Isle of Eigg, Day 1: Getting to Eigg

“Is this the queue for the Small Isles ferry?” I asked the couple at the end of the queue forming along the outskirts of the Mallaig Ferry Terminal.

“We hope,” one answered, with a smile and a shrug. 

I nodded, and smiled in return. Ahead of the couple in front of me was another couple, followed by another, and another, and so on, until a family broke the chain. It occurred to me then that I was the only lone traveller standing in the queue. This was a distinction I had not made – or thought to make – the last time I queued for a ferry, all by my lonesome, at the Mallaig Ferry Terminal.

Getting to the Isle of Eigg

There are two ways to get to the Isle of Eigg. 

The first option is the Small Isles Ferry operated by Caledonian Macbrayne. (If you’ve been on a ferry in Scotland before, it was most likely operated by Caledonian Macbrayne.)

Departure Point: Mallaig Ferry Terminal

Trip Time: 1 hr & 15 mins

Cost: Adult Return, £8.40

Timetables & Fares: Click here for 16 July – 18 October 2020 Small Isles Timetables & Fares.

The second way to get to the Isle of Eigg is by riding the M.V. Sheerwater

Departure Point: Arisaig Harbour

Trip Time: 1 hr

Cost: Adult Return, £18

Timetables & Fares: Click here for more information on the M.V. Sheerwater’s 2020 sailings.

Unlike the Small Isles Ferry, the M.V. Sheerwater is designed to optimize the ocean-going experience for its passengers. A smaller and faster vessel than the Caledonian Macbrayne’s Small Isles Ferry, the M.V. Sheerwater seeks out and rides alongside marine wildlife throughout the course of its journey. Sightings have included dolphins, whales, basking sharks, and more.

It is important to note that neither the Small Isles Ferry nor the M.V. Sheerwater sail to Eigg every day of the week. So, unless you’re a mermaid, I would advise taking a thoughtful look at the timetables above, and to plan your trip accordingly.

As the ferry picked up speed, the wind whipped a few strands of my hair loose from my hair clip. The loose ends danced around my face as if they could hear You Better You Bet by The Who playing in my earbuds. This is a song that always reminds me of my boyfriend, and perhaps – on the opposite end of the Atlantic Ocean, in a sea of couples – I longed to feel nearer to him in some way. He wouldn’t be awake for another three hours.

I approached the front of the ferry, but it was overcrowded, so I decided to hang back, near the stern, and watch as Mallaig shrank in the distance. I tried to keep my eyes on Mallaig, but there was someone else there, annoyingly close, right in the blindspot where my glasses can’t reach, which is – as all glasses wearers know – the hardest place not to look when tempted.

My mind is far too efficient to have just one doubt. My mind hears one doubt and it pulls open a drawer of doubts from the same filing cabinet and begins to list them in no particular order, “Maybe I should have gone back to Skye, instead.” “Maybe I should have gone up to Orkney.” “Maybe I should have gone to Jura.” “What if I get lonely?”

Just then, as luck would have it, a minke whale, no further than 10 – 15 yards away, lept out of the water, into the air, and did a flip! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked around, desperate to make eye contact with another soul who’d seen what I’d just seen, but there was no one there. Everyone had been crowding the port, watching the Isle of Eigg grow closer. I was one of the few passengers standing near the stern.

“Alright, love?” A woman asked, puzzled by my hand hovering in mid air, concealing my gaping jaw. 

“Whale,” was all I managed, at first. “I just saw a whale.”

“WHALE!!!” The woman cried, and, in an instant, it was the stern of the ferry that was overcrowded.

It is hard to have doubts in Scotland.

The mighty An Sgùrr, as seen from the Small Isles Ferry’s approach to the Isle of Eigg.


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