Thursday, 14 October 2010

Indian Summer in North Argyle

Even though the weather forecast was fantastic for kayaking I left my boat (Cliodhna) at home. Sometimes life is about compromising, and so it was on this occasion. Still I had my wife (Jayne) and my fishing rods with me as we traveled through the night to Ledaig near Oban.
We arrived late on Friday night for a well earned rest. Five days holidays and the possibility of an Indian Summer, a bit of fishing and plenty of reading to wind down and relax. Saturday morning revealed that the Indian Summer had arrived. The views across the bay at Ledaig Caravan Park were stunning: a cloudless blue sky, flat calm sea and the southern tip of the Island of Lismore and Island of Mull shimmered in the morning heat haze. North Argyle had shown us her full glory in the soft Autumn sun.
A picture taken earlier in the season from Ben Lora. View looking over the Caravan Park towards the Island of Mull.
Saturday saw us heading into Oban for supplies and the moorings at Dunstaffnage demanded a few pictures.
Connel Bridge and the Falls of Lora on an ebb tide.
Kayakers: sea and river/surf are always attracted to the Fall of Lora at spring tides.
The view up Loch Etive from the Connel Bridge.

The view below the Connel bridge towards the Firth of Lorn.
Sea Kayakers enjoying the ebb flow from Loch Etive.

River/surf kayakers demonstrating their skills on the big wave at the north end of the Connel Bridge.

Most of the time was was taken up by reading, eating and sitting in the sun, enjoying the natural environment. The changing colours on the trees and surrounding vegetation was a pleasure to the eye and soul. The most energetic day was a short trip up to the village of Port Appin, where we walked and were again rewarded by the beautiful surroundings and veiws.
The Island of Shuna from Port Appin.

Bye for now.
David A.

Monday, 13 September 2010


3/4/5 September 2010
This trip found us heading to paddle the waters around Seil Island, just south of Oban. The weather forecast at the beginning of the week looked promising. However, as the weekend arrived the forecast deteriorated: increasing S/E winds and rain. No matter what the weather would throw at us, it’s always a privilege to paddle the waters around this magnificent area of Scotland. This area always offers some sheltered areas to paddle. The group would be made up of four : Steve, David, Jim and myself. After meeting at Oban we headed down to Easdale to camp, and we would launch the following morning. Steve and David looked forward to their first sea kayak/camping experience. Plans were made and if the weather held we would circumnavigate Seil Island at a leisurely pace.
Launching at Easdale.
The weather was perfect we left Easdale behind and paddled north up the Sound of Insh following the west coast of Seil Island. After reaching Rubha Garbh Airde we paddled east towards the yacht anchorage near the skerries at Eilean Buidhe where we had launch. An enjoyable lunch was enhanced by watching the seals swimming and hunting around the skerries.
Lunch with Steve, myself and David.
David getting ready for the water.
After lunch we paddled to the north tip of Seil before heading south, down the narrow channel of Clachan Sound which separates the island from the mainland. As we approached Clachan Bridge (Bridge over the Atlantic) the freshening wind was channelled against us. The bar/pub at Clachan Bridge is known as Tigh an Truish Inn, ‘The House of Trousers’. So named because when the kilt was banned during the Jacobite rebellion, soldiers would change to trousers before heading over to the mainland and change back into their kilts on their way home. As we paddled into Seil Sound the wind increased and the rain came on and it was time to look for a suitable site to camp. We found a small bay just passed Balvicar Bay that gave us some shelter from the wind. Soon the tents were up, we were fed and dry and warm. Luckily the rain stopped and some of the evening was spent round a campfire. Jim as ever kept us amused with endless stories about sea kayaking. Most of them true!!!! Sorry all of them true!!!! Everyone slept well that night.
Our final day on the water was enjoyable as the weather was fine. We headed through Cuan Sound push on by the floodtide and following breeze.
Steve, Jim and David. Otherwise known as (in no particular order) the good the bad and the ugly.
David enjoying his time on the water.
Heading back to Easdale
Soon the trip was over. It had been another great trip: a wonderful environment and greay company.
Easdale Island
As well sea kayaking around this area I have also visited Seil Island and Easdale Island many times with my wife Jayne and my son Stewart when on holiday. Easdale Island is a magical place given the right weather. It has it’s own unique history and atmosphere. Easdale Island has had a colourful history. From the middle of the 17th century to the early 20th century it was an important centre for slate quarrying. The Island had as many as seven working quarries, some of which extended down to 300 feet below sea level. Together with other quarries on the neighbouring islands of Seil, Luing and Belnahua the Island gave its name to the famous Easdale Slate which was exported to Glasgow, Ireland and beyond. At the peak of the industry in the second half of the 19th century the population was in excess of 500. A storm in 1881 flooded the quarries, and thereafter the industry declined until the last slate was cut in the 1950's.
Hope you enjoy some pictures of Easdale Island.
The ferry from Easdale on Seil Island bringing visitors to Eadale Island.

Hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Isle of Islay 30-2 to 2-7-2010 (Final Posting)

The Final Instalment (thank goodness).
30/06/2010 to 02/07/2010.

Due to the 24 hour weather forecast it was decided we would stay off the water. From Ardnave Point to Portnahaven is a pretty exposed coast line with few roads to get the kayaks of the water and back to the ferry if we were caught out. The forecast for evening was: increasing winds 5-7, with gale force 8 expected. It was essential that we got the ferry back on Friday 2nd July as it was my wife’s (Jayne) Birthday on 3rd July. However, this would give me plenty of time to explored Ardnave Point. It was another beautiful morning as I explored Ardnave’s dunes, machair and coastline round to the westside of the point at Eilean Nostaig. Loch Gruinart is noted for the diversity of birdlife due to the estuary and machair.The westcoast of Ardnave Point

The walk round the point as well as revealing that it is a fantastic area also demonstrated that it is a haven for birds, wildlife and butterflies. During the walk I spotted a flock of about 20 Coughs feeding on the machair, an assortment of Terns fishing many coming from Nave Island , Skylark song filled the air, Curlews, Snipe, Corncrakes rasping, Hen Harrier, Sparrow Hawk and the list could go on and on.Early afternoon it was again time to fish the estuary channels of Loch Gruinart for Sea Trout or Sea Bass. I had been watching the seals fishing the estuary since we had arrived. It was an exciting event: Seals crashing, twisting and rolling on the surface of the water before diving with explosive speed in pursuit of their meal.
It’s a tuff life but someone has to do it.

Sea Trout, one of a brace caught.
As the day went on the clouds built up and the wind steadily increased. I walked across the dunes and machair down a track then road to check the estuary channels out and visit Kilnave Chapel and the 5th Century Cross.

Later in the evening we prepared for the coming gale: only the essentials were kept in the tent, just encase it came down or it had to be moved, kayaks were moved to try to deflect some of the wind, paddles were lashed down and a few extra guy-ropes were attached to the tent. The winds started to build but nothing to worry about and I feel asleep about 11pm. At 2am I was wakened with torrential rain and increasing winds. The inner tent was dry but was leaning slightly with the wind, it was reassuring that everything was ok, and again I fell asleep. At 5am I was again wakened by the tent poles hitting me on my back. The tent was lying at 45 degrees, on occasions lower. I didn’t fall back asleep this time!!!!!However, the tent and I made it through (unhurt/damaged) the worst weather we had camped in.
In the morning Loch Gruinart had changed its character from a tropical looking lagoon into a grey caldron of anger. The open sea must still have been hellish because for the first time Gannets were fishing in Loch Gruinart. However, no matter what the weather was like it was a special day: It was Jim’s 60th Birthday. Yes he does look only 57!!!!! The rest of the day: Jim hitched to Port Ellen to get the car (during this time the winds fell the skies cleared and the sun returned), a short paddle and the boats were unloaded for the last time. We headed to the Port Askaig area to look for a camping spot.
The Paps of Jura from Islay on our last night.
The fine weather had returned as we waited at Port Askaig for the ferry. For me the saddest moment of any kayaking trips to the Islands is watching the ferry sailing into the Port to take you to the mainland (reality awaits).
The End.
David A

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Isle of Islay 29/06/2010

Bagh an Da Dhoruis to Loch Gruinart.

Oyster Catchers are better than an alarm clock. Their shrilling call which had been our companion throughout the trip now indicated that it was time to get up. Even before I unzipped the inner tent door I could tell that it was a fine morning. The sea was flat calm, mostly blue sky, the waves broke gently on the beach, Red Deer were feeding on the ridge above the cliffs, Seals floated with their heads pointing skywards (sleeping or just floating?), Ring Plovers trilled, Turnstones twittered. You got the feeling that it was going to be another great day on the water. We would wait for the tide to rise before setting off so this gave us a few hours to explore the beach and coast line again; but first breakfast and lashings of tea.
More Otter tracks on the beach, this time near our tents.
Further on in the week I was talking to the Skipper of the Port Askaig to Jura ferry about the number of Spider Crab shells and limbs that I had found at Bagh an Da Dhoruis (I thought we didn’t get them round the coast of Scotland). He explained how trawlers (didn’t say where from) had been discarding their catch of Spider Crabs north of Islay if they could not get them to market before they died. Since then these spiders have grown in numbers to such an extent that some of the Scallop beds are unfishable. The Spiders that are caught by the Lobster/Crab fishermen (due to their size) are taken from the outside of the pots as they cling onto the netting.I was going to assemble one together from the many parts lying about the beach, but I was not sure how many legs they have or what direction the legs should be placed in.
Spider Crab
Arctic Tern nest and eggs.
Beachcombing is one of my favourite activities when kayaking. Bagh an Da Dhoruis being a storm beach was ideal. Buoys and rope from fishing activities were sprinkled along the high water mark pushed up with the storms. Lobster pots, a few new but most in varying states of decay also held my interest. Wood that had been sculptured by the sea, sun and sand is always beautiful to look, also useful for firewood. However, in the caves near the sea there is plenty of evidence of the problem that plastics/plastic containers can have on this environment. This last comment does not take away anything from the beauty of this area. Time to leave Bagh an Da Dhoruis and head along the rugged but beautiful shoreline. Just as the Seals had escorted us into Bagh an Da Dhoruis, they also escorted us out. The cliffs west from Bagh an Da Dhoruis are a testament to the battle that rages between sea and land. Which element is winning this battle is highlighted by the numerous numbers of caves, arches and collapsed arches that are littered for miles along the coast. The scale of some of these features were only conveyed by Fulmars flying from them or nesting on the otter cave or arch walls. Every rock cove, stony beach or sculpture rock formation seems to invite you to explore the area more closely. It would take a full week or more to explore this area fully. The rocky out crop at Rubha Bholsa held some of the largest colonies of seals we had observed.

Looking southwest down the coast towards Ardnave Point we could see that the landscape would soon be changing.
We decided to explore one last beach near Gortantaoid Point.

After a short break it did not take long before we were paddling along the deserted blazing white sands and high dunes of Traigh Baile Aonghais. Numerous numbers of Terns were fishing in the almost tropical coloured sea. This area we were entering is associated with sand, dunes and machair. Islay is so diverse in landscape and wildlife. A magical place for the sea kayaker. We paddled across the entrance of estuary of Loch Gruinart, west from Killinallan Point. There was just enough water to avoid stranding the kayaks on the sandbanks and landed on the east side of Ardnave Point to find a campsite.
Landing on the East of Ardnave Point.

The after- glow from the evening sun further enhanced this wonderful environment.

Did have a short walk in the evening but mainly sat trying to absorb the stunning beauty of this area. Once again the seals this time lying on the sandbanks sang us to sleep.