Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Calm in the Kyles, above and below

The north end of the Isle of Bute is rugged and difficult of access on foot.  When I lived on the island I walked there sometimes and always found it a slog.  Today I was able to glide past using the last of the flood tide.

This small area of the Kyles makes a great day paddle in itself, one can start at Colintraive and explore the Burnt Islands then across to the popular but concealed yacht anchorage of An Caladh and then if the tide is right head up Loch Riddon (also known as Loch Ruel).  On a rough hillside above the shore at the north of the island are the Maids of Bute, two brightly painted rocks which have watched over the Kyles for well over a hundred years.  I waved to them as is traditional but they didn't wave back, and sadly my photograph didn't do the ladies any justice.

It's not all rugged wilderness hereabouts though; a few kilometres west on the mainland shore are two villages, Tighnabruaich and Kames.  Very pretty and with impressive stone-built waterfront houses, both are popular tourist destinations.  For this tourist, there was a particular attraction - an ice cream from the village shop. This sea-kayaking lark doesn't always have to be a wilderness experience!  :o)

Having eaten my ice cream beside the RNLI slip in a lovely summer scene of folk wandering the seafront and children exploring the beach, I headed back out and past Kames.  I was now heading south down the West Kyle and crossed back over to the Bute shore.

As the West Kyle opens up, there's a view down past the island of Inchmarnock to the Arran hills. The heat of the day was building a haze, something we've not seen since the warmth of late April. 

The calm surface of the water allowed a glimpse into the world below.  Every summer, several species of jellyfish can be found in large numbers on Scotland's west coast.  Most numerous today were Moon Jellyfish, but there were lots of larger Lion's Mane Jellyfish ( Cyanea capillata) too.  This one was about .75 of a metre across with tentacles stretching some 3 metres behind it, the largest yet recorded had a diameter of over 2 metres!.  I kept to one side as the sting can be painful.  The Lion's Mane has a fascinating lifecycle, most of the animals found close to the shore are reaching the end of their lives.  There's an aura of calm about the jellyfish which suited the day's pace perfectly.

I paddled on and arrived at Kildavanan Bay for a lunch break on the warm shingle.  I looked over to Ardlamont Point across a mirror calm sea with not a breath of wind.  How very different to when I was here a few weeks ago!

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