Douglas, Mike and I had really enjoyed our short overnight trip in the Clyde some two weeks previously and had plans for a longer kayak camping journey. We agreed the days which worked for us and then discussed locations and possible routes via email and phone. The weather for our chosen five day period was problematic in planning where to go - a complex series of low pressure systems around the UK resulting in forecasts which changed significantly each six hour period. It looked that the further north one went the windier it was likely to be, so we looked to the south west.
Tiree and Coll have been on our collective list for some time, but although the tidal conditions would have worked, the forecast F5-6 winds certainly wouldn't. Gigha and the north of the Kintyre peninsula was considered, but tidal conditions plus the northerly component of the wind wasn't likely to give the best chance of an enjoyable trip here either.
We came to a consensus that we would meet up at Ardrossan on a Thursday evening with options to take a ferry to either Arran or to Kintyre, leaving the final choice of destination until we had the very latest forecast.
We convened in the long-stay car park at Ardrossan harbour in good time for either the 1800 sailing to Brodick or the 1840 sailing to Campletown. The forecast remained very changeable, but was for generally northeasterly winds of between F3 and F6 for the Friday and Saturday. This meant that our best option was to go to Arran where we'd be able to get some shelter from the worst of the wind on the west side of the island until the forecast drop in wind strength on the Sunday.
Having a trolley means that boats can be easily wheeled on and off
ferries; and a kayak on a trolley travels free on Calmac services - a
real bonus when planning trips. The long stay car park at Ardrossan is secure and is just £3 per day to leave a car.
Soon we were safely in the vehicle deck of MV Caledonian Isles and heading up to the cafeteria to take dinner. As on most longer duration services, meals are available - the food is both good and reasonably priced.
It was raining hard as we approcached Brodick, so we changed into drysuits on the vehicle deck as the cars were disembarking and then wheeled our boats ashore. Just off the top of the linkspan, a small shingle beach makes an ideal launch site. It's wise however to check the skeg before heading off, the shingle here seems just the right grade to jam in the skeg slot - each one of us had two jams before getting away.
As we prepared to leave, MV Caledonian Isles left the berth to return to Ardrossan. Another adventure was about to begin!
We paddled south along the Arran coast in heavy rain, but in calm conditions. Snug in drysuits, we could enjoy the colours and sounds of the shoreline.
Rounding Clauchlands Point, Holy Island came into view - our intended destination for the night. There have been some issues in recent years with the Buddhist monks who own the island banning camping and placing unwelcoming notices at likely landing points. This is not in accordance with the Access provisions of the Land reform Act, but we'd been assured by the Ayrshire and Arran Access Officer that discussions with the owner had resulted in an acceptance that responsible wild camping is lawful. However, the Holy Island website still states that "we strongly discourage camping anywhere on the island". - we were unsure of our reception, but relaxed about the situation. As it turned out, we were met on arrival only by the first few midges of the season....
We chose our landing place carefully so as to camp sensitively (normal practice for us anyway) and soon had the tents up and a hot drink brewing. The rain was still falling though less heavily; we collected some driftwood from the shore for a small fire, though Mike rated the attempt as "V Diff"! However, with the assistance of a "Wilcox Ignition Aid"TM we lit a small but hot fire well below the tideline and soon had some baked potatoes in the embers for supper.
As dusk fell the rain eased and we were treated to the sight of an Otter feeding just offshore from our camp site. Shortly afterwards a Woodcock (Scolpax rusticola) began a series of display flights (termed "roding") overhead, the high pitched rasping squeak of its call the best aid to spotting this elusive bird.
Despite the rain, we enjoyed a very pleasant evening; what would the following day bring?
Note : You will be able to read about this trip in full "kayak stereovision" by following Douglas' blog posts starting here.