Paddlers: Seylan, Hugh, Geoff
Route: Lendalfoot -Ailsa Craig and Back
Report: The weather forecast was fantastic; flat calm and sun. Ideal, we thought, for the crossing to one of the big challenges for sea kayakers, Ailsa Craig. The rock, situated in the middle of the entrance to the Clyde is 10 miles from the Ayrshire coast and around 15 miles to Arran and Kintyre. Journey time was estimated at 2.5 hours.
The first indication that we would not enjoy the promised flat calm were the flags flying straight. Either they were very light nylon or it was breezy. The white flecks on the sea suggested the latter and so it proved with a force 3 from the west throughout the day generating a significant quartering swell to paddle into on the way out and generate a tense trip back.
A terrible journey down (traffic jam on the M8 , lost in Irvine and lost in Girvan) meant a much later depart time than planned but an excellent parking spot and beach was found just north of Lendalfoot.
At 11.20 we were off and for the next two and a half hours paddled into the breeze, the rock on the horizon slowly growing into a sizeable and substantial island, with shear rock faces rearing up to 320m (1000ft). The time passed quite quickly as the chop provided interesting paddling and after 2hrs 40 minutes we were standing on the island.
The island itself is well worth a visit. A tramway runs up from a shingle/boulder beach and splits with one branch to the old curling stone works and the other to the lighthouse complex, now fully automated.
Just under half way up the mountain is a small ruined castle, reached by a precipitous path up the face of the crag. The tower is surprisingly well preserved. The views to the east are spectacular. We can only imagine the views from the summit as we did not have time to make the whole climb.
With a target return time of 7pm, by 4.30 we were heading back to the boats, leaving around 4.40. With the breeze behind us we thought we might be significantly faster but in the lumpy conditions time had to be spent on support and correcting strokes. Thus the return took only 10 minutes less at 2hrs 30 mins.
None of our photos catch the size of the swell; try taking your hands off the paddle when being chased by a wave. Again the time passed quckly because of the interest generated by the sea conditions. Whilst not frightening there was always a need to focus.
By 7.30 we were packed up and Girvan bound for a much needed drink and food. A really good day.