Paddlers: Geoff, Jamie,Ruth , Ken and Hugh
Route: The original trip had been for the Treshnish Isles but a forecast of high winds for the Tuesday led to this more sheltered trip along the north coast of Ardnumurchan.
Day 1: Loch Ailort fills and empties with some force. Given the tide timings, the sensible option was to go with the flow rather than against it and start in Loch nan Uamh returning to Loch Ailort. Cars were then strategically arranged to enable such a route. Weather was overcast with occasional showers and some breeze but nothing to worry. Scenery, as ever, was staggering both forward to Eigg, Muck and Rum and behind over the mountainous mainland.
The beaches on the trip were superb; beautiful, sandy coves fringed by rock and forest.
After lunch we investigated a”vitrified” fort on Eilean nan Gour at the entrance of Loch Ailort. Vitrification is the melting of rock in a wall to fuse the elements together, a process which is almost impossible to reproduce and consequently quite rare.
The island itself is bounded on all sides by precipitous gneiss rocks; it is the abode and nesting place of numerous sea birds. The flat surface on the top is 120 feet from the sea level, and the remains of the vitrified fort are situated on this, oblong in form, with a continuous rampart of vitrified wall five feet thick, attached at the SW end to a large upright rock of gneiss. The space enclosed by this wall is 420 feet in circumference and 70 feet in width. The rampart is continuous and about five feet in thickness. At the eastern end is a great mass of wall in situ, vitrified on both sides. In the centre of the enclosed space is a deep depression in which are masses of the vitrified wall strewed about, evidently detached from their original site.
In reality the views are more impressive than the fort!
From the island we headed west towards the mountainous island of Shona and entered Loich Moidart via the North Channel. Possibly the best campsite we have ever found was located on an islet just to the south of Shona, offering flat pitches, plentiful wood and wonderful views. The slight breeze kept all the midge life away. An excellent and convivial evening for all. (24km, 15mi)
Day 2: Castle Tioram, just 0.5km from the campsite, was the first port of call.
The gospel according to Wikipedia reads as follows:
” Castle Tioram is a ruined castle that sits on the tidal island Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart, Lochaber, Highland, Scotland. It is located west of Acharacle, approximately 80 kilometres from Fort William. Though hidden from the sea, the castle controls access to Loch Shiel. It is also known to the locals as “Dorlin castle”
The castle is the traditional seat of the Clan MacDonald of Clan Ranald, a branch of Clan Donald. Castle Tioram was seized by Government forces around 1692 when Clan Chief Allan of Clanranald joined the Jacobite Court in France, despite having sworn allegiance to the British Crown. A small garrison was stationed in the Castle until the Jacobite Uprising of 1715 when Allan recaptured and torched the castle, purportedly to keep it out of the hands of the Hanoverian forces. It has been unoccupied since that time, although there are some accounts suggesting it was partially inhabited thereafter including storage of firearms from the De Tuillay in the 1745 Jacobite Uprising and Lady Grange’s account of her kidnapping.
The castle is now in extremely poor condition and in 1998 was closed to the public at the request of Highland Council; a major structural collapse occurred at the north west curtain wall in 2000.
Controversial proposals to restore the castle by the new owners, Anta Estates, were announced in 1997 and received planning consent from Highland Council. This included the creation of a clan centre/museum, domestic apartments, and public access. However, Historic Scotland refused Scheduled Monument Consent – a decision upheld after a local public inquiry.“
The castle is well-preserved but clearly degenerating and maintenance desperately needed.
From the castle we headed north east down the south channel to the sea then east. The wind was increasing to force 4/5 from the south east which gave a bouncy ride as the kayaks were hit side on by the surf.
At Elgadale, a pleasant isolated beach just around the headland, a long lunch was taken.
Decision making was becoming more difficult. Every mile west with the strong wind was a mile back against the wind. We carried on for another 5 or so km before turning back into the wind, which increased as we turned directly into it and headed for the beaches at the top of the loch.
Once again we found an excellent site on the machair just behind the “Singing Sands” of Ardtoe. Singing is rather poetic; a bit squeaky would be more accurate.
An excellent fire was made but periodic bouts of rain eventually led to retirement to tents at 9pm whilst still light. (22km (14.5mi))
Day 3: The wind had eased and the midges appeared, although nothing like the previous trip to Knoydart. Just after 9pm we were away to our first port of call at the township of Ardtoe.
From Ardtoe we headed north with a light backing breeze across the cliffs to the west of Shona and on to the point “Rubha Ghead a’ Leighe”. At this point a pod of 4 dolphins were playing, a real first for some group members.
20 minutes with the dolphins and then on to the village of Glenuig. The hotel here has become the most important centre for Sea Kayaking in Scotland. The owner, Steve Macdonald runs Sea Kayaking, Arisaig and the hotel is used by Wilderness Scotland and Discover Sea Kayaking as their base. In winter the clientele is boosted by a number of kayak clubs on weekend trips with a warm shower, bar and bed for the long nights.
The great disadvantage is the tide goes out miles. Even after lunch and a pint we waited another 30 minutes to allow the water in a hundred or so metres. We then headed off for the final 13km to Lochailort.
The incoming tide provided a helpful boost and we were back by 4.30pm. (27km, 16.5mi)
It was another really good trip in fantastic surroundings. We viewed seal, otters and eagles as well as the dolphins and the campsites were excellent. This area from Morar round to the Ardnumurchan Point, including the Small Isles, is undoubtedly one of the very best places for Sea Kayaking in the World. Without any major effort a total of 73km (45miles) was covered.