Monday 14 September 2020

Stacks of colour at Rubha Reidh

The point and lighthouse at Rubha Reidh marked the extent of our outward journey on this superlative summer day.  We turned and headed back around the point, pausing to investigate the tiny jetty at Port an Amaill which was used to supply the light with paraffin and stores for many years - the narrow, twisting road from Melvaig to Rubha Reidh was only completed in 1962.

Seen from the west the stacks are even more impressive than our initial view from the east as they stand out from the cliffs.  It's a great place to explore with a sea kayak and one can paddle in and around the narrow channels at the base of each stack - so we did!

A last run between tow of the larger stacks in perfect conditions brought us back out to the eastern side....

...and back out into the riot of colour in the bay of Camas Mor.  I'd rate this pace, in these conditions, as one of the best places I've ever explored by kayak - just superb.

Image by Allan McCourt

We took turns to pose in our boats for photographs, seemingly suspended on brilliant aquamarine water which would grace a tropical island.

After spending time just absorbing the intensity of the colours we headed in to a small beach we'd spotted on our outward leg.  If Camas Mor is difficult of access on foot, then this beach takes it to another level.  At spring tide high water it will pretty much disappear and is guarded by rocks and reefs, but if you make it here, and it's possible to land, we recommend that you do so.....

 ....we promise you won't be disappointed!  An utterly superb beach, surrounded by dramatic rock architecture and lapped by a sea of stunningly intense colour; it's a great place.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Smooth headland, smooth going

We left Camas Mor with some reluctance, it's a lovely spot and one that's usually difficult to land on.  Ahead of us the sea shaded from aquamarine to indigo and every shade of aqua blue in between.  The cliffs are high here and we began to pick out the stacks near to our destination.

A glimpse of another strip of pale golden sand caught our attention - and if Camas Mor is difficult of access then this beach takes it to another level.  Backed by rugged, loose cliffs it would be a tricky scramble down and back.  The scale of the place is put in perspective by the group of walkers on the skyline near the lowest cliffs......

We were now paddling in emerald green water - an indication of some depth over a sandy seabed.  The sandstone stacks rose up in front of us, intricate and challenging.

When we came to shallower water the sea colour changed again - bright turquoise alternating with a deep green where patches of laminaria weed grow from the seabed......

...while behind us the emerald green was stunning - flashes of light darting across the seabed as the bright sunshine was refracted off the ripples on the surface.

As if this couldn't get any better, the colour of the water intensified close to the stacks, which added their own warm red shade to provide contrast.

Against an intensely blue summer sky, the contrast of the sandstone's red was startling.

 Suddenly, we were past the stacks and the height of the land fell quickly to Rubh Reidh (the smooth headland).  Rubh Reidh is named for the appearance of the sloping slabs.  These are of a different type of sandstone, termed autoclastic (made of itself) and are understood to have been sediments broken and tilted 30 degrees to the northwest, possibly by earthquakes.

Across the headland, Rubh Reidh lighthouse stands tall and distinct, visible from many miles up and down this northern coast.  Built by David Alan Stevenson between 1908 and 1912, the tower stands 25 metres tall (37 metres above the sea) and shows four white flashes every fifteen seconds.  I've travelled this coast in large vessels and the intricate chain of lights is perfect, each distinct and in just the right place - one of the great engineering and navigational feats.

To be here, at the Smooth Headland, in smooth conditions was a real treat.  I've walked to the light and tried three previous times by sea kayak to turn this point; each time conditions were too big for me.  the tide sweeps around at 3 knots, it's absolutely exposed and despite it's lack of height is described in yachtsman's pilot books and the sea kayak guide to the north west as "the most dramatic and challenging of the Wester Ross headlands".  We felt pretty lucky!