Friday, 16 May 2014
The 30 hour adventure - coasting to journey's end
We paddled reluctantly away from the beach at the south end of Inchmarnock; it's a fine spot to spend time in good weather. The day was still hot and we were all in agreement that we'd dispense with the wearing of drysuits for this final leg of our journey. For the great majority of the remaining distance we would be close in along the shoreline with just a very short crossing to Bute.
The shoreline of the southern part of Inchmarnock is lined with scrubby willow and birch wood - perfect for small birds and the whole stretch was alive with the sounds of Willow Warblers and Chaffinches. We also came across our old friend Sammy the Seal - who along with his friends was enjoying a bit of sunbathing on the rocks. He seemed quite prepared to allow the passage of three kayakers without disturbing his morning's leisure!
Mike and Douglas had brought their sailing rigs but apart from the headwind of the previous evening as we headed along the Kintyre coast our jouney had been almost windless. The slightest of breezes from astern encouraged them to hoist sail and they did get some "push" on our way up the island.
All too soon we reached the northern tip of Inchmarnock and it was time to make the short crossing over to Bute and our finishing point at Kildavanan.
We had left the beach at Kildavanan less than 30 hours previously - but what a lot we'd managed to pack into our short adventure! From the castles of Kintyre and Arran to a very enjoyable wild camp to the superb wildlife sightings it had been a marvellous journey. We'd started and finished less than 40 miles from the very centre of Glasgow and yet it had felt a million miles away.
We paddled some 55 kilometres, took in three islands and a remote peninsula - and yet - Douglas and Mike had left home near Glasgow after breakfast on one morning and were home in time for dinner the following evening! We firmly believe that it's not necessary to go to the ends of the earth, or even the extremities of the country to find superb journeying and adventure - it can be much closer than you think.....
The Islands of Bute and Arran plus the Kintyre peninsula are served by Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) ferry services. The timetables and fares can be found here and there's also a smartphone App. Using a vehicle can prove expensive on the routes which don't yet have a Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme in place - Bute is one such route. Kayaks on trollies travel free on Calmac services and this is a great way to link up journeys and/or avoid long crossings; make sure you arrive in plenty of time for a sailing if you plan to do this.
The castles we visited in Kintyre and Arran are under the care of Historic Scotland. It's well worth researching some of the sites online if planning a journey in this area. There are also numerous historic and prehistoric sites around the area waiting to be explored, including stone circles, hillforts and hidden ruins.
Wild camping is permitted subject to the principle of Responsible Access as defined in the Scottish Land Reform (Access) bill. This link also has great advice on where and how to "go" in the outdoors - as does the SCA website here. There is specific advice about lighting fires - I don't ever light fires in the hills, but we do have fires at camps along the shoreline. We light our fires below the highest tide mark, don't build fire rings and we disperse the remnants of the fire before departing.
Midges may be a feature from June to September; bring a head-net, or even better, one of these if camping during this period! :-) It's also worth being "tick aware" in Scotland's outdoors during the warmer months.
A feature of the tidal regime in the Firth of Clyde is that high water duing Spring tides tends to occur around midday and midnight. The implication of this is that arriving at a destination in the early evening and departing in the morning will be at around low water and involve a long carry. Trollies are very useful, particularly on the sandy beaches which tend to be quite gently shelving. It's claimed that there are no tidal races in the Clyde. We have experienced races at the height of the ebb around the south tip of Inchmarnock, and particularly at the southern tip of Bute. The tidal flow can also be affected by snowmelt and wind conditions.
The Firth of Clyde area offers some fantastic paddling, walking and exploring opportunities. In earlier times it was the sea and sea lochsrather than the road which was the main means of communication and to a great extent the water remains the very best way to experience this area.