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.

Tuesday 6 July 2021

A toast or two on the Sound of Sleat

We dawdled along until the cloud lifted a little and built into a more substantial sheet, flattening the light. It had been a truly remarkable morning and yet we'd paddled only about six kilometres! Approaching Corran we stopped at the very smart "Ceildh House" which has local information, an exhibition/performance space and toilets. Immaculately clean and well kept, this is a true community hub. We took the opportunity to replenish our supplies of drinking water, and left a small donation. Places like this are really good to see, and there's even an arrangement for a couple of motorhomes to park for a couple of nights for a very reasonable fee. Unfortunately we were a couple of weeks too early for the opening of Sheena's tea hut... 

 At the other end of the village of Arnisdale is a building on an altogether grander scale. Arnisdale House was built in 1898 as a hunting lodge by Valentine Fleming, father of the author Ian Fleming, who wrote the James bond books. So, maybe this is the real "Skyfall".....

On this third and last night of our trip we returned to the same spot we'd used on the first evening, a reef topped with turf with great views up and down the Sound of Sleat.  We got the tents up and had a leisurely few hours in the late afternoon exploring on foot and collecting driftwood for the evening's fire.

The sun went down behind Skye's Sleat peninsula in a pale blaze and the temperature dropped - it was the last night of April after all.  Our tents were pitched on the highest ground so we found a good spot to shelter from a chilly "sundowner" breeze......

...where we cooked our dinner of home-made sweet potato curry.  We all consider good food a key part of any trip and when sea kayaking there's really no need to resort to tasteless processed food on shorter trips.  Each meal had been home-made prior to the trip and made a great end to the day, especially when accompanied by a frothing sports recovery drink and a dram.

Our fire was needed on this evening; although the showers of the previous day were thankfully absent it was certainly not very toasty warm.  We had another use for that fire too....

Baked potatoes in the embers of the fire followed by toasted marshmallows made for a most satisfactory supper!  We finished up with another toast - to the trip and to being back together after the lockdowns.