Monday, 11 July 2011
Through the gates
The Sound of Soay is a very impressive place. Three stacs stud the sound, Stac Dona, the tall and slender Stac Biorach and Stac Shoaigh which has a arch at the base of it. The effect is of a giant set of gates, in fact they've been christened the "Gates of Hell" by some kayakers!
The Stacs are very Tolkienesque and an imposing sight even on a sunny day like this. The horizon appears flat but there was a large swell running and although near to slack water there was still plenty of tidal movement around the stacs.
As we moved towards the "gates" the scale began to dawn on us; it took longer than we expected to get close.
Stac Biorach (the Pointed Stac) is the taller of the two gates at 73 metres, a spire of dark rock lancing from the water
Stac Soaigh isn't as tall (a mere 61 metres), but is deceptive as we'd seen it end on intially. Seen side on it's massive and has an arch straight through. We could have passed through between the two stacs, but we'd probably not get a better chance to try the arch. As we approached, the apparent calm began to be less calm! Sets of Atlantic swells were approaching the arch from each side and when combined with the tidal movement was creating a mess of confused and energetic water.
One by one we powered through. The arch is much longer than it appears, it's almost a tunnel. Conditions in the middle were best described as "a bit lively". Almost through, I was surprised by a wave reflecting from the wall and required a quick and panicky brace to stay upright. Our verdict? That was fun!
Once we were all through there was a huge change in our surroundings. We'd come from paddling alongside massive cliffs, then between towering stacs. Ahead of us was a very wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean