Saturday, 19 June 2021
Thursday, 10 June 2021
We lit the fire right on the previous evening's tide mark, but miscalculated by about 30 minutes of tide....with the result that we experienced "the lost fire of Loch Hourn"! Managing to rescue some hot embers, we re-lit a fire on the shingle further up, but still below the Spring tide line. We were glad of that fire, it was a fairly cold evening with a chilly breeze and though enjoyable to sit around chatting after so long apart, we didn't stay up too late. The cloud began to dissipate as we were heading for our tents and we had hopes of good weather the following morning. We were certainly not to be disappointed.....
Wednesday, 26 May 2021
We made it as far as another narrows leading to the tiny Loch Beag and the road end at Kinloch Hourn. This is one of the more remote spots in Scotland...although we were just 2km from the end of a road, that twisting, precipitous and narrow ribbon of eroded tarmac goes through totally empty country for fully 37km/23 miles before reaching a main road. The ebbing tide was pouring out from here and the whole area dries out at low water - we could go no further. Turning back, we headed down the ebb tide towards our intended camp site.
Sunday, 16 May 2021
We'd deliberately scheduled a short first day as we didn't set out until early afternoon. A couple of hours of steady paddling got us back in the rhythm of travelling in fully laden kayaks and it wasn't long before we reached our intended camp.
As it was low water and Springs, we had a fair carry to get the boats up - as there were five kayakers we were able to lift even the laden boats and move them in two stages; firstly up to the beach to give us time to sort our camp. We moved them to the same place as our tents later on. Donny anchored "Guppy" in a lagoon around a sheltered point on the other side of our camp.
We pitched our tents and got a cup of tea on....we'd arrived and another adventure was underway!
Our camp was sufficiently spacious that we had choices of where to put the tents...which is not always a good thing as several pitches looked equally promising! To get our boats above the Spring high water mark we moved them up to the turf - which was actually a little higher than mine and Douglas' tents!
Our camp looked across a sheltered bay to a ridge, above which the upper slopes of Beinn Sgritheall (scree mountain) soared. A couple of heavy showers blew through, sending us into our tents temporarily - and each one left more snow on the mountain.
While the temperature was on the cool side, it was undoubtedly Spring. Bright clumps of Primroses (Primula vulgaris) dotted our camp, splashes of colour among winter-bleached grasses.
The play of light was really quite special and the occasional shower was well worth sitting out to watch the change of colour and form during the late afternoon.
A rainbow stretched across the bay; too broad for my camera lens to get it all in as it arced up over one side.....
.....and back down to the other side of the bay.
Dinner was a superb chicken casserole followed by home-made carrot cake - both courses courtesy of Lorna. I was unsurprised to find that there were large quantities of driftwood along the shore; the absence of people around to collect it for over a year meant that we could gather what we needed from close at hand, and even to just collect the driest pieces. The fire was lit below the high tide mark which meant that by the early hours of the morning all trace of it would be erased. We sat long into the evening around the fire, catching up with each other after not having been together as a group for so long. It felt so good to be away and underway.....
Saturday, 10 April 2021
This week has seen some very stormy conditions around the north of Scotland. The surf forecasts for the Moray Firth coast were indicating swells of 5 metres/16 feet which is very much higher than the norm. The Shipping Forecast confirmed the conditions would be lively...."Faroes, Fair Isle, Cromarty...northerly severe gale force 9 occasionally storm 10, heavy snow showers, good becoming poor in showers..." - it was definitely weather worth seeing from safely onshore.
Lorna, Allan and I met at Cullen to take a walk along the shore and experience the weather. We managed to find parking spaces tucked behind buildings in the village otherwise we wouldn't have been able to safely open the doors of the cars! The whole bay was a mass of breaking white water and the wind so strong that walking against it was a considerable effort. For context, severe gale force 9 winds are between 41-47mph sustained - storm force 10 is 48-55mph sustained. On the beach it was comfortably in the region of 45mph.
This is the Whale's Mou', a long cave-arch that we regularly sea kayak into and through. On this day it was receiving huge breaking swells right through - surging up the cobbled beach on the shore side - a sobering view.
Even more impressive was the view of the Bow Fiddle. This graceful arch is a favourite spot to paddle and to see it like this was a real eye-opener. The scale shouldn't be underestimated - check the size of the rock in these posts - then look at the height of the waves in this image and the video below!
It was such a wild and spectacular experience - the air was filled with salt spray and on the cliff between Cullen Bay and Portknockie we found it really difficult to stand upright in the strength of the blast which was coming straight from the Arctic, bitingly cold and laden with snow and hail showers. The strength of the wind on this headland, accelerated up the cliff, was just incredible.
In bursts of sunshine the Bow Fiddle was creating its very own rainbow as big swells surged through - the bay in which it stands was a maelstrom of seething surf.
Standing square-on to the weather, the stack of the Craig (actually named "Shitten Craig" from the bird guano which covers it in Spring and Summer) was being battered by the swells. Early nesting seabirds would have had no chance of remaining in place unfortunately, the whole stack was being covered by solid water at times. At least this early in the season any birds which lose eggs or nests will be able to start again.
The outer harbour at Portknockie was doing its job! Swells hitting the outer wall were being flung high into the air, but the boats in the inner harbour remained snug and safe - the impacts of the biggest of the swells could be heard even above the roaring wind - we wondered at the forces that were being unleashed.....
Allan commented later that it was the first time he'd travelled anywhere specifically to see some weather...we all agreed that it had been a very worthwhile experience!
Monday, 1 March 2021
After a long, cold start to the year some glorious days at the end of February have brought a hint of the coming Spring. Warm sunshine and clear skies seem to have set everything off - remarkably this "winter" barley crop was under almost a metre of snow just ten days previously.
Even more remarkably, the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) on the banks of the River Don were not only under huge volumes of snow, but once that melted they were submerged in a torrent of fast flowing icy water as recently as five days ago when the river couldn't contain the volume of snowmelt.
These welcome heralds of winter's end seem to flower as soon as they emerge from the snow - delicate in appearance but incredibly hardy.
The river banks are carpeted with drifts of Snowdrops. Although some bulbs were torn out by the surge of water, the flood also left lots of rich silt as it receded - perhaps one reason they are able to not only survive but thrive here.
Against a neighbour's south facing garden wall is another very early flower, the White Butterbur (Petasites albus) with its almost alien flower spike. Later in the year the leaves of this strange plant can reach over 90cms across - it seems to do really well in the north east of Scotland.
A clump of Crocus in a tub against the wall of the house have responded to the warmer weather and simply shot up; in just a couple of days the flower buds emerged and then the flowers opened as soon as the morning sun warmed them. Within hours, two Honey Bees had visited and taken advantage of this early bonus of pollen.
It's just the first day of March and there will no doubt be more hard weather to come; this month has a reputation as a wintry one in Aberdeenshire. But for a few days at least it seems that Spring isn't too far away - and that's a great thought.