Sunday, 25 September 2011

Loch Coruisk & Soay


Last night over a few pints we discussed where we should go on what could possibly be our only good day of weather.  Where else...

If you only get one good day on Skye this is the place you come.  Starting out from Elgol my intentions were to explore a little further on last years trip.  I wanted to get out to the Isle of Soay, a trip straight from the guide book and a place many would recognise from the Gordon Brown DVD.
This for me is Britain's best view, or at least best launch spot.  The small car park was chock-a-block, everyone has had the same idea.  I apologise now for the amount of photo's, this ain't the half of them.  My dad rushes off to board the next boat as I kit up and launch only moments before.
Flat calm, not the force southerly 3-4 I was expecting!  With the little wind and swell I try to keep pace with the boat, comfortably hitting 5-6 kts.  The boat pilot said 'he's flying along over there' to my dad.  Feelings were flying high, what a difference the sun makes.
Thanks to my dad for some cracking shots from the boat trying to keep up :)
Getting closer...It looks deceptively close on the water, until you see the boats getting smaller and smaller up ahead.
There's a picture for scale and that one's still quite a bit offshore.
I make the harbour entrance just as my dads boat is disembarking.  I didn't paddle into this cove before.  No beaches to land.  My dad gets some more great shots from the shore...
Look how clear that water is.  It's mesmerising watching fishes swim above the white sands below as you paddle along.
The amphitheatre that is Loch  na Cuilice.
I paddle back around the corner to where there should be a glistening white sandy beach for me to land.
A deer makes a brief appearance up on the ridge. 
High water and no beach.
A short but very boggy walk, with the rain we've had, up into Loch Coruisk.  Two other kayakers had carried their boats up and were planning on camping the night by the looks of it.  I had fancied bringing mine up but it would be impossible on my own.
A quick picture and we both set off again on our way.  I wanted to get around Soay and my dad had planned to walk back.

Leaving the Black Cullin in my wake as Seals and Shags slip into the clear waters.  The boat guide mentioned Killer Whales have been coming in recently to pick off the seals.  There have also been sightings further north near Staffin.
Up ahead unknown teritory..Soay.  Excited but a slight sense on nerves.  Where was this wind? It had gone from gale force to what must be bordering on force 0. 
Hardly a ripple in the water.  The shore line seems to slope of gradually, quite a way out you can still make out the sea bed before it turns almost black in the deeps with the rays of the sun fading into the darkness.
The sound of Soay.  High cliffs and rising mountains to my right and the Isle of Soay on my left.  The tide runs continuously west through the sound, but it is barely noticeable.
Crossing over the sound I am greeted by Soay sheep along the shore line eating the sea weed.
A different view of the Cullins from the shore of Soay.  I am looking for the harbour, a narrow neck roughly in the middle of the isle.  I paddle past what may be it but carry on around the next little head.  Too far!
There's no mention of this in the guide book.  A line of very shallow water moving out with the ebbing tide crosses the entrance to the harbour.  I make it over with a slight scrape and a push off the bottom with my paddle. 
The old shark fisheries.  Set up by Gavin Maxwell in 1946 the island was a base for hunting Basking Sharks which flourished in the rich surrounding waters.  The venture was abandoned after only three years.
There is a feel of still eeriness here.  The thought of huge shark carcus being hauled ashore, the blood and the smell send a shiver down me.  All abandoned and left to overgrow into the landscape. 
A bit of an arduous climb to get up onto the harbour walls I was kinda expecting some hillbilly to come out of the shadows and sling me up.  Very spooky on my own.

The old engine used to process the shark oil still stands rusting away.
The crab pots were all brand spanking new, still with the shop tags.  Someone must still operate from here.  A couple of small boats were also tied off on the mud bank.  Not helping the ideas of someone jumping out on me!
I was tempted to find a way through to the other side of the island, possibly a short portage with my boat as a short cut.  A squelchy walk through the overgrown bracken and marsh and a knee deep in bog puts that idea to an end.  Time is pushing on and I decide there's not enough time to do a full circumnavigation.  So I head back in the direction I came.
A fishery, once again looking deserted.  The steel walkways ahead all twisted and beaten by the weather.
Not quite the huge sea stack of Macleod's Maidens a few miles from hear.
Finally a decent shot of a Heron.  You don't know how long I've persisted. 
On the south eastern extremities of the island it's time to paddle out into the dark deep waters and cross back over to Elgol.  Not before I sit for a while and take in the beautiful stillness that surrounds me.  Huge towering Munros to my rear, the isles of Rum, Canna and Eigg on the horizon, Soay to my right and and open expanse of still water to my left.  Above clear skies and a lowering sun, bellow are white sands dotted with kelp and reefs of fishes swimming between.  I'm in heaven.  I take a short video clip to try and capture the moment.

I struggle to leave this place.
I thought to myself paddling across the open expanse of clam glassy water, if ever I should see a Basking Shark, whale or pod of dolphins now would be the time.
I thought it may be a bit late to catch a sight of a basker.  The usually hang around until September but it's been more this October lately so I wouldn't be surprised if they had all packed up.  Twice I caught sight of a definite fin ahead of me, only briefly before it disappeared.  Only just breaching the surface moving steadily across the water, sweeping  slightly.
This was the outcome of a picture I took not quite in time.  The dark ripples midway between the boat and the bottom of the picture where it had been were all that I managed to catch.  My heart is pounding in my chest and my knees have gone all weak.  As much as I would love to share the water with such a giant on my own out here I would probably utterly shit myself at the same time. 

I aim out from Elgol to the end of the headland where Prince Charles's cave can be found. 

The swell becomes more obvious here against the cliffs so I take the opportunity to do a bit of rock hopping in the shallows.

My dad once again catches some great picture of me coming in.

Not only the best place to launch but also the best place to land!
Truly magical!  A must do on anyone's list.  Simply the best paddle ever.  My dad is now talking of us both paddling over and camping at Loch Coruisk next year.
One last look down upon today's paddle.  15.22 nautical mile roughly 30km.  It makes the 640 mile round trip up all the worth while!


Taran Tyla said...

You Jammy, Jammy Git!!!!

Well done mate & a super cheesy vid too :)

Noel said...


What a great day out, it was worth waiting the weather out for this day. Can't wait to be able to do trips like this for myself. Great blog by the way.


Douglas Wilcox said...

Hi Stuart what a great trip and photos, one of my favourites too! You should also consider the crossing from Bute to Sannox on Arran. If anything, the mountain view is even finer!


Stuart said...

Taran, good cheese though!

Noel: just visited you new blog. Great stuff so far. Tried leaving a comment but says only blog owner may leave comment, you may have to faff about with your settings. If your local will have to meet up for a paddle sometime. There's usually a few of us that go out.

Thanks Douglas. I have so many trips I want to do up there. I'll get lucky with the weather one year.

Noel said...

Thanks Stuart i'll have a play with the settings.

soundoftheseagull said...

Great photos and also good weather must get back there and try it without the winds