Isle of Eigg, Day 4: Cathedral Caves & Cèilidh Rehearsal

I roused early the next morning, despite having stayed up late at the Galmisdale Bay Café & Bar the night before. (See my previous post, Isle of Eigg, Day 3: Island of the Big Women, Part 2, for more on that.) Ailidh, my AirBnB host, drove us home from the bar the night before. She drove 10km/hr along the main road (that’s just over 5 miles per hour for my American friends), as it was still light out and many of the young sheep were blocking the roads, looking for their mothers, before settling in for the night. “The Corrs,” I gasped, shuffling through a few of Ailidh’s CDs in the side pocket of her passenger door. “Pop it in!” Ailidh exclaimed enthusiastically and soon we were belting, “Go on, go on, leave me breathless!” 

Over the past few days, I’d become accustomed to the sounds of animals outside (and sometimes inside) Ailidh’s caravan. The caravan, parked a short stroll away from Ailidh’s house, sat at the edge of her garden, where the garden met the marshland, before the marshland stopped abruptly and became the sandy beach of the Bay of Laig. From there, I could hear all sorts of wildlife throughout my stay, including one small creature that seemed to find its way inside the caravan and keep me up at night. Now, however, something larger and more cumbersome was making its presence known outside my door. I unhinged the latch to find Fulan, Ailidh’s dog, alerting me to the fact that it had – finally – stopped raining on the Isle of Eigg.

After playing fetch with Fulan on the shore, I headed off on the main road, back to Galmisdale Bay, to return the bike I’d rented from Laraine and Owain at Eigg Adventures. I had agreed to return the bike on Thursday, rather than Friday (my last day on the island), because Laraine and Owain had numerous bookings scheduled for Friday, and I’d rented the bike from them last minute. Many visitors were scheduled to descend upon the island because of the cèilidh that marked the end of Fèis Eige – an annual festival of traditional music and culture – set to take place at the Eigg Community Hall on Friday, July 12th, 2019.

Before returning my bike, however, I had to make a stop at the Swap Shop (pictured on the left, or above if you’re viewing on your phone).

The Swap Shop is connected to The Old Shop/Museum on the main road, and as I mentioned in a previous post, you really can’t miss it. Ailidh had parked her car and brought me in the night before, to search for a pair of shoes I could wear while she let my hiking boots dry on the radiator inside her house overnight. I ended up with a pair of men’s size 12 wellies. I learned then, while rummaging through the shop near midnight, that the Swap Shop is never closed and never locked; the door is always open, and you can take or leave whatever you like.

So, the next day, I returned the men’s size 12 wellies and also decided to leave behind the book I’d just finished, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I sometimes wonder if anyone ever picked it up, or if it’s still sitting there.

Cathedral Caves

After returning my bike, I ran into Ailidh at the Galmisdale Bay Café & Bar. She looked so natural sitting at one of the picnic tables outside of the café, with a book in her hand and the breeze in her hair. In that moment, I yearned to trade places with her. I longed to hold on to the slow way of island life, and dreaded going back to my fast-paced existence in New York City. “She’s got under your skin,” Ailidh said to me the night before. By “she,” Ailidh was referring to Eigg, and my darling host couldn’t have been more right. We made plans to have dinner together later that afternoon – Ailidh offering me a home cooked meal in her kitchen, which I eagerly agreed to – before returning to the Galmisdale Bay Café & Bar later that evening, to listen to the instrumentalists rehearse for the cèilidh the following night.

The Isle of Eigg’s Massacre and Cathedral Caves are located near Galmisdale Bay on the Southern tip of the island. The views on the walk, between the bay and the caves, are absolutely spectacular. Behind me, I could see Galmisdale Bay, and in front of me, cliffs dropped into the Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Muck sat – like a jewel atop a crown – on the horizon. In Cleadale, the rain gave rise to several waterfalls along the cliffs that hadn’t been there the day I arrived. The same might be true of the waterfall I captured in the image on the left (or above if you’re viewing on your phone). Sheep grazed along the cliff top, unfazed by my presence, as I reached the start of the steep descent down to the shore.

Please enjoy these photos I took from the trail:

Cèilidh Rehearsal

After a delicious home cooked meal, and equally delicious conversation, Ailidh drove us to the Galmisdale Bay Café & Bar where the instrumentalists would soon be rehearsing for the cèilidh the following night. I’d arranged to meet the young women volunteering on the island, and found them on a picnic table out the back, trading beers and binoculars as dolphins danced in the Bay. 

Please check out my Instagram Reel (posted yesterday, August 30th) on @marymakesprints for a video compilation from this unbelievably beautiful evening, as I am unable to upload video content here.

Thanks, as always, for following along! My next and final post on the Isle of Eigg will be up in just a few moments. Stay tuned!

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