Sea kayaking expeditions can involve paddling in remote and distant locations, require detailed planning and long preparation, then lengthy journeying to reach the starting point. But what if this could be found much closer to hand? OK, so for those living in the UK there's always the north west Highlands or the Hebrides.
Perhaps something even closer might be possible? Surely you can't have adventure, wilderness and stunning wildlife encounters within 50 km of one of the UK's most populous cities....can you?
We think that you can - and what's more that an adventure needn't involve a long trip. Mike, Douglas and I set out on a small journey which would start and finish just 55km from the very centre of Glasgow. Our "planning" was essentially two texts and a phone call on a Sunday evening; we arranged to meet on the Isle of Bute on Monday morning at a time when many commuters would be arriving at work.
You will also be able to follow our journey on Douglas' blog here
I was already on Bute visiting relatives (with a kayak and kit of course!) and after meeting the commuters off the ferry we headed over to the west of the island, a mere 10 minute drive from the ferry terminal, and got ready to launch at Kildavanan. The morning was overcast but pleasantly warm and the forecast was for similar conditions to last through the day.
The "Kil" prefix suggests that a place is associated with one of the early Columban churchmen - it means Cill or "cell". So here may have been the place where a monk named Davan or Davanan made his home. Nearby is St Colmac, probably indicating another churchman, there's a stone cross near the farm of the same name. Even older sites are nearby too, a stone circle and an ancient earthwork. We would certainly not be the first to commute to and from this shingle beach.
Getting on the water didn't take long and the simple rhythm of paddling was easy to re-aquire even after a long lay-off due to work. We headed out to the Ardlamont buoy, hoping to meet "Kylie", a female dolphin which can often be seen near the buoy. Today there was no sign of her; the sea was flat calm and we certainly would have noticed if she was around. We thought perhaps that she was away on a commute of her own....
We decided that the ferry journey, drive and crossing from Bute had qualified us as overdue for second breakfast, and accordingly headed for a small shingle beach just to the west of Ardlamont Point. There was almost no noise apart from the gentle movement of water on the shingle and the gentle mastication of three rather contented sea kayakers.
Our route would next take us across the mouth of Loch Fyne to the the shores of the Kintyre peninsula. This stretch of water is notorious for rough seas and ferocious wind which can be funnelled out of the length of Loch Fyne making passage here a serious affair.
No such issues today though. As we paddled colours, which up until now had been muted in the overcast conditions, bcame more vibrant and then.....
...we were in full, glorious Spring sunshine and on glassy calm sea. It was a truly great morning to be out on the water.
We occasionally stopped paddling to simply drift and enjoy being in this place, close in distance to a huge city but a million miles away in atmosphere. As we drifted, a pod of Common Dolphins streaked ahead of us - moving fast and direct as they hunted for fish. We hadn't seen Kylie, but here were some of her kin on a fast commuter route from Loch Fyne.
We took a rather slower paced journey to another small piece of heaven; a sparkling white beach fringed with turquoise water. The vote was unanimous - first luncheon (*) was called!
* There's a subtle but simple distinction between second breakfasts and first luncheons on our trips