Isle Ristol Summer Isles

Introduction

Isle Ristol, the innermost of the Summer Isles in Scotland, is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve. Lying roughly 12 miles north of Ullapool in Wester Ross, it is a tidal island, in Loch an Alltain Duibh, that is separated by a narrow channel from Old Dorney Bay. Access is by boat from Old Dornie

Isle Ristol
Approaching Isle Ristol, Summer Isles

Location

Information

Isle Ristol, the innermost of the Summer Isles and is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve.

Lying roughly 12 miles (19 km) north of Ullapool in Wester Ross, it is a tidal island, in Loch an Alltain Duibh, that is separated by a narrow channel from Old Dorney Bay. Access is by boat from Old Dornie or on foot if you time the tides correctly.

Over fifty higher species have been identified amongst the flora on the Isle Ristol machair, amongst which are moonwort and adder’s tongue. Isle Ristol was a site of a British Fishery Society station in the late 18th century.

Isle Ristol
Isle Ristol view to Summer Isles Wester Ross

I paddled the dinghy quietly up to the sandy beach. The sounds that Isles Ristol greeted me with was the lapping and washing of the waves and bird sounds as they swooped and dashed above in the blue sky. With the dinghy dragged well up the beach and made I turned and set off for the high point.

Isle Ristol Scotislands
Isle Ristol Cotton Grass

The island was simply alive with wildlife and fauna of all sorts and types. The 71m top is unnamed on an OS map and my trusty Haswell Smith Scottish Islands bible does not list the island. It was a steady climb with one false peak that had me dip back down into a hollow before reaching the top ridge and the little cairn. All the way I picked a route that offered the secure stability of the bared rock rather than the risks of the deep grass meadowlands and hidden holes and ditches to stumble down.

Isle Ristol Scotislands
Grass Meadow Isle Ristol

I topped the hill, pulled off my rucksack and the north wind chilled my sweating back. The views were breath-taking. Away to the west the shadow of the Hebrides was clearly visible. Inland the Westerross massif build layer upon layer of mountain and peaks into the distance. Below there lay a brilliant white sandy beach and then across the Dorney Sound the mainland slipway with cars and vans provided a splash of colour.

Isle Ristol Summer isles Scotislands
Top of Isle Ristol with Loch Broom and Summer Isles to the south

Isle Ristol is a very special place and one to spend half a day wandering and getting to know. Not for me and after the obligatory photoshoot I was off down the grassy slopes in search of that white beach.

Scotislands Isle Ristol Summer Isles
Rush hour on north beach facing Loch an Alltain Duibh

On the beach, I chatted with a family who had landed by dinghy and were a little surprised to see me emerge from the western side of the island. After a quick exchange, I made my way back over to my landing beach glad to have sight again of Trade Winds at anchor in a fairly stiff offshore breeze.

It was on my way back that I found terrible sight. A mature gull lay dead in the grass. The poor animal was wrapped in nylon twine and had without doubt suffered a terrible and agonising slow death. In and around this pitiful sight lay other detritus and waste from fishing boats. Lengths of nett nylon cordage, rope, floats and offcuts of bits of netting.

Isle Ristol Scotislands
Killed by fishing gear discard !

 

Dorney Sound Isle Ristol
Fishing boats at mooring Dorney Sound

Over to the bay resting on their buoys lay half a dozen small fishing boats. You did not need to be Sherlock Homes to work this one out. Often, we, the public carry the can for discarding rubbish and plastics but to see the amount of fishing ropes and twine lying on the high water mark grass and the poor garrotted seagull just makes my blood boil! That is industrial waste, I can think of no other industry that discards its waste as was evident on Isle Ristol. I see no baler twine or empty seedling boxes discarded at farm roadsides!

Isle Ristol Scotislands
Isle Ristol sea kayak group

I made my way back to the beach to catch a group of sea kayakers pushing off, intent on exploring more perfect islands. I too paddled off the island, an island that left its mark as a place of absolute unspoilt beauty and one of man’s ignorance.