Sunday, 20 January 2019

Bacon rolls, coffee and cake - the art of suffering on Loch Ailort

I slept well in Peanmeanach - a quiet building in a quiet place.  Stepping outside in the evening, it was immediately obvious that our fire wasn't the only glow around these parts. A herd of Red Deer hinds uses the meadow below the bothy and they generally gather in the evenings.  Our headtorches picked out dozens of pairs of glowing eyes staring back towards us - and the animals seemed very unconcerned if we walked close by.

We felt no inclination for an early start and so didn't rise until it was fully light - about 8.30am.  The weather looked to be similar to the previous day with a grey cloudsheet overhead, but it was dry and not too cold which is as much as you can ask from a January day in Scotland!

A leisurely breakfast including bacon rolls (thanks Donald!) and fresh coffee made for a pleasant start to the day, breakfast made easier by being able to cook inside the bothy.  Once packed up we cleaned through the building and cleared the fire ashes for the next visitors, then got dressed into paddling kit.

Back on the water by mid morning, we decided to paddle to the head of Loch Ailort before returning to Samalaman to end this short trip.  The colours on this third day of the year were very muted and the light levels quite low; our boats seemed to be the only spots of brighter colour anywhere. 

Loch Ailort is a shallow "S" shaped sea loch guarded by islands at its mouth and has more interest than is generally supposed.  There are islands, narrow channels which change with the tide height and even some faster moving water in places.  We explored at a leisurely pace up to the head of the loch where luncheon was taken at the public jetty near Inverailort.

We planned to arrive back at our starting point near Glenuig at or shortly after sunset so didn't linger too long before setting off back down the loch.

On the way we stopped at a spot I've paddled past may times but hadn't previously landed.  A glimpse of flat turf aroused our interest and we got out to investigate.  Aside from Peanmeanach there are few decent spots to wild camp in Loch Ailort, or so we thought.  You'll need to find the place for yourself, but we felt that two or three tents could be pitched here on good, level ground - a useful recce!

We paddled back out of the loch past Eilean nan Gobhar and out onto the Sound of Arisag; An Sgurr of Eigg ahead of us was streaming a cloud banner as moister air streamed past it - quite different to the conditions on the summer day when Mike and I last visited!

The last hour of our paddle passed pleasantly as we upped the pace a little to arrive back at Samalaman Bay in the gathering dusk.  We landed at almost high water so didn't have too far to move our boats, which is always a nice bonus at the end of a day.  Kit packed up and boats loaded, we couldn't resist the lure of coffee and cake at the Glenuig Inn before heading home - an other nice bonus at the end of a paddle!  we'd topped and tailed the day with good food and with fresh coffee....who said sea kayaking  trips mean "roughing it"?!

This first overnight trip of the year had been just 32km of paddling over two short days.  In familiar waters and benign weather we'd enjoyed a pleasant and relaxed introduction to another year of sea kayaking - and shared with our friends Allan and Lorna a return to kayaking after enforced lay-offs.  Here's to lots more trips in 2019!

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