Bass Rock July 2012

Paddlers: Anne, David, Jamie, Douglas, Hugh and Geoff

The Route


This day trip to the east coast was a rapidly arranged alternative to a west coast weekend, dropped because of the gale force winds forecast for the Sunday. Initial forecasts for the Forth were for a Force 2/3 westerly (9-10 mph) although the BBC suggested Force 3/4 likely.   Some protection because of the wind direction was assumed. In reality the wind was force 4 plus, with no appreciable protection and one highlight was some excellent, if unexpected surf.

North Berwick Beach

As we arrived at North Berwick (after a 2 hour drive) a large group was crashing out through some big surf.  This group were from Lothian Sea Kayak club and were on a 3 Star Training day. We overtook them  later and eventually they spilled up on our lunch beach. In some cases their efforts to land in the surf were spectacularly  disastrous.

Lothian Club

When we eventually set off from North Berwick we also headed east with the strong wind behind us. This was at times quite exhilarating and always a bit nervy. Hugh manged to find the tiny (“smallest”) natural  harbour just beneath Tantallon castle .

Hugh finds the harbour
Slip found by Dave
Slip with castle behind

Inside the “smallest” harbour

The castle itself is also quite spectacular.

Tantallon Castle
Seacliff Beach (by Tantallon)

We lunched on the beach by Tantallon. For future reference this may be a better launch point with adequate parking space (unlike the mayhem of North Berwick) and a toilet block.


After lunch (and an incorrect assessment that the wind was dropping) we set off to paddle the mile or so to the Bass Rock itself. The crossing was quite smooth and the caves by the landing quite spectacular. The gannets were there in incredible numbers with some still at the fledgling stage. The smell and muck on the water were also evident.

One of the three caves

The white dots are Gannets

The swell was substantial with up to 2 m in the cave and at the landing point. Landing was clearly not possible.

Given the continuing wind and heavy swell, going right round of the rock was not contemplated and we set off for the next island, Craigleith, some 5.5km straight into the wind. For the best part of 1.5 hours we battled in to that wind, seemingly hardly moving but unaware of any alternative but to keep on going.  The island itself appeared to offer some shelter but, as happens occasionally it simply magnified it. It is also not possible to land except in flat calm. Conditions by the island were awful so we immediately set off back towards North Berwick arriving on the beach just after 4, some 5 hour of paddling.

In summary the trip was exhilarating at times, exhausting at other times and always “interesting”. It was well worth the journey to the East.