I had been warned of the 'murderous hoardes' of midges on such a lovely day on the Isle of Rum, but yet again nothing, not even the most vicious small insect, could ruin this perfect Scottish island paradise for me.
Skye and Eigg had been so fabulous I couldn't see how Rum could compare, but this just may be my favourite of the Highland Small Isles. Sailing into the small cove at Guirdil, past an old wrecked French trawler to add a frisson of excitement, we were soon among green majestic rolling hills.
The view from the 571 metre summit of Orval was stunning. And the day's early wildlife rewards were a golden eagle and an otter. Rum is now mainly a nature reserve managed by Scottish National Heritage, and the walking and dramatic coastal views are fabulous.
It is more well known for being home to Kinloch Castle, built in 1900 by its millionaire owner Sir George Bullough. The red sandstone pile is actually more of a house than a castle but there you go. There is a scandalous story about how the family got their title involving King Edward VII and a messy divorce suit. And what the young landlord got up to inside his castle sounds equally eyebrow raising. The castle was officially closed for my visit, but it was more thrilling to press my nose up against the windows and see the grand piano draped with a leopard skin, and the polar bear rug. These are just a few remnants of the no expense spared attitude to filling his home/castle with fineries that Sir George had. Thank goodness the island is now in safer hands following a community buy out.
But no wealth on this earth could buy the treat in store on the boat ride home. Our small boat was suddenly accompanied by a pod of 200 playful dolphins. It was one of the most thrilling experiences you could imagine to have them swim alongside the boat, leaping in the air as they went, for miles. Divinely beautiful creatures which it was an absolute privilege to witness.