Tuesday, 10 September 2013
Thrusting out from Kylesku
For various reasons, it had been a while since I'd crossed to the west coast of Scotland. A window of settled weather for the northwest seemed a good opportunity and a plan formed for a couple of days sea kayaking in this striking landscape.
On the day I travelled over it was forecast to be windy, reducing later in the afternoon which allowed for a leisuely start. As I arrived at Kylesku, the wind had dropped away to a breeze and the air had that bright, hard look which follows a frontal passage. The view up Loch Glencoul was enticing, but I was bound for a different loch.....
The boat was loaded and ready before the rising tide had covered the end of the old ferry slip at Kylesku. I'd have to wait, but this was no hardship as the Kylesku Hotel adjacent to the slip was open and serving some fine real ales! We've stayed here and eaten here before, the food is particularly fine - fresh, local and superbly cooked. Today I had time for just a pint before preparing to set out for my evening accommodation.
Out on the water and I paddled into the breeze with a great view of the Stack of Glencoul to my right. This area is justly famous in geological terms, the Stack itself is one of the most prominent examples of the Moine Thrust belt; indeed the thrust zone here is given its own name of the Glencoul Thrust.
The planes of rock are really obvious on Aird da Loch (point of two lochs) which separates Loch Glencoul from Loch Gleann Dhu. It's a very complicated structure of rock which led to huge controversy in interpreting the sequences.
In short, Lewisian Gneiss (some of the oldest rock on the planet) is on the bottom, as you would expect. Next comes Cambrian Quartzite and Pipe Rock - again this is not unusual as these rocks are younger than the Gneiss. Overlaid onto this is a plane of Fucoid beds, then a double "overthrust" of Sole Thrust (Cambrian) and , right on top, a plane of Lewisian Gneiss. The process which placed the very oldest rock on top of and between younger rocks remained a puzzle until the early 20th century.
All this complicated geology is explained in admirable and entertaining simplicity in "Hutton's Arse" - a book which really must be read if for no other reason than the title!
I wondered at the deep time involved in the geological upheaval all around me in this primal landscape - but I was also interested in a rather shorter timescale; my immediate prospects for dinner :o)
Just an hour's paddle on a beautiful evening brought me to the head of Loch Gleann Dhu (Glendhu). the translation is "loch of the black glen", which seems something of a misnomer as for the majority of the year the top of the loch is lit by both morning and evening sun. The rocky and twisting glen leading east from here is indeed a darker place though. My "home" for the evening would be the building on the left of this image.....