Sunday, 18 July 2021

A recovery roll on the Sound of Sleat

The final morning of our trip to Loch Hourn was the first day of May, though you wouldn't have known it from the rather chilly early morning temperature.  While the paddlers carried our boats the short distance to the water at our camp site......

.....Donny boarded "Guppy" on the other side of the reef and motored off back towards Glenelg in order to arrive at high water and enable a much easier transport of his boat up the shore.  It had been great to have Donny along on another trip - you can see the film he made on his Youtube channel here, and follow the trip in "trivision" with some stunning images on Douglas' blog here

We'd remarked the previous evening that it was strange not to have seen any Otters, particularly since this area is the setting for Gavin Maxwell's "Ring of Bright Water".  Well, we didn't need to wait long to put that right!  A nice close view of what looked to be a dog Otter moving along the shore, then heading up the rocks was a great start to the morning's paddle.

The morning was beginning to warm up too as the sun burned away early cloud on the hills; all in all it was turning out to be a fine day.

Another Otter popped up in the middle of our group with a fair sized flatfish, which it proceeded to eat, although it was aware we were around it seemed very unconcerned.  This is one of the advantages of moving in a kayak, quiet motion and a fairly low silhouette offer some stunning wildlife encounters.  Watching the Otter eat his morning snack reminded us that it had been a few hours since breakfast - and we had information about a feeding opportunity of our own!

This being Saturday morning, the Glenelg Inn were marking their recent post-lockdown opening with a bacon roll that shouldn't be missed!  The staff were amazing, batting not an eyelid at us arriving in drysuits and ordering six coffees with twelve bacon rolls.  Many paddlers practice recovery rolls towards the end of a paddling day, and we agree that this is a good thing....especially if bacon or sausage is involved......

We enjoyed the view from the Inn's garden along with our second breakfast - the Glenelg inn gets a well-deserved 12/10 rating as a sea kayaking destination!

Refreshed and refuelled, there was just a short paddle back to the beach at Bernera to end our trip.

 Our route had been 62km over two half days and two full days with three nights camping.  In terms of distance this isn't a long trip but there is a lot to explore both on the water and on land.  

Ordance Survey Landranger  1:50K sheet 33 (Loch Alsh, Glen Shiel & Loch Hourn) covers the whole area.  There are fast tidal streams near Kylerhea and at both sets of narrows in Loch Hourn.  There are no easy escapes for the majority of the route; this is truly wild country.  The mouth of Loch Hourn can offer conditions ranging from "sporting" to very challenging in certain wind and tidal conditions - a period of relatively settled conditions is best to attempt the crossing of the loch mouth or the Sound of Sleat. Loch Hourn itself is notorious for violent squalls and funnels wind from both east and west, as well as "enjoying" some of the highest rainfall totals in Scotland.  Weather will likely be changeable, and this changeability with the sudden shifts of light and colour can really enhance a trip in this area.


  1. Hi Ian, I enjoyed reading your account of the trip and it was a fantastic journey. Hard to believe how quickly the time is going since then..but at least its a lot warmer now. Remember if you ever come back to Loch Etive or Loch Awe..both great places for kayaks are more than welcome to use the "Bothy Room" at the house. Have a great summer

    1. Hi Donny, it was so good to share this trip with you - and I love the video account! It'll soon be time for autumnal trips...where has the year gone?!

  2. Hi Ian A lovely memory, the whole trip was excellent, so good to be paddling in such good company. The recovery roll is definitely the way to go at the end.

  3. Absolutely Lorna, we should make it a thing for all future trips!