Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Skye - Dalavil June 2009

After a recommendation from a couple of local paddlers, I launched at Tarskavaig (Cod Bay) and went down the coast to the remote bay at Dalavil. Abandoned croft buildings lie inland, away from the direct exposure of the weather coming in from the sea.
The bay has numerous skerries and plenty of sand, including this mini tombolo!
Given the viking connections hereabouts, I had to do the old "boat haul over the isthmus" routine rather than paddling around the "coast". I saved all of 50 metres, but who cares? It was a delight to rock hop in the numerous channels and around the skerries accompanied by seals and otters, with starfish and urchins visible in the crystal clear water on the sea bed.
Lunch stop #1 had a fairly decent view!

The journey back was out through the numerous skerries around Dalavil bay but then offshore, picking up the numerous small rocks lying off the coast. The crazy seals followed me all the way. I had a quick lunch #2 back at Tarskavaig where, incidentally, low tide goes out a long way and it is something of an almighty haul back to the road with a loaded kayak, especially when tired!

After lunch I decided to complete my kayaking coverage of this bit of coast by paddling back up to Tokavaig. There are a couple of not very obvious arches and also this volcanic dyke, which resembles the spinal column of some sea monster. Well it does to me!

A brief stop at Tokavaig and then it was back to Tarskavaig.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

22/08/2009 North Anglesey

NWSK'ers Mary, Rosie, Dave and myself spotted a decent weather window to get out and enjoy some brilliant scenery. We launched from the beach at Cemaes, a small coastal village with active harbour largely catering for rod and line anglers. Funnily enough there was a fishing competition going on today so there was more boat traffic than usual.

At the beach car park a sign explains that two thirds of the beach is out of bounds to dogs. It doesn't say anything about horses though.....

We set off along the north facing coast. The sun rarely reaches these dark mainly north facing cliffs, reaching Porth Llanlleiana after a couple of K. Here are the ruins of an old china clay works, a hint of things to come as Angelsey has many features of interest to the industrial archaelogist.

Today was one of the highest spring tides of the year. Offshore the flood tidal stream was tanking eastwards, but closer inshore, and perhaps for a kilometre out, there was a substantial eddy and we were paddling east against it.

Every so often the line of cliffs broke to reveal a storm beach and potential landing site, such as here at Porth Cynfor, or Hell's Mouth.

Eventually we reached the substantial bay of Porth Wen. At its entrance, where there was some tidal interfaces causing mild turmoil in the water, a couple of porpoises were briefly glimpsed. We paddled slowly in, enjoying the sunshine, shelter and beautiful scenery.

In front of us the ruined brick works rose from the waters edge, up against the cliffs. A real sun trap and a great place to have lunch. Dave spotted a lizard here and butterflies abounded. Offshore we could see gannets dive bombing. Obviously there were fish about.

After lunch we paddled through the arch and around the wide curve of Porth Wen. The tide was exceptionally high and at the back of the bay the beach was totally covered by the sea right up to the foot of cliffs. As we exited the bay we found the porpoises again at the tidal interface, three adults and a young one feeding, swimming around us and breaching regularly. Beautiful.

We headed west, back the way we had come. Of course the tidal flow had changed direction and we were again paddling against the eddy close in shore.

We paddled past Middle Mouse, the island in the distance, and across the mouth of Cemaes Bay. The water was confused here with many rapidly moving wavelets and a wind quarter beam on that combined to continually try and push my kayak to starboard. The west side of Cemaes Bay has some sheltered coves, an island and a long abandoned life boat station. Much quieter than the main beach at the village. Shame about the nuclear power station perched on the headland above!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Musings from Skye - Punks, Plastic, Patterns and Perfect

Punk Sheep - Spotted first on a walk and eventually outside our cottage, quite the most bizarre haircut I've ever seen on a sheep. Green dye is obviously in short supply.

Plastic Beach - The remote Talisker Bay on the west coast of Skye catches more than its fair share of non-biodegradable rubbish thrown over board or lost from ships. How long before we see the complete plastic beach?

Patterned Sand - Talisker again. I love this place. I really must kayak rather than walk in one day.

Perfect Sunset - From Ord on the east coast of Sleat, which is positioned perfectly to capture summer sunsets over the Cuillins.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Vikings and Warriors

Ord was once part of the MacDonald lands on Sleat, with a farmhouse and steading together with some farm wokers' houses and several cottars. The main house later became a hotel (now a B&B). Other houses were built in the 1960's and in the late 1970's a small complex of holiday chalets was built, which were later individually sold off. The views from here across Loch Eishort to the Cuillins can be stunning, but more of that later. Today was the day for a trip down the east coast of Sleat.
Heading out in to the loch, the back views to the Red Cuillin clustered around the head of Loch Slappin dominate.

Pootling down the coast, accompanied by curious seals, black guillemots and oystercatchers ever so keen to see you off out of their patch, the ruins of a small castle come in to view. What chance, in an area of so few people, that a walker should just happen to be stood by the arch of the ruined bridge. A mad scramble for the camera ensued before they moved off!

Rounding the headland, the ruin of Dun Scaith is more obvious. The castle is thought to be one of the oldest in the Hebrides and has many myths and legends associated with it. It is said that here, Cuchullin chief of Skye in the third century, received training in the art of warfare from the Celtic warrior queen Sgathach.

The castle is situated on one of the headlands of Ob Gauscavaig, the bay lying in front of the small township of Tokavaig, a name of Viking origin meaning boisterous bay or bay of the whale. Take your pick with the meaning but neither was the case today.

Indeed, it seemed just the place to beach the kayak and chill out on some rocks whilst having a long lunch number 1. I don't know what it is about kayaking, but at least two lunches always seems a good idea.

After lunch a bit more exploring seemed in order. There are some very nice skerries in Loch Eishort, complete with coral sand.....

......... and some very nice views down towards Rum. We really mustn't over tax ourselves today.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Cuillin and Soay - Part 2

"It's one o'clock and time for lunch...." but there are no lawn mowers around here. Just a slightly exhilarated paddler, a seaweed strewn beach and a rather brilliant view of Loch Scavaig and Rum in the distance. Oh, and it can hardly be 11 o'clock. Unbeknown to me while I feasted on a first lunch of sandwiches, fruit cake and a very decent coffee whilst lying on my kayak, the first tourist boat of the day had disgorged its day trippers just around the corner, and many of them were now stood behind me taking photos of yours truly in the foreground of a rather decent view. Tourists eh?!

Just to my left the magnificently short Scavaig River, which must be all of 300 metres long, discharged its flow over the boiler plate slabs of rock in to the sea.

Follow the river upstream and you come upon Loch Coruisk which lies right in the heart of the Cuillin surrounded by 3,000 foot mountains and ridges. Truly stunning. I've long held an ambition to paddle this loch, but that wasn't going to happen today.

Having scoffed and viewed, it was time to set off again and I slowly worked my way around the numerous skerries, trying not to disturb the seals off the rocks and succeeding in the case of all bar one. The views in to the mountains were quite something.

Eventually I worked my way out of the inner confines of Loch na Cuilce and Loch Scavaig, around Rubh'a a' Gheodha Buidhe and across to Soay, picking up the constant west bound tidal flow in Soay Sound. Landing on Soay and looking back a new perspective of the view opened up.

Across the Sound, the slopes of Gars-bheinn sloped straight down to the sea at a near constant angle, from nearly 3,000 feet to zero in 1.5km!

As I was paddling solo, I again exercised caution over valour and declined the opportunity to circumnavigate Soay. Instead it was straight across 4km of open water back to Elgol. My reward for that decision? Two porpoises surfacing right in front of my kayak, so close I could see the dorsal fin structures. What a day!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Cuillin and Soay - Part 1

On Saturday I travelled from Sunart to my new base at Ord on Skye. Having suffered immediate withdrawal symptoms Sunday had to be a paddling day. Fortunately the weather was superb and the trip I had in mind was one not to be undertaken lightly by someone traveling solo - Loch Scavaig and the isle of Soay. My launch spot was Elgol, a delightful village with a superb tea room and small harbour.

I was very keen to get on the water as the conditions were just too good to be true and the scenery quite stunning. The ridge of the Black Cuillin lay before me, Gars-bheinn to the left leading away to Sgurr nan Gillean in the distance at 3/4 right. The little hill in the front right is the modestly high but still striking Sgurr na Stri.

To prove how keen I was to get paddling, please observe the day-glo yellow jacket still tied to the stern of my kayak from when it had been on my car roof rack! I beached at Claddach a' Ghlinne at the mouth of Glen Scaladal to remove this item of uncool paddling kit.

Then I noticed the view in the other direction - Rum. The island is about 18km away.

Having corrected my faux-pas I pressed on, passing the bothy and other buildings at Camasunary. The estate here used to be owned by Ian Anderson of Jethero Tull fame, before he sold up to the local community. The hill to the right is Bla Bheinn and the one at the back Marsco, both part of the Red Cuillin.

Eventually I entered Loch na Cuilce, hemmed in by the Cuillins and with many islets covered with seals, hundreds of them. The Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland have a hut here, the Coruisk Memorial Hut. What a superb location. Landing around here is generally difficult as the rocks slope straight down in to the sea, but just in front of the hut there is a seaweed covered rocky beach. Time for lunch number one.