Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Caribbean Scotland

After the dolphin pod left us we paddled inside the Arisaig skerries, a complex of rocky islands and channels separated by white shell sand at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall. 

At a little after low water most of the channels are empty so we landed on the bed of one for first luncheon while we waited for more water. 

The tide in the skerries doesn't conform to the "rule of thirds" due partly to the complex topography but also due to the fact that the area of the skerries is a gentle dome separating the slightly deeper water of Loch nan Ceall and the open sea. The result is that rather than the strongest streams being at mid tide, the flood runs quickest in the first part and the ebb runs strongest in the last part as the water is forced through narrow and very shallow channels.

We didn't have to wait too long for the channels to begin filling and we set off to explore this ever-changing maze.  This area is immensely popular due to the sheltered location, white sand and wildlife - it's often busy with paddlers in the summer.  The guidebook Scottish Sea Kayaking - Fifty Great Voyages describes the Arisaig skerries as "the nearest you will get to paddling the Caribbean in Scotland".......

....and it's difficult to argue with that!  In fact, having paddled both; I can say that in my opinion this is a lot better....

One attraction is accessible wildlife; Seals are absolutely guaranteed here - a big draw for visitors as they often follow kayaks.

We exited the skerries at the north end and headed back south on the outside of Lunga Mhor, one of the larger islands.  A light breeze tempted us to put up the sails for a short while, but it was short-lived.  Ahead, a distinctive shape cut through the glitter and glare of the afternoon sun on the sea...

...yet more dolphins!  This was a different group to the one which had so enhanced the morning's paddling and seemed to be moving much more purposefully.

Nevertheless, they diverted to check us out and did a few circuits of our boats before continuing on their way north.  We had a small diversion of our own in mind on the way back........

....and really, why wouldn't we; did someone mention the Caribbean?!

Kayaks drawn up on a deserted white sand beach bounded by turquoise water - just idyllic.

We enjoyed a coffee break on the machair above the beach and had the place to ourselves - but if you come here in summer you'll be lucky to be able to do the same, it's a justifiably popular spot though somewhat overused by commercial groups for camping.  We restrict our visits to outside summer and don't camp here any more to reduce the pressure a little.  There are other spots equally beautiful and lots quieter within an hour's paddling.

Jennifer, Douglas and I can recommend a winter swim from this beach as a refreshing exercise - although we couldn't claim that the water temperature will match the Caribbean!


  1. That's inspired me to get up there again with my own kayaks although I'd hope to avoid the crowds. We noticed that visiting Knoydart and Glenfinnan hills 30 years apart- that they no longer have that empty wilderness feel about them in summer with sizable hill walking groups and what seemed to be a private school or outdoor company surrounding us the last time with a large trailer containing dozens of individual kayaks on it. Must have been well over 100 people every night centered around 'Scotland's most remote mainland pub' in Knoydart. Still a beautiful area though but not as remote as it once was :o)

    1. A quiet time can be had any time outside the main "season" and away from the guided groups regular camp sites here Bob. Aye, Knoydart is best appreciated outside of summer these days - there's so many folk "buying into" the wilderness that at times, it's not....