Saturday, 10 May 2014

The 30 hour adventure - a wild night out

After leaving Skipness we continued our journey south along the Kintyre coast past the ferry terminal at Claonaig, where the small public road veers away from the shoreline. The ferry terminal is essentially an unattended slipway with a passenger shelter, but it does have toilet facilities if required.

Insomuch as we had a "plan", the general thought was to continue for a further ten or so kilometres to where a series of beaches offer potential camping spots.  By this time however, a sneaky headwind had got up and slowed us somewhat - it was also approaching dinner time!  We didn't want to be arriving at a camp mid-evening and not be able to enjoy the situation, so we started looking for potential spots some 5 kilometres short of our "planned" area.  We hoped to find a good spot, and on the sheltered side of a small point we spied a raised shingle beach backed by a platform of turf - a very pleasant site.

The only slight issue was the carry from the water to the high water mark.  A feature of the tidal regime around the Clyde is that at Springs, high water occurs around midday and midnight.  Therefore, arriving at a campsite late afternoon/early evening and leaving in the early morning at Springs will mean a long carry.  If you're a solo kayaker in this area it's something to factor in to your planning.

Douglas had foreseen the possibility of having to carry boats a bit of a distance and had brought along a Karitek Portage Strap.  Normally used as two straps with four paddlers moving one boat at a time, we found that one strap used by two of us behind the cockpit with one of us carrying the bow of a boat worked very well, even when moving fully laden boats up a beach.  The access to this beach was a carry of 75 metres and included a narrow gully.  Nevertheless, it was a fine campsite and we soon had our tents up and hot drinks on the go.

Whilst we cooked and ate dinner we were able to start to absorb and appreciate our surroundings.  the wind had dropped, but at this time of year there are no biting midges so we could sit in comfort to enjoy the hazy view across Kilbrannan Sound to Arran.  Dinner commenced with some of Douglas' fine home-made soup.  As our planning for this small trip had consisted of two texts and one phone call the previous evening, the dinner menu was restrained compared to our usual fare.  Not that we resorted to packet food you understand - just that we hadn't had time to pre-prepare our usual fare!

Dry driftwood was plentiful; five minutes collecting from the tideline and ten minutes with a folding saw produced, with the aid of the "Wilcox Failsafe Ignition Aid" (TM), the basics of a good fire placed below the highest waterline.  We don't build fire-rings of stones, finding them unnecessary and unsightly.  The next big tide will have removed all traces of this fire; we aided the process by dispersing the remnants the following morning.

Regular readers of our blogs will note that we subscribe to the restorative and performance enhancing benefits of a particular sports recovery drink.  Despite the short notice, we all managed to pack an eerily similar amount of this......  Purists can relax; the apparent proximity of the container to the fire is a telephoto effect - no sports recovery drink was harmed in making of this image.

As the evening wore on our eyes and ears became more attuned to the spot we were in.  Earlier in the day we'd heard the first Cuckoo of the Spring, and there were two calling from the wooded hillside behind the beach.  The air was alive with the cadenced song of Willow Warblers and from the shoreline the prevalent bird sounds were the trilling calls of Common Sandpipers and the occasional wild, bubbling call of a Curlew.  We sipped and compared small drams of Dalmore and Dalwhinnie whisky, both 15 year old expressions - declaring both to be worthy accompaniment to the final course of our dinner, baked potatoes from the fire with salted butter.

With the air and sea completely still, there was no natural "white noise" and we heard an Otter swimming right by the bay before we saw it.  Absolutely unconcerned, it continued to feed in close proximity to the shore.

There are many ways to have a wild night out.  Our evening had good food and drink, good company, a great venue and a fantastic floor-show.  A different take on "birds and booze"!

We awoke to a misty morning.  The first sounds were the Cuckoos of the previous evening, and then at close hand from the mist, the spine-tingling calls of a Black Throated Diver (Gavia arctica) - the call echoing across the still water.

Breakfast was a leisurely affair and varied according to taste.  I prefer something quite light, but Douglas' healthy option of dry-cure bacon, free range egg, tomato and cheese in a wholemeal wrap with coffee and orange juice looked very, very good!  Mike had even brought along half a dozen eggs from his own hens - you don't get food much more local than that!

We'd chatted the previous evening about the amazing wildlife we'd seen and heard less than 50 miles in a straight line from the centre of Glasgow, and speculated on what might be next.  We hoped perhaps to see an eagle, but what we actually saw next was on an altogether different scale.  while preparing for the day, my eye was drawn to an unmistakable triple outline on the surface of the glassy water - a large Basking Shark just a couple of hundred metres offshore.  None of us have seen these summer visitors quite so early in the year - perhaps a good sign for a warm summer?  Douglas managed a photo of the shark before it disappeared into the mist.

The shark wasn't the only thing to have disappeared into the mist - so had the Isle of Arran!  We took bearings to Loch Ranza and worked out the likely effect of the flood tide on our transit before heading out into Kilbrannan Sound.

The weather forecast was for any early mist to clear and leave a bright day.  The next hour of our journey was to be an unforgettable one......


  1. Ian, this is great stuff, indeed - you are a true raconteur! We await...the "next hour". :) Duncan.

  2. Thanks Duncan, but this is a story which tells itself! :-) I truly wish that you and Joan could have experienced the hour which followed; you would have been much better than me at describing it....

    Kind Regards