking properties of these lightweight shirts. I also found wearing a loose fitting Rohan Expedition shirt over my Core ‘T’ shirt both practical and extremely comfortable and coupled with a either a Vital zip fleece or Microgrid Stowaway top provided an ideal layering system allowing lightness when active walking as well as providing much needed warmth when required, as even during the summer months the evenings can become a tad chilly as I patiently waited and waited for sunset after sunset.

My Men’s Backpackers and Goas have over the years been battered and hammered in all manner of habitats and environments. The Backpackers and the Goas easily coped with this variety of terrain, which is so typical of offshore islands, and their lightweight benefits and excellent wicking capabilities certainly enhanced my long days in this huge outdoor Hebridean theatre of wide-open skies, unspoilt beaches, sunshine, shadow, cloud and rain.

Much of the hiking I did on Eigg was upon long sweeping beaches, along narrow sheep tracks, through inhospitable knee high heather and bracken, with the occasional scramble over grassy headlands and abrasive shoreline rocks and boulders.

On Eigg you are directly in touch with the raw elements of nature including the weather and on many occasions vertical tides of Hebridean showers would flow in ruthlessly without warning. It was on these occasions that I truly valued my Elite Mountain jacket. It proved to be 100% waterproof and 100% windproof with a useful fully functional hood, and on every occasion that I had the need to wear it, it kept me totally dry. I also carried a pair of Elite over trousers which with their practical long length side zips meant that I could quickly and easily pull them on over my hiking boots when those showers arrived. They also provide a nice roomy fit with a superbly fully functional waistband and together with a useful elasticated panel at the rear allows easy adjustment for further comfort. They are also 100% waterproof and 100% windproof. These two items also have the advantage of packing into such a small enough size that I keep them both permanently tucked away within a side pocket on my photo backpack ensuring that I always have a suitable and reliable personal waterproof system with me at all times.

My photo rucksack has a built-in all weather cover which, if required, I can deploy to completely cover the entire rucksack if rain arrives. I like to describe my Elite Mountain jacket and Elite over trousers as my own ‘all weather’ system matching the all-weather characteristics of my photo rucksack ensuring that both myself and my photographic equipment can be kept safe and dry at all times.

As a keen wildlife photographer I always pack a small lightweight hide when travelling in the hope of discovering shy and secretive wildlife and securing images should suitable conditions occur. I’m glad I did on this trip as during May and June the varied habitat of the coast is particularly suited to ground nesting birds, in particular Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers. Sat for long periods in a cramped hide can be uncomfortable but staying alert during these sessions is vital if I am to successfully observe and photograph any unfolding wildlife activity. I find that the combination of a Rohan Cargo Vest worn together with either a Microgrid Crew top or a Vital Crew fleece during any prolonged hide sessions keeps me warm enough to be both snug and comfortable. Also, as equally important, these tops are incredibly soft and quiet so I can rest assured that there will be no undue disturbance to any photographic subject due to a noisy, rasping garment. The Rohan Cargo Vest is practical and has loads of convenient and spacious pockets of all sizes which are useful to store photographic gear. The cushioned neck collar also provides effective comfort and is particularly beneficial when I have to crouch down to look through my camera viewfinder.

Having to travel to Eigg without a car was a new experience to me as I always pack lots of spare Rohan clothing in the car when travelling. Packing lightweight clothing for the duration of the trip was easy and useful but I would have dearly liked to have taken my trusty Axiom Shell jacket as it has served me well for many years. Putting sentiment to one side though – the Elite Mountain jacket and Elite over trousers have proved to be a more practical and lighter alternative, and as protective and as waterproof as the Axiom Mountain jacket so I’m finding myself using this superb outdoor jacket less and less in the field.

Quite simply my collection of Rohan core ‘T’ shirts was invaluable. It can get really warm in the Scottish Hebridean sunshine during June, as equally it can get very very wet – so without my Elite Mountain jacket and Elite over trousers I would have easily become uncomfortably saturated – not a good idea on an exposed and remote Hebridean island, so quite simply I couldn’t have managed without this perfect waterproof suit combination.

Travelling everywhere on foot for a week, without a car, was a great leveller. It taught me to condition and pace myself sensibly on a daily basis and, remarkably, by just simply slowing down it’s amazing how easily the senses become attuned to details within the surrounding landscape and become aware and appreciative of the stunning beauty of the secret wildlife of Eigg.

Over the years, and particularly during my time on Eigg, Rohan clothing has kept me warm, dry, comfortable and protected. I still own and regularly wear Rohan clothing that I’ve possessed for many years and that is an important consideration. It has lasted for year after year, it still performs well, it still looks a treat and the fleece tops and crew tops have retained their shape wear after wear, wash after wash – no question. The clothing range is tough, hard wearing, functional and durable as well as being lightweight and roomy, versatile and adaptable, and I find it perfectly suited for either wearing individually or as a more personally suited layering system.

If you crave isolation and intrigue and the sheer raw beauty of nature with wild landscape at its best then visit the Isle of Eigg.

The Isle of Eigg has an aura like no other place I’ve visited, a sense of anticipation of a hidden and wild essence that runs through the landscape and shines through in the friendliness and kindness of its people.

The lightweight capabilities, optimum comfort, and flexibility of Rohan clothing freely allowed me to tune myself into the true rhythms of this Hebridean island inspiring limitless adventures and fusing evocative moments and silver laced memories so magically together.