Saturday, 24 October 2015

Capra and the Mull of Cara

The final day of our trip around Gigha and Cara dawned overcast but dry.  In contrast to the previous morning, the overnight breeze had kept the tents dry so we were able to strike camp as soon as we'd had breakfast.  We intended to circumnavigate Cara before crossing back to Gigha, then making the crossing back to Tayinloan to complete our trip.

Turning the north tip of Cara, we started down the west coast of the island.  This place has a reputation for very rough water but the calm conditions continued and we had a quiet paddle through the reefs......

...under the watchful, impassive and unblinking gaze of one of the resident herds of goats.  The poet Norman MacCaig seemed to capture the essence of these characterful animals in his poem simply entitled "Goat" :

The goat with amber dumb-bells in his eyes,
The blase lecher, inquisitive as sin,
White sarcasm walking, proof against surprise,

The nothing like him goat, goat-in-itself,
Idea of goatishness made flesh, pure essence
In idle masquerade on a rocky shelf - 

Hangs upside down from the lushest grass to twitch
A shrivelled blade from the cliff's barren chest,
And holds the grass well lost; the narrowest niche

Is frame for the devil's face; the steepest thatch
Of barn or byre is pavement to his foot;
The last, loved rose a prisoner to his snatch;

And the man in his man-ness, passing feels suddenly
Hypocrite found out, hearing behind him that
Vulgar vibrato, thin derisive me-eh.

Past the reefs at the north of Cara the west coast becomes increasingly steep and there are no landings.  The cliffs remain relatively low, but as the south west corner is turned there's a great sight ahead...... the sliced-off face of the Mull of Cara comes into view.  Given that the remainder of Cara is quite low-lying, the sudden appearance of the Mull makes it appear much higher than it's 50 metres.

In 1756 the whole face of the Mull of Cara collapsed and a tidal wave swept around the island destroying houses on Cara, Gigha, Kintyre and West Loch Tarbert.  Given the size of the rockfall, it's probable that the collapse was an effect of a much larger event rather than the cause of all the destruction.  Theories include a sub-sea earthquake and a meteor strike, but we'll really never know.

The Mull of Cara is not often a quiet place. being exposed to wind and swell from most directions and is subject to strong tidal movement.  We were delighted to find absolutely calm conditions and made the most of the opportunity to get close in to the base of the cliff.

As we paddled around, the extent of the headland and the scale of the place became apparent.....

There's another herd of goats at the southern tip of the island -  here Douglas is assessing the options for Goat Bhuna on a future trip :o)

A last look back at this striking place before we turned the corner to head up the east coast of Cara - it's a really impressive place to sea kayak.

From farther up the east coast, only the hill of the Brownie's Chair is a clue to the dramatic rock architecture.

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