Thursday 25 May 2023

Blown away by Knoydart

The second half of April had some really fine weather with high pressure close by the north of Scotland.  Douglas and I watched the synoptic picture carefully for several days before deciding on a trip starting at Mallaig.  we came from opposite corners of the country but arrived within minutes of each other and after a coffee and croissant from the rather excellent Bakehouse, got our boats packed and set off.

Our plan was initially to paddle up to the head of Loch Nevis for the first camp, but we soon modified that.  High pressure close to rather than over the country can, in certain circumstances give really fine, clear weather but with strong easterly winds - and this was the situation on this week.  Douglas and I both have a healthy respect for the conditions which can be created by this weather pattern; some of our hardest battles have been in easterly winds blowing from a clear blue sky.  Lochs Nevis and Hourn which frame the south and north shores of the Knoydart peninsula both have east-west topography and a short paddle to the entrance of Loch Nevis confirmed that the wind was indeed barrelling down the loch....time for a change of plan!

Our pre-trip planning had factored this in, we had a camp spot in mind for the first evening of three, but first we explored a bit around the entrance to Loch Nevis, climbing above a beach near Rubha Raonuill to get a view of the hills beyond Inverie.

We paddled below the statue of the Virgin Mary in the narrows at the entrance to Loch Nevis, an unusual feature.  Officially known as Our Lady of Knoydart, the statue was erected by the Catholic community in the middle of the 20th century.  It's actually made of GRP and is known locally as "Plastic Mary".  I was surprised to note that the last time I paddled through these narrows was over ten years ago!

We paddled north from the loch entrance and were faced with a difficult choice of which of several lovely beaches to camp on....sea kayaking can have these difficulties sometimes!  Having selected our beach we got the tents up, enjoyed a cup of tea and then set about collecting and sawing down sufficient driftwood for a fire below the rapidly receding tide.  

We were quite pleased with our choice of camp site; a slab of rock forming an arm of the bay gave a super place to watch the sun go down after dinner.

The sunset was relatively brief on this April evening, but what it lacked in duration it made up in intensity - a gorgeous wash spread across the sky.....

....which faded to an intense glow, silhouetting the distant Skye Cuillin.  Our plans may have been blown away by the wind, but we certainly weren't complaining about the way the trip was unfolding!

Thursday 4 May 2023

A re-boot

 When I started this blog back in 2009 it was primarily to create a record and to share some of the sights and experiences in Scotland's outdoors.  When things got busy with work or family life, the natural tendency was to post less, but lately I've really let it slip.  The last posts were some eight months ago - and they were recalling a trip in April 2022!  "Retirement" from a long career at sea in March 2022 was quickly followed by setting up a new venture in "retirement", so there has been a lot going on.

In my defence, I've been posting a lot on the Mountain and Sea Instagram page  and while enjoying the ability to post more or less instantly, I have missed the research and reflection that blogging offers.  

It's not like I haven't been getting out and about whether solo or with friends....  There have been some great sea kayak trips.... 

To the west - here on Loch Hourn

On the "home" patch of the Moray Firth in the northeast 

In the very heart of Scotland, here on Loch Ericht.

And in the far northwest, a here in Assynt.

The hills haven't been ignored either, whether in challenging weather

or in fair weather.

And talking of weather, the range of conditions experienced have been simply marvellous!

So that's the re-boot started, and hopefully I can do much better in posting here than of late!