Sunday, 12 September 2010

Isle of Skye - Part 1

Back last year my dad said "do you fancy a trip up to the Isle of Skye, split the petrol I'll go walking you can go kayaking". After months of waiting the time to take the 600 mile trip up the the western isles of Scotland finally arrived. With 458 pictures taken I best get started.

DAY 1 - Friday 3rd September

We left early morning and arrived at Loch Lomond just the other side of Glasgow late afternoon. We found a camp site at the edge of Loch Long within walking distance of a pub and chippy, sorted!
Loch Long

The camp site was a little run down but we were only staying the one night.

DAY 2 - Saturday 4th September

Buachaille Etive Mor
After a quick breakfast we past through the highlands of Scotland and make our never ending journey further north. We must have stopped at every lay bye for photo opportunities.

War memorial Spean Bridge, Ben Nevis behind

Bridge at Loch Sligachan, South East Skye

Loch Brittle Camp Site and the Black Cullin Mountains, Skye
We pitch my dads aircraft hanger of a tent at what must be the most spectacular camp site ever. It is situated in the shadows of the Black Cullin mountains and at the end of Loch Brittle (sea) Loch.

We then head to our nearest pub 8 miles up the road at Carbost for a few pints for my birthday before calling it a night.

Day 3 - Sunday 5th September

OK two days gone already and I haven't got my boat off the roof yet, time for a paddle. I catch the mornings forecast...force 5-6 increasing force 7, 50 mile hr gales from south east. Our camp site was facing south east so we drove up near the pub which looked more sheltered last night.

I launched or more like slid from the Talisker distillery in Carbost. And I thought Aberthaw was bad! Amazingly this was the storey for the whole coastline. Sea weed covered everything, you were luck if you found a sandy/pebble beach anywhere.

Looking toward the Black Cullins at Loch Harport

I made my way across the loch to the far side. My dad was coming back for me in about 6 hours so I tried to take my time but with a following sea and wind I was accelerated along at 5-6kts.

Way hay! a pebble beach, but I had to fight through the seaweed to get to it. Hannah bought me a water bladder which fits to my BA for my birthday, which is great as I don't lose my water bottles anymore and keeps me well hydrated. Down side is I have to stop for a pee every half hour!

Paddling in to Gesto bay with a nice looking guest house and the remains of Gesto House which is a listed building dating back to 1760 and was the former home of the Macleods of Gesto.

Gesto House

Carrying on my journey eastward I paddle into Loch Beag. There are no noticeable tides around most of Skye apart from obvious headlands and narrows so planning was a lot easier.

Whats with the slipways in Skye?! They all seem to drop off a few feet above the water level.

I make another seaweed covered landing next to the slipway for a quick cuppa and to plan the rest of my journey.
A flight of Shags (click the image you'll soon see them)
With the wind starting to pick up the further out I get I stay close to the shore line and carry on my journey out to the intriguing shaped spit of headland in the distance.

Nature calls again! Out here I feel more alone in a kayak than I ever have and start to get the feeling the remote western isles are not really a place to be kayaking alone. I haven't seen a single person or boat. The nearest thing to habitation I have seen was a lonely guest house back a few miles at Gesto Bay and a deserted harbour.

All this is forgotten when I find this gem of a beach dividing the tip of the headland. White sand, turquoise sea and stuning views of the surrounding highlands.

I climb up the hill to get a better view of my surroundings.

To the west stunning sheltered seas surrounding the isles of Harlosh, Tarner and the largest Wiay with the mountains of western Skye including Macleod's Table in the hazy distance.

Back to the East where I came from white wave crests now gust across the water.

I cheat and drag my boat across the beach to the more inviting western side, hopefully the wind will ease off a little by the time I get back.

The end of the headland looks inviting with calm waters sheltered by the huge cliffs.

Caves, cliffs and a slight swell coming in from the south I feel more like I'm at sea now. It's a weird place, you have the mountains, the heather, bogs and reeds, sheep and cattle all right on the waters edge. Somehow doesn't seem to fit. Later in the week I even saw cows wadding in the sea along a beach.
It looked a bit choppy further out but with only a 1.5/2km crossing to the isle of Wiay I chance it.

A few minutes into the crossing the gusts whip over the headland and make paddling difficult. The sea was by no means rough but the force of the wind was enough to make me feel uneasy in such an exposed and unfamiliar place. I turn back and battle into the wind back to the beach.
I hop back over the spit and carry on my paddle into the wind and head for a lighthouse across to the entrance of the loch.

The wind had eased slightly so made it a fun paddle into the oncoming waves.

The lighthouse turns out to be a un-maned framework tower powered by solar panels. Still a couple of hours left before my dad finishes his walk I decide to follow the coast south instead of heading back up the loch.

Past the huge cliffs of my intended destination of Wiay Isle, Macleod's Maidens come into view, also an intended destination for later in the week. The maidens are three sea stacks said to be named after the mother (the larger stack) and two daughters (two smaller stacks) of the Macleod family who drowned at sea many years ago.

The cliffs rise dramatically out of the sea now providing the perfect shelter from the south easterly winds.

I test out a three picture wide angle function on my camera. With the sea being so glassy and calm and a gentle following swell I make a bee line for the light house into deeper waters in the hope of seeing a basking shark or some dolphins. No such luck.

Rounding the headland off the lighthouse the wind gusts quite strongly making paddling really difficult. Just as I was about to start my 7km paddle back down the loch I notice my dad waving his red jacket from a slipway. Thank god for that I was dreading that paddle.

With the sun now behind us on the journey back the Black Cullin's make for a perfect photo opportunity.

Roughly 15nm trip over about 4 and half hours. It was back to our local pub for a few pints of Red Cullin and Isles Ale together with home made Angus burger and chips. On returning to the camp site the wind was whipping up a gale and we find our tent practicaly flattened. We spend a few drunken momments tying it up to the roofrack on the car and spend the rest of the night wide awake waiting for it to take off again. This was the start to a very wind week!!....


stoney (Martyn) said...

Now that does look like a proper adventure!
Can't wait to read the next bit, it does look like the wind was going to be a problem though

Stuart said...

There we go part 2 done, only two more to go! Ye the winds were pretty stong. Calmed down a bit by the end of the week though. Didn't get in any of my intended paddles in but at least we had clear skys. Last two days were the best, stunning scenery and eagles to come...