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


  1. Hi David,

    Super post! Great words and pictures of a favourite area. I'm glad your trip went well; solo journeys whether on the hill or in the boat are often hugely rewarding in many ways. It just takes the right frame of mind, which you clearly had

    Kind regards

  2. Hi Ian, I really enjoyed this solo trip. I know it may sound totally selfish, but for once, it was enjoyable doing the activities that make me happy: photography, fishing and spending time exploring my surroundings, without taking into account other people’s needs. However, paddling solo did highlight the fact that I am a social person and do enjoy the company of others. I will continue to paddle solo on day trips occasionally, and even have an extended solo trip once a year, but the majority will be with my good friends.

    David A

  3. Very beautiful pictures and places!

    greetings from south Brazil

    Alberto Blank

  4. Hi Alberto, thanks for visiting my blog and I am glad to read you enjoyed the posts.

    David A

  5. Fantastic indeed David! That house is a dream!! I would move into it in a heartbeat. The similar but differnt colour trout was cool to see! Awesome trip! \and beware! Its highly addictive!

  6. Hi David what a great trip and photos! I used to do a lot of solo paddling but stopped after my knee injury. However, I have just come back from the Solway having completed 191km of solo paddling as day trips, which was very enjoyable. I do like the companionship of a small group round the camp fire on a camping trip though!


  7. Hi Lee, yes it is a fantastic bothy and it would be great to live in a building that has character like this one had. Food, there is plenty of shellfish, from the shore and fish from the sea and hill lochs. The pasture to the front and the meadow to the rear of this area look as though it has been productive in the past. It also has a nearby burn for fresh water. What more does a man need.

    Hi Douglas, paddling solo does have its appeal and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I do appreciate the importance of the social side of paddling: nights around the campfire with good friends is the one element that cannot be replaced.

    David A.

  8. Hi David,

    I have read and re-read this post and "dreamed" over your wonderful pictures several times now. As was our time in Scotland this past summer, your paddling trip inspires and whets our appetite for more. I think we're going to heading back your way! Thanks for allowing us all a vicarious experience! Duncan.

  9. Hi David ..I loved your blog report that much inspired me to do a similar journey

    Where are you thinking of going next ? :-D

    DonnyW of inflatableboatjourneys

  10. never been in a sea kayak before,but reading your report............its about time i did.fantastic way to see scotland,mix it with my love of fly/sea fishing,wild camping and great scenery.very inspirational.thx

    1. Hi trampas, thanks for the kind words. If you are thinking about sea kayaking try joining a club.
      Good luck.