Saturday, 24 September 2011

Loch Alsh


Morning at base camp and for the first time since our arrival the Cullin Hills are clear.  Forecast full of 6's and 7's with the occasional 8 or 9 squally showers cyclonic etc different then!  My dad was going to try the same trip as yesterday as the tops were clearer and the water levels in the nearby streams had lowered considerably.
I was looking for somewhere sheltered preferably facing south easterly and somewhere not far from where I was dropping my dad.  I thought Loch Alsh should be relatively sheltered and Kyle Rhea (the narrow stretch of water between Sky and the mainland, bottom center bellow) should definitely be out of the worst of it.
Map: Skye bottom left.
The spring tide rates can reach up to 8 knots and it just so happened to be springs.  I had a quick look at the charts before I left but wasn't 100% sure what they were doing.
Skye Bridge from Kyle
Crossing back over the Skye bridge to mainland Scotland I decide to launch from the ferry slipway in Kyle.  The waters north of the bridge looked extremely gusty but for now the loch didn't look to bad.  I lower my kayak off the back of the van and just as I was about to lower myself down the boat slips and I somehow manage to catch it by the elastic on my compass! close one.
In the boat I almost didn't notice this big ship bustling past.
Out of nowhere the winds whipped up again and the water out in the middle feels like it is flowing, picking up some waves.  I paddle in behind these small rocky islands to take shelter and plan what I am going to do.
The entrance to the narrows of Loch Rhea are not easy to make out but I decide to stick to the plan and cross over the loch.  I still can't make out if there is any flow or if it just the wind.  The 2km crossing seems to take ages.
Nearing the far side a squally shower comes in picking up the wind even more and hammering down with rain.  I wedge my boat behind a rocky out crop in a shallow of seaweed and wait for the worst of it to pass.  I had had enough at this point.  I had blisters on my thumbs and my body was aching all over after yesterday.  I couldn't face another day of fighting off the wind so decide to cross back over.
Above and bellow
The pace coming back over was much like yesterday and I was all for getting out when I reached the other side.  Beneath a small cliff I found a little sheltered spot where I dipped into my snack sack, feeling yet again drained. 
The sun came out and the wind dropped.  I took the opportunity to paddle up and beyond the Skye bridge.  At least that way it's a free ride on the way back with the wind at my back.  The Skye bridge is really two bridges with an island in the middle.  I paddle on upstream to the smaller lesser architectural of the two on the Kyle side.
There were a few sea urchins clinging to the rusted bridge supports.
On the far side of the bridge are a series of small islands and white sandy beaches.  Here I found a colony of Common Seals (also known as Harbour Seals).
I was surrounded on all side by little heads.  Unlike the Grey seals often seen in the waters around West Wales these seemed to keep a good distance, very weary of my presence.  I also couldn't make out any bulls.  There were a few very small pups, seemed a bit early for that?
I sat for a while just enjoying the moment, a far cry from what a felt half hour ago.

I take a detour through the small isles trying not to disturb the basking seals and head for the second bridge.
The tide was flowing well under the bridge in flood, the opposite direction to where I wanted to go.  Some nice big waves as well although you can't see them in the photo.  I passed through a small eddy near the lighthouse, the wind on my back also helping the counteracting flow.
The Eilean Ban lighthouse was built in 1857 and was original fuelled by Sperm Whale oil.  I made my way back to the slipway taking my time allowing the wind to blow me down stream.
On the far side of the Loch the prominent ruin of Caisteal Maol, formally Dunakin - the castle of Haakon nestles beneath Beinn n Caillich.  King Haakon was a Norwegian Viking ruler who sailed through the narrows here on his way to defeat at the Battle of Largs in 1263. The castle was last occupied around 1600AD.
I still managed to get about 9 nautical miles done today without really going anywhere.  I meet my dad back at the pub who had a much better day on the hills, besides loosing his SLR but luckily finding it again nestled in the bracken.  We're both pretty fed up by now though.  Everything is wet and damp, nothing is drying out and the wind is doing my head in.  The nights are cold but at least there's no midges.  A southerly force 3-4 on the books tomorrow with the promise of clear skies and plenty of sun, things are looking up...


stoney (Martyn) said...

Love the above and below shot! Reminds me of the film Highlander.
Looks like good fun up there, need to make the trip one day!

Taran Tyla said...

Maybe give up on Scotland, It doesn't seem to like you!

Probably too short for a highlander LOL

Stuart said...

You should do martyn it's well worth it.

The next trip makes up for it. You can have a week of rain and wind but one day like the next post makes it all worth the while.