Staffa 14th/15th May 2016

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Paddlers  Hugh, Jeanette, Francis, Geoff, Vee and Adele

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staffa trip

Weather  Saturday:  Sunny but strong cold wind from North F4 rising to F5

Sunday:  Mostly overcast with strong wind from north F3 rising to strong F4

Report  We met at 5.45am and travelled to Oban having booked on the 08.15. The road was clear and scenery sensational as ever.1-20160514_064750

We luckily just managed to catch the “Isle of Mull” at 07.30. From Craignure we travelled NW to Salen then west along Loch na Keal to Clachandhu on the Kinloch road departing the beach at around 10.15. There is a lot of parking and we would advise this route in preference to the chaos that sometimes occurs at Ulva Ferry.

The paddle across was into a strong northerly wind which, despite a lovely sunny day, made it very cold. Although the cliffs along Ulva are superb, with long basalt terraces, it is not easy to land.

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Ulva with Gometra is probably the worst example of “the clearances” in Scotland. In 1841 the population was 859. This was cleared by the owner, an F.W.Clark and by 1981 had shrunk to a mere 13. There has been a slight recovery to between 20 and 30,  around 3% of the 1841 population. It is currently owned/managed by James Howard, the grandson of Edith Howard, Lady Congleton, who purchased it in 1945 for £10,000. It is now valued at over £3m.

The area is very popular with sea kayakers, although many do not venture out to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles. We met such a pair following the coast from Iona.

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Meeting other paddlers in front of a basalt terrace

After some time we eventually found a beach and at around 11.30 stopped for lunch.

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20160514_125238After our early lunch we paddled on towards a cluster of islets just east of the Gometra channel. En route were a pair of otters fishing and entertaining. Before rounding the headland we stopped for a break at what appeared to be a first class camp site. This was already partly occupied by a group of sea kayakers from north Manchester who had arrived on Friday but had not got any further because of the wind around the point. Despite persistent and growing wind, we had hoped that we might get as far as Lunga and had been confident we could get to a known camp site at the end of Gometra. However from observation of the channel it was clear that the wind was currently too strong for prolonged paddling so we decided to wait in anticipation of it falling. It did not and at 18.00 we set up camp for the night.


1-annotated viewThe site is indeed excellent and after our evening meal we sat down round a beach fire with our colleagues from England for an enjoyable evening  of stories and whisky, the last of our party getting to bed at around 1am.20160514_222615

Early morning was bright and sunny with no wind but by our departure at 8.30 it was clouding over and beginning to blow.  We rounded Little Colonsay headed out on the 8km crossing to Staffa.


Leaving Ulva
Leaving Ulva

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Staffa is a must do for sea kayakers with awesome massive basalt columns cut by three wonderful caves.


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McKInnon’s Cave
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Boat Cave


Boat Cave
Group at mouth of Fingal's Cave
Group at mouth of Fingal’s Cave
Fingal’s Cave


Landing on Staffa is not easy. There is a small jetty for the tourist boats. Leaving boats here is not appreciated as there is very little room and it blocks tourists who have paid substantial sums for the trip to the island.harbour
There is a rough rocky beach to the north of the jetty where we landed for a well-earned lunch and a walk if desired.

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At 12.15 we left Staffa for the return trip to Little Colonsay covering the 8km in about one and a half hours. Significant numbers of puffins were seen en route.

Little Colonsay is even less easy to land than Staffa. On the south-east corner at Port an Roin there is a stone jetty, which at the tide state was virtually impossible for a kayak. Just east there is a thin inlet and with considerable difficulty we managed to land paddlers and haul boats up on rocks.little2The house itself is large and appears to be a holiday house capable of sleeping up to a dozen. The island is currently owned by Michael Hare, 2nd Viscount Blakenham, but has not been permanently inhabited since the 1940s.[6] Hare’s daughter, Cressida Cowell, the author of children’s books including How to Train Your Dragon, spent childhood summers on the island and cites the Inner Hebrides as an inspiration for her books

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From Little Colonsay we headed directly for InchKenneth with a following F4 wind. This type of paddling can sometimes be uncomfortably unstable but all paddlers managed well. Coffee was taken at the central beach.

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InchKenneth is totally different geologically from the basalt rock blocks of the islands further out, with a series of lovely sand beaches on the south side. It is very fertile and was an important ecclesiastical centre attached to the Abbey on Iona. The ruined chapel and graveyard are worth a visit.

It was a relatively short paddle back to our starting point which we reached before 5pm, having covered some 30km (20 miles) that day with surprisingly little effort. We arrived back at Craignure at 18.30 for the 19.30 boat. Fish,Chips and Tera on board completed a throughly satisfying trip.