Saturday, 31 May 2014
An Arran Amble - passage to Pladda
Ater our brush with criminality in Whiting Bay we got back on the water and continued south. Mike and Douglas hoisted sail in the quarter wind and set a spanking pace.
I kept up reasonably well until we rounded Dippen Head (the south easterly "corner" of Arran) when the increased wind speed meant that they drew steadily ahead. Being sociable folks, both Mike and Douglas dropped their sails to allow me to keep up. As we rounded the point, the satellite island of Pladda came into view.
Douglas re-hoisted his sail to draw ahead slightly and check out the run-in to the small harbour on the east side of the island. It was built by the Northern Lighthouse Board during construction of the light and although theoretically open to wind and swell from an east or northeast direction is so skillfully designed that it provides shelter even when the weather is from this direction.
Our plans remained fluid and we still had in our minds the possibility of crossing the southern Kilbrannan Sound to Davaar or to the Kintyre shore for the nght, but the lunchtime update to the Inshore Waters forecast gave northeasterly F4-5 possibly F6 wind for the following day. This settled our immediate plans; we would not cross to the exposed side of the Sound. Instead, we planned to spend some time exploring Pladda, then paddle around the island to land for luncheon at the Kildonan Hotel and and use the adjacent commercial campsite for the night. This would give us an option on timings for passing one of two crux points on any circumnavigation of Arran at the most favourable tidal conditions.
As we walked up towards the lighthouse we passed close to a noisy gull colony - camping on Pladda at this time of year would be a less than restful experience. There are enclosed fields adjacent to the lighthouse which once grew much of the supplies needed by the keepers as well as being pasture for ponies and livestock; the walls of the fields were dotted with wildflowers including Sea Campion (Silene uniflora). The Gaelic name for this plant is "Coirean na Mara" (little sea cauldron), probably referring to the distinctive sepal tube below the flower head.
Soon we arrived below the two towers of the Pladda lighthouse.