Paddlers: Steve W., Gordon, Geoff, Hugh, Colin, Bill, Innes
Last year the paddle to Treshnish and Staffa did not reach Staffa, owing to the weather see http://www.helensburghcc.org.uk/2018/05/18/treshnish-isles-5th-7th-may-2018/ This year the primary objective was Staffa with Iona as a secondary, with a start just opposite InchKenneth. There were also plans to paddle around the end of the Ardmeanach peninsular, the NTS property known as Burg, where there is a fossilized tree embedded in the cliff and a cave system. However, because of the forecast, we also left a car across the hill from our start point at Kilfinichen Bay.
Report: The Friday was a horrible day for weather and when we arrived at Clachandhu, opposite InchKenneth on Loch na Keal, wet cloud hung over Ben More almost to sea level. However as we camped and shifted cars the cloud slowly lifted and we had a calm beautiful twilight.
On the late evening walk we encountered 3 otters playing on the rocks by the campsite.
Saturday started with a bank of cloud that gradually broke up as the wind increased giving an increasingly pleasant day.
The landing at Colonsay is a rough boulder field and is far from easy. One of us slipped and had a bath, albeit wearing dry salopettes.
From Colonsay we headed to Staffa. The wind was picking up, the swell was increasing and Staffa seemed a long way away.
In fact, although the sea was becoming increasingly rough, the paddle was quickly over.
Staffa is an incredible experience for all and even better for kayakers as the cave systems are really only available by small boat and, most of the time, because of the turbulence, only available to kayaks. The unique feature of Staffa is the octagonal design in the rock and the world famous basalt cliffs.
The Clamshell cave is actually now a tunnel through/natural arch through the cliff. It was truly wonderful.
Lunch was taken on the only “Beach” on Staffa, followed by some exploring of the island . Tremendous views including a far off Iona
By the time we got back the tide had descended leaving the boats high and dry. This led to a tricky descent over rock and weed and a terrible launch pad.
The most famous feature of Staffa is undoubtedly Fingal’s Cave, a large cave apparently supported by columns built by the giant Fingal , also the supposed creator of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. The actual reason according to Wikipedia: It is the nature of basaltic lava cooling that allows this to happen: this lava is hotter and moves faster than other kinds. As it cools from the bottom up and from the center outward, long fractures form columns that at times take on astoundingly clear-cut hexagons. The whole process is called columnar jointing. On Staffa this is uniquely displayed.
A lot of tourists come over from both Iona and Ulva Ferry and struggle round the base of the cliff to reach the entrance. It is worth it for non-kayakers but if you do get an opportunity to kayak here take it.
Most guides suggest the trip should only be made in calm weather. We were faced with an F4 wind and a large following sea and the next two hours were not comfortable.At times 3 or 4 large waves swung boats and threatened capsize. Rather like driving fast on single track roads it was the concentration and focus required that was very tiring rather than the physical exertion of paddling 10km in an hour and three quarters.
We landed on the most northerly of the west coast beaches and set up camp using any rock shelter we could find. At the top was the huge skeleton (plus?) of a large whale. which, whilst interesting robbed us of a potential sheltered area. Steve had got permission from the local landowner (although we probably did not need it) but he appreciated the information and visited us in the morning.
After a coffee we decide to walk into the village for some culture, a couple of drinks and a meal. Iona is a very, very special and beautiful place with a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquility, albeit in a fairly active wind. The walk in and, more particularly back were special. The Abbey is, as might be expected, again special and beautiful.
We ate in St Columba’s Hotel just past the Abbey which had outstanding views down over the sound to Mull. As must be fairly obvious I just love Iona and cannot recommend it highly enough.
As we walked back the sun finally dipped, even as the wind persisted on through the night.
Sunday: The plan had be to be on the water at 8am, but the wind said otherwise. During the night it had risen a notch to F5 and did not seem likely to abate to allow us to carry on our planned route. After a lot of gazing at the sea, the rocks and the breakers, alternative plans were developed, the most extreme of which involved a awful lot of carrying. However around 10 the wind eased to F4 and the tide had risen. This allowed us to avoid the very worst sections by using a short portage. That said the sections that remained were quite nasty and one or two of the group indicated they would probably not go across the sound and definitely would not go along the rocky north coast of the Ross.
In fact the crossing of the Sound was relatively easy and we were soon on the beach at Fionnphort looking for ways to get back to the cars.
After trying taxis from around Mull to no avail, we managed to get a lift in the community minibus back to our projected landing place to pick up the one car and then go and get the other two. Close on two hours later we were loading up and, with a short (but extreme) detour to Carsaig Bay and a meal in the Craignure Inn, caught our boat and arrived back in Helensburgh shortly after 10pm.
Despite the wind and the truncated Sunday paddle, it was a fantastic weekend in incredible scenery. I hope, and expect a return to the area next year, possibly to do the south coast of Mull.
Weather: Thunder and Lightning plus torrential downpours on the Saturday. Windy on the Sunday.
Report: The objective of the camp is to give Young People on the YP Basic Skills course a taste for “expeditioning” and the formula hardly varies from year to year: Paddle from Aldlochlay to the East side of Inchtavvanach where we camp; Set-Up Camp with wood fire barbeque; Evening Paddle round islands; late evening fire; sleep, breakfast, paddle back to Adllochlay. This year was memorable chiefly for the weather and for the overall high quality of the experience. Some photos:
Weather: Stunning with an F3 easterly breeze getting up later
Paddlers:Beginners; Coaches: Euan and Tim. YPs; TeeJay, Robert, Toby, Kian, Amy, Ian and James
Sea Boats; Gordon, Steve W., Colin, Geoff, Sean, Sarah, Adam, Suart, Sharon
Report: This is a simple note to record a superb evening for 18 club paddlers, 9 beginners playing in canoes and 9 on a semi-serious trip out of the Gareloch and round as far as Ardmore Point and then back (around 9km in two hours). The way back was decidedly bumpy with the occasional wave making things a little damp. Sadly no photos.
Report:The impression of some of our sea lochs is that they are long and quite boring. Loch Long is very much in that category and yet it is set in some of the most breathtaking scenery in Scotland. With perfect conditions, no rush and a one way passage (with an increasingly brisk wind) it actually was superb for paddling. For kayak sailing it could not be bettered.
Paddlers: Euan, Geoff, Steve T., Sean, Sarah, Malcolm, John plus trainees Tee-Jay, Amy, Kian, Robert, James, Ian and Toby
Despite some mediocre weather, most Thursday evenings with the Beginners have gone ahead normally with three or four intermediates having a longer paddle. So far we have visited Luss beach (twice), Craigendoran, Rhu (the Royal Northern), Lomond Shores and Loch Long. Risk Assessments for each of these have been undertaken and are available on request.
Weather: Overcast but Bright, occasional sun. NW Breezy F4 with occasional stronger squalls
Route: Inversloy- Ardlui-Inverarnan Canal- Ardleish-Island I Vow- Inversanid-Inversloy
Report: North Loch Lomond is a stunning scenic area with Ben Volich and the Little Hills to the west and Ben Lomond to the east. This little jaunt was chiefly exercise and company with a bit of exploration thrown in but set in the best. Our route took us north on the west shore to Ardlui. Throughout the day there was a wind from the north and, on this section, it became quite nasty at times.
Our first target was the currently disused hotel/outdoor centre just north of the village. Initially opened as a hotel named MacGregor’s Bothy it was taken over by West Dumbartonshire as an Outdoor Centre and is currently set up with four en-suite bedrooms and 20 double, triple and four bedded bunkrooms, The business plan envisaged significant commercial use during the holidays but it never occurred and the building has been empty for two years with inevitable consequences.
Lunch and a nosey then on further north up the Falloch towards Inverarnan. Sadly the short canal up to the Drovers Inn was completely blocked by fallen tree so we turned tail and headed off back down the river and then along the east side of the loch towards “Island I Vow”. This has a good beach and campsite together with a castle with a dungeon. An excellent place to bring children.
After coffee the next leg took us to Inversnaid where we landed on the excellent little beach inside the small dock. A pot of tea and 3 excellent scones taken outside in the sun plus intelligent conversation on the state of the world. What could be better?
Our final leg talk us NW straight into the wind. Surprisingly enjoyable. What a brilliant way to end an excellent trip of some 20km.
Paddlers: Steve W., Gordon, Colin, Bill, Damien, Hugh, Geoff
Weather: A week of cold, northerly winds. Occasional sunny periods and a couple of showers.
Route: See Map
Day 1: We assembled at Helensburgh Pier at 10.30, Geoff and Colin having started a mile or so further east at Craigendoran. It was cold and a bit bumpy from the brisk northerly wind.
A fast, if bumpy, paddle to Kilcreggan with a well earned break on the shingly beach. Because of the F3/4 north-easterly wind, the decision was then made to head straight across Loch Long to Dunoon rather than the shorter crossing to Blairmore and then across the Holy Loch. Again good time was made.
On the south side of the pier there is a steeply shelving shingle beach well sheltered from the wind. There is also a cafe and toilets just above it. Lunch was taken.
Along the shore from Dunoon there is an almost continuous strip of housing, including the village of Inellan. Landing places are rare at high tide. The one possible launch site actually dries out completely making low tide exit or arrival very difficult. The rock/shingle bar to the marker tower is dry at low water.
During the afternoon the wind had swung from North East to North West and as we rounded Toward Point we had it straight into our faces. Th paddle up to our planned campsite at Toward Sailing Club took around 20 minutes of very hard work.
We were met on landing by the Club Chair who made us welcome and kindly provided a key for the club and its facilities. Our thanks should go to Steve W. who made the advances.
The site itself was flat and mown and extremely comfortable. The club house provided us shelter for the very cold wind. After dinner a walk up to Toward Castle, which has recently been purchased and is in the middle of an Access dispute. Geoff insisted on maintaining Public Rights before meeting the others for the brief walk back, a hot drink and bed.
Day 2: This morning we established what was to become the normal pattern; Awake at 7am, Breakfast etc, Pack up at 8am, , Pack Boats and depart between 8.30 and 9. Even the most efficient could not beat 1.5 hours and it is best to plan for 2.
The paddle today involved paddling NW up the Kyles of Bute then south and, after the battle the previous night, we were worried that it would be a very hard paddle up against the wind. In fact it was very calm as we crossed the mouth of Loch Striven and headed up the west shore of the Kyles
The wind against us was gradually strengthening but we made good time and headed for the shelter at Burnt Island/North Bute for lunch. This is the only “established” wild camp site on the trail and consists of a shelter and a composting toilet. Camp sites are very limited; certainly not enough for a group our size.
During the break the weather deteriorated significantly and shortly after relaunching we were hit by a sizeable squall. It was simply a question of hanging on until it passed through.
The paddle south was both interesting and wind assisted. As we approached Tignabruich we were greeted with the sound of the local pop group entertaining at the lifeboat station for their Open Day. Colin went off to try to find a replacement stove whilst the rest of us chatted to locals and an arriving all female group of kayakers staying close by.
By this time we were getting hungry and a cooked lunch at the Kames Hotel further south, looked promising. We arrived there just after 2pm having effectively done our planned days paddle.
The food was excellent, if a bit pricey, and is recommended but we still needed another hours paddling to reach our planned camp site at Carry Farm. This had been pre-arranged but proved to be a mixed blessing. The campsite was on the beach looking north; a beautiful view. We were able to have a good fire adjacent to our site and there were toilets and warm showers. What not to like? The cold northerly wind cut through our clothing and wrecked the fire. A windbreak from spare paddles and nylon tarpaulins was erected but simply caused the wind to swirl and choke everybody. Disappointingly it was extremely difficult to sit by the fire and get warm so early to bed.
Day 3: What else not to like? The beach goes out for miles so for departure Hugh’s strops came into action. These enable 4 people to carry the loaded kayak easily, avoiding all the problems of carrying over rocks, slips and strains and were absolutely invaluable on this trip.
The route now took us south to Ardlamont Point then north west to Tarbet. Both before and after Ardlamont there are some lovely sheltered beaches that seem to offer excellent wild camping. Ardlamont itself can be very rough in strong winds from the south; care must be taken. In our case the continuing northerly had little effect and we were quickly around and heading west .
The paddle was very attractive with the Ardlamont peninsular on the right and Arran on the left. We eventually stopped just before crossing Loch Fyne to Tarbet.
We had originally planned to stop at Portavadie but Colin was still looking for a stove so we headed straight across to Tarbet. Tarbet is an attractive village on the main Kintyre road with a car ferry to Portavadie. Two miles to the west (an acceptable portage) is West Loch Tarbet, a car ferry to Islay and Jura and the Atlantic. There is a good selection of shops and cafes, including an ironmongers which stocked the requisite stove. The chip shop closes at 2pm (we arrived at 2.05) but the cafe next door does good, relatively cheap food.
After a prolonged lunch we again started on the route north. Our initial stop was North Bay, just under Stonefield Castle Hotel, which had been identified and checked out by Steve. Group decison making was usually consensual but on this occassion there was a sharp division between those who thought it early to stop and were unhappy with the potential sites (too rough and uneven) and those who did not want to take the risk o not finding anywhere else and anticipating a drink in the hotel bar. By a vote of 4-3 we agreed to stay. Iy must now be admitted that this was the correct decision as no better sites could be identified the following day.
After pitching and eating we wandered up to the hotel for a drink. We were made very welcome, ha a couple of drinks and then headed back in order to light a fire and drink some whisky. A pleasant night.
Day 4: Dorus Mor is a tidal gate situated at the end of the Craignish promontory. It is serious enough for the guides to suggest an alternative portage across the promontory further up Loch Craignish. At Springs the flow can reach 8.5 knots and if there is a strong wind blowing against the tide it moves from the interesting category to the dangerous. The original plan had been to reach the canal by Day 3 and get through Dorus Mor at slack low water about midday so that we could then “ride” the northbound tide. However the forecast obtained on the start day had suggested F4/5 northerly winds and even more worrying gusts of F7. Although newer forecasts suggested lighter winds, the decision had already been made to treat this day as a Rest day give the winds had time to moderate.As a consequence the revised plan for day 4 was to get to the canal and camp somewhere along it.
From North Bay we headed north along the shoreline trying to identify any landing/camping site. There were none until we got just south of Adrishaig.
The Crinan Canal is an important element on the trail and kayakers are well supported by Scottish Waterways who provide essential portage trolleys. Upon arrival seven trolleys were collected from Lock 4 (the last of the locks descending to Loch Fyne). The boats were then hauled up the narrow slip to the recreation area where lunch was undertaken.
After the steep but short walk up to the canal and launching from the low pontoons we were away, luxuriating in the wind free, warm and pretty environment. A joy.
Getting long boats onto and off the pontoons is not easy. The short walkways from the back were at right angles to the thin pontoons and consequently made turning the kayaks (on trolleys) to get them down and off the end, very difficult. Angled walkways would have greatly simplified the procedure we followed.
At the final exit there was simply a low pontoon and a very steep bank. It would be virtually impossible for a single kayaker to get out, and very difficult for a pair. However a team of seven made light of the task.
By mid-afternoon we had reached Cairnbaan for the portage round locks 5-14. The road has recently been given a lovely flat tarmac surface and the half mile walk was surprisingly easy.
The Waterways staff keep the canal and its surroundings in remarkable condition. The bank edges are mown and at the locks provide flat green areas for camping. We decided to camp around Lock 11. There is a toilet and shower available to those with the combination. A very kind lock-keeper provided it.
The evening was spent eating and drinking at the Cairnbaan Inn; thoroughly recommended and a lie in until 8am was ordered as we had most of the day to spend in the area waiting for the weather.
Day 5. The morning started bright but not as windy as had been forecast. However the die had been cast so we trundled the boats down to the last lock for the final canal section to Crinan. The trolleys are a very robust, expensive make known as a C-Tug. The disadvantage is that they are not small enough to fit in a kayak and they are heavy. As we found out they also do not float. They are always slightly precarious when balanced on to the rear of the kayak and mis-communication resulted in one not being also tied to the boat. The inevitable happened and the trolley descended to the depths. After 30 minutes of fishing around with paddles and a boat hook, Bill (our hero) stripped off to his wetsuit and jumped into the freezing water for a final attempt. Success!!
After Bill had a hot shower we set off around 11am for a final pleasant half hour on the canal To Crinan Ferry Bridge. At the bridge we hauld the boats up the steep bank, fixed on the trolley wheels for the last time and rolled the boats down the green slip.
After leaving the boats we headed for Crinan itself, following the canal towpath. Crinan is a small village dominated by the hotel (and associated cafe) and the boatyard. Food in the cafe is limited to bacon buns but the coffee and cake are good. Then back to the boats for the last mile or so across the loch to a wild camp site found two bays west from Duntrune castle
Day 6: The key factor was the slack water around low tide required to get through Dorus Mor and travel up with the tide through the Sound of Shuna. The exact time was a matter of some dispute between local knowledge and tide atlas but it was thought to be about 1pm. As it was we ventured out at around 10.30, stopped for a look on Criagnish Point and eventually successfully tried it about 12.15 .
Along the north side of Craignish there is an extraordinary natural feature (pictured above). It does not appear to be well known. Explanations please.The next decision was whether to carry on along the coast (via Craobh Haven and Arduanie ) or head directly north to Shuna. Because of the time the direct route was chosen and some 8km later we reached the beach at Shuna Cottage.
After a well deserved break the final push for the day was to get up and through the Sound of Seil to the Bridge over the Atlantic. This was achieved remarkably quickly.
It was thought that we could camp on the mown grass beside the pub (you can) but when we asked we were told that the manger would need to say yes and she was not back for an hour. Instead we were advised to head for Poldoran, a well known anchorage the other side of the bridge. We took the advice.
Poldoran is a beautiful location and offers a limited number of dry flattish sites. The bug plus is a short walk across the hill to the pub so after pitching and a quick cup of coffee it was off for a slap up meal and a lot of beer. The best laid plans go aft aglay. Just as we got to the top of the hill we met two yachties returning who greeted us with “Hi, Do you know the pub has got no food?” The dream shattered we pushed on for the beer and the thought we could get a takeaway put into a taxi and shipped out. SAdly we could not, so four packets of crisps, a few beers and a couple of whiskies later, we returned to our tents. It was a beautiful night but short as we planned to get up at 5.30 to leave at 6.30 and catch the tide.
Day 7: The final day started early and finished early. A prompt start at 6.30 saw us crossing Loch Feochan at 7.30. We were startled by a lot of splashing and then, to our surprise a Pod of about 14 Dolphins came leaping across our path passing in my case, close enough (paddle length) to worry that I might get tipped up. As usual photos and videos were out too late and fail to capture the beauty and excitement but ..
Across Loch Feochan we entered the Sound of Kerrera stopping about 1km up at Port Lathaich for a final tea break. This appears to be a good wild campsite.
The final push took us into Oban arriving about 10.00.
Transport of the kayaks from Oban to Helensburgh had been arranged with Sea Kayak Oban for £28 per kayak. They also took any gear we did not want on the train. The shop is just over the road from the small central slipway in the harbour where we landed so we trolleyed the boats over, unpacked and went for a big breakfast at Abi’s just across the road. Bill and Gordon paddled on to Ganavan to meet their families whilst the five of us headed for the train station for the 12:10, getting into Hlensburgh at 14.43.
Overall a very succesful and enjoyable trip with no midges!. It was undoubtedly too cold and windy for them.
Weather: Excellent, Hazy Sun and Full Sun throughout day. Mostly calm but NW wind channeled up loch by mountains surprisingly strong in places.
Report: A glorious day on a stunning loch. We met at 9.30 at the Rest Car Park, getting to the launch point at around 10.15. Parking close to the loch is not easy. This place is an old stretch of road down a steep rough access from the main road. There is a further steep descent carrying the kayaks to a rough beach where we launched
From the access pint we crossed to our first target, the burial island of Inishail. There is a lovely sand beach on both sides of the small peninsular to the south of the island with potentially an excellent little camp site where a rough path runs along the shore to the mound on the west.
A rough path runs along the shore to the mound on the west. On the mound are the ruins of an old convent and church with a graveyard. The age of some of the slabs appears to be considerable, probably back to around 1200 when Somerled was Lord of the Isles.
Both the 11th and 12th Dukes of Argyll chose to be buried here (in 1973 and 2001). Their graves are surprisingly modest. All told the island is strongly recommended for a really intersting half hour.
From Inisail we progressed on pas a couple of Crannogs to the beach beneath Ardanaseig Hotel.http://www.ardanaiseig.com/gallery/house/ We wandered up to the hotel for a drink and nose about. It is a really lovely place with some beautiful furnishings and paintings and very expensive beer. It was absolutely empty of all customers with ghost like staff.
The journey to the hotel from Taynuilt is long and tortuous but would appear to be worth it if you can afford it. The grounds are extensive and in the garden you can find 66 labelled species of tree.
After the beer, lunch was taken on the lawns beneath the hotel before setting off for our third target, the castle of Fraoch Eilean. This castle was built in 1267 by the McNaughton clan before coming under the control of the deadly Campbells. It has its usual collection of clan wars and seiges but is not now in a good state having been overtaken in the castle stakes by its neighbour Kilchurn .
The landing point on the isalnd is quite rough and bouldery and on return a sharp breeze directly on to it had sprung up. The loch had become alive with white crested wavelets. After we had negotiated the exit we swung round and were pushed eastwards towards our next target Kilchurn Castle.
Kilchurn must be one of the most photogenic of Scotland’s Castles. It is also one of the most popular and, despite the half mile walk from the road, was very popular on a lovely Easter Saturday. The top of the main tower was sadly shut so we could not get the best views of the loch and Ben Cruachan but despite that it was well worth the visit.
After a prolonged coffee break we ventured back; this time into the F3 breeze. It proved to be a surprisingly comfortable paddle with few breaks and no problems.
We were back just before 5pm for the 90 minute journey home. Conditions were fantastic and the route combined interest, beauty and just the mildest of challenges. All in all a perfect day.
One of the key objectives of the club is to bring kayakers and canoeists together for trips. Paddling alone is not recommended. Club Members who are on trips which conform to Club Policy have the advantage of third party insurance i.e. if there is an accident and they are liable then they have insurance cover. These trips which have a responsible leader are identified as Club Trips and can include U18s.
Many trips are arranged at short notice and have not been considered by the Club. Because there is no official leader and individuals, as adults (no U-18s) are free to make their own choices they are known as Peer Group Trips. These can be immensely rewarding and consequently are encouraged and reported.
Before Easter I was involved in three windy trips on the Clyde: Craigendoran -Kilcreggan with AndyD., Craigendoran -Cardross with Andy, Pete B, Garry (from Falkirk) and Cristabel (from Milngavie) and Craigendoran-Ardmore with Colin and Gordon, which was a late evening/night trip. All very rewarding.
Weather: Cold, Very Wet with blustery wind from South
Route: Boden Boo Beach (Erskine Bridge)-Clydebank Leisure Centre-Paisley Centre
Report: The original plan had been to kayak North Loch Awe on theThursday but last weeks mishap (3 kayakers rescued at Greenock with helicopter and lifeboat summoned) , led to hesitation when the wind forecast was F5 with F7 gusts. Instead, given shelter from the expected wind and a high tide at 1.30 we decided on the trip up the White Cart to to Paisley Centre through the Gilmore St. tunnels.
The launch point was the beach just to the east of Erskine Bridge by the old southerly ferry slip. There is an excellent parking spot here and an even better beach. Although it was raining heavily (as it had been from 9am) the paddle up the Clyde with the tide was surprisingly pleasant. There is no other outdoor sport where the rain makes so little difference.
From Clydebank we headed south up the White Cart. The river is reminiscent of the Leven before being cleaned up with collapsing wharves, oozing litter covered banks and industrial buildings. There is only one place to stop even if you wanted to (which you will not). The one place is a slip by a small green with a new housing development behind, marked on the map with a purple triangle.. It is dirty and covered with dog excrement but there is no other, so there we had lunch (about 12.30).
The next section takes you between high walls and to the tunnel under the town centre. Be Warned; The tunnels are only passable 30 minutes each side of high tide. Our timings were perfect and we were quickly through the tunnels into the old part of the city just beneath the Abbey.
The next section is undoubtedly the highlight of the trip ending in the mill pool beneath a wide attractive natural weir/waterfall.
We turned back from the mill pool at about 1.30 with the tide, wind and current all in our favour. None were strong enough to worry and in a relativelt short time we were at the mouth of the river where, for the first time, there was substantial wind. As we turned down the Clyde (past the new Leisure Centre where there is now a pontoon where one could enter/exit the Clyde in a kayak) and were back at the beach just after 3, 1. hours for over 10km.
In summary, despite the cold and frequent soakings from the rain, it was an excellent and recommended trip.