It was on the Sunday of our first week on Islay that we decided to explore the eastern shore of Loch Gruinart. The sky was blue and a little breeze made the conditions for a walk just perfect. From the Gruinart Flats you can take the single track road to Craigens and Killinallan on the eastern side of Loch Gruinart. After a few miles passing Islay Oysters and the abandonded cottage of Crois Mhor you will find a gate and here you can park your car and start your walk. We parked our car a mile before the gate and enjoyed a little visit to the Crois Mhor cottage. It must be great to live here all alone in such a beautiful area. It even has its own spring water supply but the cottage is owned by the estate and there are no plans to restore it in its former glory. We continued on the road towards the gate enjoying the magnificent views and just after the gate we turned left where you have access to the beach. The track itself continuous northeast and passes Killinallan Farm. As soon as we walked near the beach we heard seals but didn't see them immediately. It was later that we discovered a seal colony of around 80! on a sandbank in the middle of Loch Gruinart. They were basking in the warm sunshine and we enjoyed watching them as much as they enjoyed lying there.
This is a very remote and quiet part of Islay and despite the lovely weather we were the only ones walking there. We continued our walk following the waterline and enjoyed the Eiderducks on the water, the Oystercatchers continously flying around us, the Dunlins running over the sands to avoid us and observed all the little colourful bits and pieces of vegetation which were washed upon the shore. With the sun on your right looking over the loch the water has these amazing colours which change from all varieties of blue to light green and back. Combined with the blue skies and white sands it felt like we were on some tropical island.
Already when you start walking you see the distant sand dunes ahead of you and although Killinallan Point looks quite close, the total distance to Killinallan Point is roughly two or three miles. Walking over the sand doesn't make the going easier but the immense tranquility makes up for that. When you arrive at Killinallan Point and reach the open ocean you feel like you're alone in the world with nothing but stunning scenery around you. The sand is white, the sea is tropical blue and the silence is overwhelming. All you hear are the calm waves rolling on the shore and some birds. On the other side of Loch Gruinart is the abandoned settlement of Tayovulin where in the old days herring was brought in by ship from the Western Isles and processed on Islay. A bit further north is Sgeir na Nighinn, a rocky outcrop just before Ardnave Point. To the north you can see the Balach Rocks and behind them the isles of Oronsay and Colonsay. Two miles to the east you can see Gortantaoid Point, the beginning of an even remoter part of Islay and the end of this beautiful white beach. Killinallan Point itself and the land behind it consists of dunes and you can see the most amazing wind blown structures in the sand. Here we enjoyed the silence and had a little picknick before we returned over the beach and single track road to Crois Mhor where we had parked the car. By then the seals were all gone due to the high tide, I guess we were very lucky to have seen them in such big numbers.
This was a very relaxing and interesting walk and with the same weather conditions we had I can really recommend it. Don't forget however to bring your binoculars, you will need them to closely observe the seals on the sandbank and all the other wildlife.