Thursday, 11 August 2011

Arisaig to Ardnish

I would have an early start today, but the grandeur of the morning had made it all worthwhile. The midges were up late, but not late enough, they gave me one or two affectionate bites, as though saying cheerio and have a safe journey.
I pushed off and left behind the little sandy bay that had given much pleasure over the past few days. In the turquoise water small shoals of sand eels darted under the kayak as though hiding from the terns that were chattering on the wing further out.
Looking back, the Island of Eigg and Rhum, shimmered in the morning heat.

Passing Eilean a' Ghaill, and in the distance Ardnish, and the Moidart Mountains. Just wonderful.

Eilean a’ Ghaill (Stranger's Isle),which has the remain of an ancient fort on it.

Ardnish and the Mountains of Moidart, shrouded by morning the cloud. All around, my world was awash in a serenity of blue hue. Sometimes, I find it impossible to convey through words the emotions that are awakened by the riches that are experienced in the natural environment, and this time is one of them.

Ardnish and the Mountains of Moidart seemed to beckon me, and soon I had reached Ardnish, gliding between Rubha Chaolais and Eilean a' Chaolais. I had been on the water for about two hours and had experienced some of the most inspiring and leisurely paddling ever. As ever I was welcomed and escorted by some seals as I headed to find a place to camp. I had wanted to explore the ruined crofts and fish the hill lochs in this area. As it turned out, the area of Ardnish, has its own very special atmosphere. Yet again, another wonderful area,a magical place, where the past lingers and can be felt .
Another fine campsite.

Large numbers of swallows skimmed above the lush meadow in front of the ruins feeding and chattering in the warn morning sun along with numerous butterflies. I lay on my sleeping bag for a moment and closed my eyes, you could feel the peace and tranquillity of the area: bees and insects buzzed as they fed on the machair flowers, terns and swallows chattered and the waves gently lapped the sea shore. I felt I was home.

One of the many types of flowers from the meadow that runs down to the shore from the ruins and bothy.

The bothy . All bothies have their own character.

The shellfish life on this part of the coast is prolific. A nearby bay contained a few pockets of wild oysters. When the tide is out there is a sandy bottom exposed. The shallows are alive with sand eels, small shoals of fish, crabs and many juvenile flatfish. I even saw some bigger flatfish (pan size) flap of into deeper water, leaving a trail of sand in their wake.
Wild Oysters.

The derelict crofts of Peanmeanach.

Peanmeanach is an abandoned settlement on the Ardnish peninsula. A sad lonely row of roofless 'black-houses' stand on a raised beach. The name Peanmeanach originates from the Norse system of land division. An ounceland was a large area of land thought capable of producing enough for an ounce of silver in rent. Each ounceland was divided into twenty pennylands, or farms. The other part of the name, 'meanach', is Gaelic for 'middle'.
Before the Highland Clearances, upwards of 80 people lived around Peanmeanach: tending black cattle, sheep, and growing barley and potatoes.

After a few cups of tea I headed into the hills to fish a few of the hill lochs that hopefully contained trout in their peaty waters. The walk from my camp at the shore to the hill lochs was beautiful; the small strip of machair, then the meadow, the wet meadow at the rear of the ruins was alive with different types of dragon and damsel flies, and butterflies. You then enter a small birch and oak wood which was dappled with sunbeams shinning through the leaves, ferns and mosses adorn the banks of the woodland, and the air was filled with bird song.

One of the hill Lochs I would fish. The wild brown trout were not big, but they fought well and had beautiful markings.

Later back at camp I tried to read my book that evening in the tent: Neil Gunn’s, Silver Darlings, but again fell asleep before ending the paragraph. The early rise and walk in the hills had taken it out of me-zzzzzzz.
The next day was grey and dreich (wet). Again, I fished the hill lochs, no brown trout were caught, I got soaking wet, but I was happy. A day for the tent, lashings of tea and catching up with my reading.
One of two snipe chicks found between the ruined crofts.

Scotland’s national symbol.

The legend of the thistle: relates how a sleeping party of Scots warriors during the rein of the Scottish King Alexander 111 (1249-1286), were almost set upon by invading Vikings and were only saved when one of the attackers trod on a wild thistle with his bare feet. His cries raised the alarm and the roused Scots duly defeated the Norsemen. In gratitude, the plant became known as the Guardian Thistle and was adopted as the symbol of Scotland.
Day 5
The last day. The wind had risen through the night as the ‘Coastguard Inshore Weather Forecast’ had predicted. Loch Aiort had a steadily increasing wave on it (still nothing serious), and further out, the Sound of Arisaig was looking very lumpy. It would be plan ‘B’: a short paddle into Loch Aiort, beach the kayak, hitch a lift back to Glenuig to get the car. Plan ‘B’ went to plan, and soon my first extended solo trip was over. The trip may be over but the memories will be with me forever. Fantastic.

It was not only kayakers I met on this trip. I spent a pleasurable hour talking to Graham Cooper, who with his wife Marilyn, run a Bed and Breakfast at Camas na Gualainn, on the beautiful shoreline of Lochailort. For those of you who don’t like camping when kayaking Graham and Marily’s, home would be a fantastic base to stay for day trips. Both run this smallholding BandB and have a selection of animals associated with this lifestyle. Quality food would be one of the many benefits of staying at their home situated in one of the most stunning areas in Scotland. Wildlife will also be experienced from your stay at their home: seals, otters, eagles, wildcats area regularly seen at close quarters from their lounge. Graham and Marilyn, will be sympathetic to all the needs of kayakers who stay here, and the rates are very reasonable also. Added to this, launching the kayak is a paddles length from their house.

For further details contact:
Marilyn and Graham Cooper
Camas na Gualainn
PH38 4NB
Tel: 01687 470414

The end.
David A

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


This trip would be my first extended solo paddle. The wilds and solitude have always attracted me. To be able to immerse myself in a natural environment and to experience the riches of the wilderness was one of the aims of this trip. An adventure begins.
Safety is always a priority when sea kayaking, but solo paddling further heightened the vulnerability factor. With this in mind safety procedures were put in place to minimise the possible risks: email to Stornoway Coastguard with details of
• My personal details
• Trip dates
• Discription of kayak, colour and kayak’s name
• Paddling area ( route dependant on sea and weather conditions)
• safety equipment carried: selection of flares, VHF, GPS, mobile phone with contact number (Stornoway Coastguard number in memory) and first aid equipment
• Emergency contact name and number
• Vehicle description and reg, and where it would be parked during the duration of the trip.
Contact with the Coastguard would only be made if delayed or an emergency situations.

The launch point for the trip would be Glenuig Bay, Northern Moidart, with access to the Sound of Arisaig and some of the best sea kayaking areas in Scotland. The car would be left at Glenuig Inn and Sea Kayaking Centre (as arranged through the forum), run by Steve MacFarlane, an enthusiastic kayaker and ambitious businessman. Trip details were also left with staff at, Glanuig Inn. The Glenuig Inn website is worth a look. Good luck with the business Steve.
On the water at last. The sea and weather conditions were fantastic as I paddled north across the Sound of Arisaig. Like the heartbeat of the ocean, the swell from the west came in on sets, and added to the enjoyment of the crossing as it passed under the kayak lifting and lowering it, as it continued on its rush towards Ardnish Point.

I paddled on to explore An Glas-eilean and other islands and skerries that lie at the mouth of Loch Nan Uamh. Flightless black back gull chicks strutted about the skerries as the adults sinisterly patrolled the skies overhead. Shags dived from the rocks into the pristine waters of the Sound and the shinny heads of inquisitive seals bobbed around the kayak giving the occasional snort.
I beached the kayak at a near by bay next to another two kayaks to view a bothy that sits high on a cragg. Inside the bothy were Andy, and Perry, kayakers from Sheffield who had set up home for the night. They were kind enough to invite me to stay for the night but I wanted to push further along the coast. I hope you managed to see the otters.

I was soon paddling along the southern coast of the Arisaig Peninsular. My companions were the delicate and streamlined terns as they dived for eels in the turquoise waters near the shore and the occasional red deer as they grazed on the succulent summer grass on the small hill tops that run up from the sea.
There are many places to camp along this area, but I found this little bit of paradise to set up camp. The view from a hill top of the campsite. What a view from the tent door.
A wonderful end to a perfect day, the Island of Eigg shrouded in cloud. Stunning, just stunning.
The skies were mostly blue and the sea was calm as I paddled to explore the numerous islands and skerries that lie at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall, west of Arisaig village. The Island of Eigg and Rhum in the distance. These skerries and islands were a haven for seals and other wildlife.
A convenient sign post for sea kayakers looking for the village of Arisaig. Back at camp and after a well deserved meal I was of fishing from the shore around the bay, with some success.
A Coalfish.
A Pollock.
The end of another memorable day, and another fantastic sunset.
Day 3
Today I would break camp and head back east along the coast towards the Ardnish area. It was hard to leave this wonderful campsite and the wildlife that I had shared it with: otters, seals, ravens, herons, terns diving for eels and gannets further out. The list could go on and on.
Cliodhna packed and ready to go. The journey will continue in the posting: Arisaig to Ardnish.

David A.