The ferry docked in Galmisdale Bay, and those of us visiting Eigg for the day, or longer, disembarked. Galmisdale Bay is on the Southeast edge of the Isle of Eigg, and it is where both the Small Isles Ferry and the M.V. Sheerwater dock upon arrival. (See my previous post, Isle of Eigg, Day 1: Getting to Eigg, for more information on the Small Isles Ferry and the M.V. Sheerwater.)
Galmisdale Bay could be described as Eigg’s One-Stop-Shop. It is home to the Galmisdale Bay Café & Bar, the Isle of Eigg Craftshop, Eigg’s Post Office, and Eigg Adventures. If you are planning on spending one night or more on the island, you’ll likely want to pick up a few groceries (as well as beer, wine, or spirits, if you fancy) in Galmisdale Bay, before heading to your accommodation. (The vast majority of accommodation on Eigg is self-catering, however, there are a few exceptions.)
Tentatively, I approached Eigg Adventures. Eigg Adventures offers bikes and kayaks for hire, as well as a wide range of other outdoor activities on and around the island. I approached tentatively for two reasons – one, I had not enquired about hiring a bicycle in advance (poor planning on my part), and two, I had not been on a bicycle in approximately 10 years.
Despite my last minute enquiry, I received a warm welcome from Owain and Laraine, the husband and wife team behind Eigg Adventures. “We’ll have something for you,” Laraine assured me, kindly, and requested that I wait a short while as she and Owain assisted the visitors that had booked in advance. Happily, I obliged, and used the time to take a few pictures around Galmisdale Bay.
“Alright, why don’t you try riding it down the pier and back?” Laraine smiled.
The pier was empty now. The ferry was gone. There were still a few people scattered around the picnic tables outside the Galmisdale Bay Café & Bar, but I was grateful that, at the very least, I wouldn’t have a large audience if I fell off the bicycle and on my face.
I swung my leg over the bicycle and gripped the handlebars. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I thought of my childhood in Oakland, California. I remembered when I used to waste the days away, riding bicycles, with my twin brother and our neighbourhood friends. I remembered the rush I used to feel as I rode down and around Oakland’s steep hills and sharp corners, the thrill I used to feel as I lightly squeezed the brakes, as late as I possibly could. “Do you know how fast you were going?” A friend or, more likely, a parental figure would ask me. Coyly, I’d feign my surprise, and in a matter of minutes, I’d be back on my bicycle with the wind in my hair – just as it was now, along the pier in Galmisdale Bay.
I was just about to set off on my grand adventure, when Laraine eyed my backpack and asked, “You’re going to wear that?”
“Um,” I hesitated.
“Where are you staying?”
“Oh, um, Cleadale, in a caravan—”
“Ailidh’s,” Laraine relieved me of my babbling. She was correct – Ailidh was, in fact, the name of my AirBnB host – but, before I could compliment Laraine on her excellent guesswork, she had already retreated into the storefront to have a brief conversation with Owain.
I watched as Owain shuffled out of the bike hire, and made his way over to a man standing nearby, leaning against a green van in the car park.
“We’ll see if Greg can take it for you,” Laraine explained, “He’ll usually drop bags off for a small amount, if he has the space.”
“Greg’ll take it for you,” Owain confirmed, as he, and the man who I assumed to be Greg approached.
“Oh, wow!” I exclaimed. “Thank you so much,” I continued to gush, as I fumbled around inside my wallet for what I hoped would be an adequate “small amount” as payment. I handed him a £10 note.
“Don’t be daft!” Greg refused. “Give me £2.”
£2 it was.
“Turn right at the fork in the road, go up the steep hill, follow the road, go down the next steep hill, and you’ll be in Cleadale.” I repeated Laraine’s instructions to myself. Naturally, there were two roads at the fork – a dirt road, leading up a hill, and a paved road (the road Laraine had instructed me to follow), leading and disappearing through a thicket of trees. I approached the fork, ready to set off for Cleadale, but a sign caught my eye. “Eigg Makers’ Market” it read, in joyful block lettering, with a big block arrow pointing towards the dirt road leading up the hill. Promptly, I ignored Laraine’s directions, and headed up the hill.
In the summer of 2019, when I visited the island, the Isle of Eigg Community Hall (just up the dirt road) hosted the Eigg Makers’ Market every Monday, 10 AM – 4 PM, from the end of June through the beginning of September. The market, comprised of several stalls in and around the Isle of Eigg Community Hall (a lovely, modest building, nestled amongst trees), provided an opportunity for local artisans and craftspeople to display their work and/or products. A few of the craftspeople offered workshops, as well. I can’t find any information on this year’s Makers’ Market, but I believe it is an annual event on the island in the spring and summer months. (I might not be able to find any current information due to COVID-19. I will update this post when/if I find anything.)
Eigg Makers’ Market
The Eigg Makers’ Market showcased a wide variety of arts and crafts, all made locally on the Isle of Eigg, including, but not limited to, felt work and wall hangings by Libby Galli, photography and cyanotype prints by Justine Ritchie, baskets by All About Willow Basket Makers, and a selection of beers by Laig Bay Brewing Co..
The Isle of Eigg Community Hall provided tea and other hot drinks, as well as a selection of biscuits and cakes. I paid the suggested donation for a cup of tea, and thought, “What the hell?” and purchased a bottle of beer from Laig Bay Brewing Co., as well. A group of young musicians began to congregate within the Community Hall. I sat at a small table, and enjoyed a song, or two – or three – as I sipped my tea and savoured Laig Bay Brewing Co.’s splendid session ale.
On my way out the door, I noticed a few stalls I hadn’t seen on my way in. They weren’t local artisans or craftspeople, but volunteers from the Scottish Wildlife & Heritage Trusts. I spoke with three different volunteers, each around my age, and I learned two things: One, I had picked an absolutely fortuitous week to visit the island, as this week happened to be Fèis Eige – an annual festival of traditional music and culture on Eigg (hence the young musicians playing in the Community Hall). Oh, and two, the Scottish Wildlife Trust offered a Guided Nature Walk, with a Scottish Wildlife Trust Ranger, on the island, every Wednesday, May – August, at 11 AM.
How fortunate! I hadn’t made any definitive plans for my time on Eigg. Usually a fastidious planner, I thought, for a change, I’d leave it up to fate, and fate, it seemed, had intervened.
Or, so I thought.
First, I had ignored Laraine’s directions, and then I had forgotten them. Thankfully, one of the locals at the Eigg Makers’ Market provided me with a new set of directions on how to get to Cleadale from the Community Hall. I would come to know this path very, very well over the next few days – I would traverse it by foot, bicycle, and car – in sun, rain, storm, and a fog thick enough to give the only cab driver on all of Eigg a moment’s pause.
All that and more, to come.
I’ll share Part 2 of my journey from Galmisdale Bay to Cleadale next Monday.
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All names and conversations are remembered to the best of my abilities. You’ll notice I have not yet typed any dialogue in Scots. This is because I have an American accent, and nearly all the individuals I’d met on Eigg, up until this point, were originally from England! There will be Scots to come.