Friday, 19 May 2017

Cuil camping

This the first of two catch-up posts from a camping trip Allan and I made on Loch Linnhe in the second half of April.  The plan was for a relaxed circuit and a couple of nights wild camping; for both of us it was the first overnight trip of the year due to work or health reasons.  A bigger trip was in the planning so this would also be a good shake-out of camping kit.

Our starting point was Cuil Bay on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe, where a couple of cars can be parked by the side of the minor road above the shore - taking care to leave access for farm vehicles.  Cuil translates as either "wing" or "back", both of which would be good descriptions for the shape of the bay.

The weather looked good with sunshine and cloud dappling the long view down the loch towards the distant Mull hills.

We paddled south down the loch in perfect conditions, enjoying the reflections of the Morvern hills on the mirror calm water.  To our left the main A828 road follows the shore for several kilometres and there was some traffic noise, but this soon fades when the road turns inland a little.

We took luncheon on a tiny pebble beach at the north tip of Shuna (the northerly of two islands with the same name in this area, the other being in the Firth of Lorn).  The sunlight was picking out the colours of the pebbles below the water beautifully - it really was a very relaxing spot.  Looking over the loch to Morvern, I recalled one of our trips from the previous year when we'd paddled around Movern in late summer warmth.  Loch Linnhe seems to be overlooked a bit by sea kayakers, but it does have the potential for good trips.

After paddling around the outside of Shuna, our next stop was at the ferry jetty on Lismore.  There's a toilet and water from a tap at the ferry waiting room here, handy on longer trips.  We now had a decision to make....our plan was very flexible and we'd not planned in any more detail than a starting point and a basic direction down the loch.  From the jetty we could paddle down either side of the island of Lismore (Lios Mor - the big garden, so named for the fertility of the island which is on limestone).

We chose to go down the outside, west, side of the island as it has plenty of interest and a few more camping options.  Within 30 minutes of setting out, a stiff NW'ly breeze blew up and made things quite bouncy - it seemed we'd made the wrong choice!

A considerable chop built up as we passed beneath the ruin of Castle Coeffin.  Built in the 13th century by the MacDougalls of Lorn, the castle passed into ownership of Clan Stewart through marriage and eventually to Clan Campbell.

We were glad of the opportunity to tuck into the bay below the castle for a breather out of the wind.  This bay must have been a factor in the siting of the castle as the MacDougalls were a clan of sea raiders, the beach must have been a perfect base for operating the highland version of a longship - the Birlinn.

The bay also contains the well-preserved remains of a medieval fish trap.  The fish were held back as the tide dropped and could be caught easily in the confines of the trap. 

We considered making our first camp on the cropped turf below the castle, but a reasonably polite notice asks that folk don't camp here as it's close to the croft house and is grazed occasionally by horses.  We had a quick look at the map and decided to backtrack on our route a bit to a spot we'd noticed earlier.

It was a fairly stiff paddle back up against a strengthening wind to reach the spot we had in mind, but it was worthwhile as it was a good place to camp with a little shelter from what had become a cold NW'ly wind - a "Cuil" breeze in fact!

After dinner we managed to find a spot for a campfire below the high water line and enjoyed a dram or two to mark the first kayak camp of the year.


  1. I was a really sorry to miss this trip Ian, looks like you had a cracking time :o)

  2. You were missed Douglas.....a really pleasant short outing


  3. I've explored those islands on foot and by bike a few times. Really nice area that for interesting features and Lismore is covered in yellow primroses in spring- the most I've ever seen in one place. Great island for otter activity as well.

    1. Hi Bob, Lismore does seem to be the most fertile of islands - it was a mass of flowers during this visit

  4. The kayaks give great scale to the fish traps, Ian. Such wonderful evidence of those who came before us...timelessness.

    1. Such a simple but effective technique for catching fish Duncan - you have to wish to have been a fly on the wall when the idea first popped into someone's head!

      Warm wishes to you both