Having previously visited Eigg, Rum and Muck, I was really looking forward to visiting Canna, the furthest away and possibly least accessible of the Small Isles. It is only possible to visit Canna for a day trip on a Saturday. This gives you a substantial 8 hours on the island and is the next best thing to actually staying on the island.
The ferry departed from Mallaig at 7.30 am. The first port of call was the isle of Rum. Once the passengers had alighted (and been picked up), we headed for Canna. Interestingly, it was the first time I had really seen the west coast of Rum and there was a lovely sandy beach at Kilmory and nearby was the ship wreck of a French Trawler, the FV Jack Abry II, abandoned in 2011.
As Canna came into view, I got that tingle of excitement that I always get when I visit an island for the first time. I stepped off the ferry and started walking towards the Rocket Church or Saint Columba’s Presbyterian Church as it is more formally known. On the way, there was a ‘Welcome to Canna’ sign and beneath this there was a leaflet/map available to buy for a £1. It was well worth the investment. The map is an excellent resource and gives clear routes for the sign-posted walks and other points of interest on the island.
The first place that I visited was the Rocket Church, so called you will be astounded to hear, because it looks like a rocket. The side door was open, so I sauntered in expecting to see the inside of a tiny island church. Instead there was a rather informative display on the island that I read for about 15 minutes. I took some photo’s and then made my way back onto the track outside.
I perused the map again and decided that I would like to visit St Edwards Church (now a Gaelic Study Centre) on the neighbouring island of Sanday linked to Canna by a bridge. I did this first, as I knew this would be the longest route that I would be walking. I made my way along the main single track road to the bridge. I passed Cafe Canna (for more information on Cafe Canna read my article – Cafe Canna). Past Cafe Canna was Canna House and the Post Office. Further on was St Columba’s Chapel and also the Dairy Shed Heritage Centre, where there was another interpretive display on island life with specific focus on the Dairy.
Another 10 minute walk saw me walking over the road bridge to the Isle of Sanday. I studied the map again and decided to visit the beach, which was a couple of minutes walk from the Sanday side of the bridge. I made my way to the beach and sat down on the grassy hill above. What a glorious scene! I treated myself to a snack from my trusty rucksack and sat there for about 20 minutes admiring the picturesque scenery. There was nothing to disturb me and with the warm sun shining down, I felt like I was in my own private paradise. I could quite happily have stayed there all day, but there was a lot more of the island to see.
I made my way back to the main track on Sanday and onwards towards St Edwards Church. As the tide was in, the track disappeared in places, so I had to carefully traverse the rocks and grassy slopes at the side of the track, whilst continuing on towards the Church. It was a long walk but eventually, I was able to reach the Church, which is now a Gaelic Study Centre. Unfortunately, the Church was closed, so I took some more pictures of the church and also of the Harbour on Canna and then made my way back to the bridge.
I had my lunch in the Cafe (cheese and tomato toastie – very nice) and then made my way to Coroghon Castle and Coroghon beach. The route was easily walked in about 10 minutes. Coroghan Castle is a medieval prison tower believed to have been built as a prison to confine his wife, by a jealous husband.
From Coroghan Castle, I made my way back past the Cafe and shop and onto the next walk, which included a visit to John Lorne Campbell’s grave, an early Christian Cross and the Punishment Stone, where ‘wrong-doers’ had their thumbs inserted and twisted. Nice!
The track to John Lorne Campbell’s grave is through a small, dark wooded area and then the path continues through the wood to the splendid early Christian Cross. From there, it is a bit of a tramp over high ground to the raised Punishment Stone, located on a mound nearby. Then a path continues past the graveyard and back onto the main road.
All this walking had made me very thirsty, so I made my way back to the cafe and treated myself to a cup of coffee, whilst I waited for the ferry to arrive. Before setting off, I had a quick look in the all-purpose shop/waiting room and had a cursory browse through the various Canna-related items for sale. In the shop, you can also make yourself a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate and put the money in an Honesty Box on the counter.
Eventually it was time to go and I made my way to the ferry. As the ferry slowly pulled away, I reflected on my time on Canna. I had really enjoyed the day and I felt that there was more than enough to do on the island for 8 hours. The quiet solitude of this lovely island had really grown on me. I will definitely be back and next time I may bring my bike, as Canna is ideal for cycling. And as my poor feet will testify, it is great for walking too.