Wednesday, 19 August 2015
A summer evening on the Firth of Clyde
After a long work-enforced break from paddling and walking I was very keen to get back out on the water, and if possible to do a short overnight trip. A good forecast for two consecutive days in the Clyde area (a rarity in the poor summer of 2015) and the availibilty of Douglas and Mike settled the deal, location and start time sorted by two texts and a brief phone call. We met at Largs Marina on a gloriously warm afternoon and loaded our boats for a two day trip among the Clyde islands.
Douglas kindly helped me set up my new FEKS Trade Wind 80 sail before we set off, though it didn't look too promising for a test given the windless calm! We paddled out from the public slipway and past the "Pencil Monument" which commemorates the 1263 Battle of Largs during which a Scots army under King Alexander II beat off a Norwegian force under King Hakon of Norway.
It was so warm that we'd set out in shorts and T-shirts, stowing our padde kit inside the boats, but even lightly dressed it was a warm afternoon. The initial few kilometres south through Fairlie Roads between the mainland and Great Cumbrae is an industrial scene with the Hunterston ore terminal, Hunterston nuclear power station and two gigantic wind turbines dominating the view.
In contrast to the modern industry on the shore, we passed this beautifully maintained sailing craft whith her varnished hull and graceful rig.
After an hour so we detected a faint breeze and hoisted our own sails for a short while. Although we'd only been on the water for an hour, a stop for afternoon tea below the 16th century Little Cumbrae Castle seemed very much in order. A keep with royal connections, Little Cumbrae castle was in the possession of the High Steward of Scotland and is very similar to Portencross Castle over on the Ayrshire mainland.
As we passed around Gull Point at the southern end of Little Cumbrae we got our first view of the distinctive outline of the Arran skyline some 15 kilometres across the Firth of Clyde. We also saw two groups of Porpoises in this area, their sharp exhalations clearly audible on the calm air.
The west coast of Little Cumbrae is a long series of lava flows. These are best viewed from the south end of Bute where three distinct flows can easily be picked out. A Peregrine Falcon zipped along the cliff edge before landing on the skyline and as we paddled out a little farther we were treated to a series of close passes by squadrons of Manx Shearwaters.
This rugged and quite remote coast with its wildlife is, amazingly, just 45 kilometres from the centre of Scotland's biggest city - but a world away.
As we'd not set out from Largs until mid-afternoon we would be paddling into the summer evening before reaching our intended camp site. The sun wouldn't set until late and it was a lovely evening to be on the water, we had no sense of hurry or a schedule to keep; we just enjoyed being out here.
We made a brief stop at a tiny pebble beach near Garroch Head on the south tip of the island of Bute to stretch our legs and to put on paddling clothes. It wasn't that the temperature had dropped much, more that we knew we'd be landing next just as the midges were getting most active and thought that covering our legs would be best- it pays to plan ahead!
A crossing of a little over 10 kilometres of paddling lay between us and our camp site as we paddled away from the coast and out onto a mirror calm Sound of Bute. It was truly great to be out on the water again......