Monday, 7 September 2015

Sailing and not sailing on Loch Sunart

A forecast with enough of a break in a run of poor weather set me looking at options for an overnight sea kayak journey. One of the places I had in mind was outer Loch Sunart and Loch Teacuis; on my previous visit to this area I'd paddled through but not really explored to any degree.

 I launched at Salen, which has a commercial yacht jetty, though sea kayaks can launch from the shingle slipway without charge. I managed to negotiate a place to park nearby, and offered a small donation to do so - parking has long been a significant issue right along the shore of Loch Sunart and suitable places are few.

Once on the water I crossed to the southern side of Loch Sunart near the dog-leg angle around Gearr Creag.  The weather was pretty much as forecast, a northerly breeze which would increase during the afternoon, initially cloudy but brightening up.  In this image Salen can just be seen above the bow of the boat.

A little further south west is the former settlement of Camas Salach (which seems to mean "foul bay" in Gaelic, perhaps referring to the rocky seabed).  Although there are now just two small holiday cottages here, there has been a settlement on this spot since at least 1560; remains of eleven buildings and a section of field wall have been identified in archaeological surveys, with a collection of charcoal burning platforms on the hillside above.  The tall cairn on the shore includes granite plaques with family names, perhaps of the current owners and their family.

As I continued south west along the shoreline a rather unusual jetty came into view.  Incorporated into and forming most of the structure is an old barge.

Which, it's safe to say, will not be sailing again anytime soon!  The barge was placed as a temporary jetty to facilitate the loading of timber extracted from the Glencripesdale estate, which is a long way from even a minor road.

In recent years the owner of the estate, a Mr Hugh Whittle, has been involved in a long-running planning application to build a large and very grand estate owner's house and an almost as grand "estate worker's dwelling" on the estate.  Initially refused, the second planning application was successful subject to a number of conditions - such as not subsequently subdividing the estate (to safeguard against their subsequent sale on a "parcel" of land), both buildings had to be occupied only by the persons referred to in the planning application (to prevent their use as sporting lodges/hotels) and a new jetty was to be built, removing the current temporary one - this condition was because all building materials were to be taken in by sea as a further condition of the planning consent.  Mr Whittle had claimed in the press to be the only estate owner in Scotland not to have a house on his estate.... however, he also owns Glenfeochan estate which has a pretty nice bijou home sited on it as well as a rental "cottage" sleeping eight - perhaps an indication of Mr Whittle's real intention for Glencripesdale.

As the barge remains in place, filled with rocks and with a road surface (and trees) on top, it would appear that this condition hasn't yet been met.  It would be quite a considerable task to remove this "temporary structure"!

The northerly breeze was picking up as I left Glencripesdale, so I hoisted sail and fairly birled along past the fish farm at Camas Glas (green bay) where the freighter "Harvest Caroline II" was unloading part of her cargo of fish food to the service spar module.  If you drive on highland roads, you may well have noticed Ferguson's timber lorries, part of a very successful independent business based in Spean Bridge dealing mainly in timber and aquaculture haulage.  Perhaps less well known is that the company is a maritime business too, with its own fleet of ships as well as port services.

As "Harvest Caroline II" completed her cargo discharge and prepared to sail (you can check out her current voyage here) I continued my own sailing, turning into the narrow Caol Charna.........

.....with a last look back up Loch Sunart to cloud-capped Ben Resipole.

I had now left the open water of the loch and was approaching the real interest of this trip, the narrow waters around Carna, Oronsay and Loch Teacuis.  On almost the only flat ground on the island of Cara lie a couple of neat traditional houses now used as holiday cottages, but on a much less intrusive and very different model to that envisaged at Glencripesdale!


  1. That barge almost looks like a natural part of the coastline for a temporary structure. I read recently that a new land grab is underway thoughout the UK with land prices pulling ahead of house prices, even in London, and therefore a good investment for the ultra rich who may not even visit the property while they own it.

  2. Hi Bob, it's certainly not going anywhere anytime soon..... The saga of Glencripesdale seems to be one of wealthy landowners in the area having a bit of a p*ssing contest unfortunately.

    Kind Regards