Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Nothing to see here.....

There's no question that the west coast of Scotland possesses world class sea kayaking locations - and it's been said that the east coast of the country "would be great if the west coast wasn't there".  Faint praise indeed...... 

Here's a look one of our local paddles, a Moray Firth outing from Gardenstown heading east to Rosehearty.

A feature of the Moray Firth and indeed much of the east coast is that there are plenty of small harbours from which to launch.  Gardenstown (also known as Gamrie) is one such, and close by is Crovie - so tightly packed against the cliffs that there isn't space for road access.  Some of the harbours are administered by Trusts - if you use them at the start or end of a trip there's usually an honesty box and it's worth contributing to help with the upkeep.

Most of the houses in these former fishing villages stand gable end to the sea and have small windows fitted with shutters to protect them from the violence of gales.  Big windows and the desire for sea views are modern phenomena!

The main feature on this trip is Troup Head, Scotland's only mainland gannetry.  The Gannets are evident long before the headland is reached, brilliant black and white shapes wheeling above on two-metre wingspans.

The gannetry itself is an assault of sound, sight and smell.  On this visit the birds hadn't begun to lay eggs - later in the season it's best to keep well out to avoid disturbance.

Not just Gannets here....there are Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots, Puffins, Shags and Cormorants in their hundreds of thousands.  The east coast has truly vast numbers of seabirds and this is one of the better places to experience them from a kayak - whirling masses filling the sky.  Top tip: wear a hat and be careful when you look skyward!

There are beaches of golden sand and beaches of wonderfully coloured pebbles - hours can be spent searching for particularly nice examples. 

The cliffs along much of this stretch of the Moray Firth drop sheer into the sea - and some have unusual rock architecture such as this mimetolith known as the Lion's Head.

Each corner turned brings a fresh view, headland after headland marching into the distance along a wild coast.  There's a sense of scale and a definite exposure to the North Sea here, choose settled weather to get the best from this trip.

The verticality is punctuated with pretty villages such as Pennan.  There's a good pub here if it's all getting a bit much.....

The geology is fascinating; you'll travel along a wide variety of rock types.  At times the colour can be turned up to the maximum in Spring and Summer; the contrast of vivid red sandstone, brilliant yellow gorse and deep green water near Pennan is stunning - and on warm days the coconut scent of the gorse drifts down to the water.

The Moray Firth is one of the best places in Scotland to see Bottlenose Dolphins; a well known pod hunts regularly right along the coasts of the Firth.  These are the most northerly population of Bottlenose dolphins, the largest individuals of the species and some of the best studied - it's always a thrill to catch sight of the distinctive dorsal fins close by.

It's quite possible to be paddling along a wild shore with Gannets overhead, dolphins close on one side of the kayak and Puffins on the other side!

Another rock type and another change of scenery; sheer cliffs towering above deep bays.....

....stacks, towers, arches and caves linked by narrow channels......

...along with the odd secluded bay, totally inaccessible except by water......

All this, and the chances are high that you'll meet more dolphins than other sea kayakers.  Really, you wouldn't like it....nothing to see here folks!   :o)


  1. It's a "best kept secret", Ian, like the paddling off the Seaton Cliffs...nah, nothing much of interest. Truly, what's the big deal about paddling from the North Sea, through a deep cavern, inland, to a tiny secret a crater leading up to a field of Brussels Sprouts?! If only the hikers up above had any idea what was passing deep below their feet! :))

    1. No big deal at all Duncan....not even when that particular cave can be used for practice in "flying" a sea kayak!

      It's an area which really should be paddled more


  2. New slice of coastline for me. Going by the photos that area is the equal of anything on the west coast for cliff scenery. Remember Tom Weir covering Gardenstown and Pennan on his programme which was my first introduction to that region but never knew the cliff scenery was so outstanding.

    1. I'd have to agree Bob, the cliffs and seabirds are the equal o anything

  3. Very beautiful harbours! Thanks for sharing
    xoxo, Juliana | PJ’ Happies :)

    1. Thank you Juliana, Pennan harbour is very pretty and was the setting for the movie "Local Hero"