September 3rd – 11th Club Expedition Ullapool to Arisaig

HCC Trip Report
Club Expedition Ullapool to Arisaig
September 3rd to 11th 2022

Participants; Steve Wheaton, Gordon Smith, Steve Thomas

This trip follows on from two earlier trips: Helensburgh / Oban May 2019, Oban / Arisaig Sept

Originally planned to run South to North taking advantage of neap tides in Kyle Rhea and expected South Westerly winds, the forecast settled out to indicate predominantly Easterly / Northerly winds. The final decision to run N to S was made while travelling up over coffee in the Green Welly at Tyndrum.

Sat 3rd Helensburgh to Ullapool (car)
The advantage of a small team is that travel can be done in a single vehicle and subsequent logistics get the lucky driver some scenic runs on public transport. The Heathfield campsite in Ullapool could not be better placed with both town and beach at hand.

Sun 4th Ullapool to Mellon Udrigle Easterly F4/5, G7. High cloud, 30 Km
With a moderate Easterly wind we sped down and out of Loch Broom. Just to the E of Leac Dhonn Steve W was briefly inverted by what had become a cockpit filled with water by the following sea and a worn deck. Continued round Carn Dearg for coffee and deployment of an over jacket / combined deck. Interestingly Steve Ts boat was also largely flooded but his paddling skills had prevented him from testing his rolling. Crossed Little Loch Broom, Gruinard Island (now declared free from anthrax) and onto camp on the beach at Mellon Udrigle. Pod of dolphins at close quarters as we approached Mellon Udigle. Gordon & Steve T in for a swim. Evening walk up Meall nam Meallan.

Mon 5th Mellon Udrigle to Camus Mor E F2, bright with little cloud, 23 Km
0900 start and round Greenstone Point with the tide. Slaggan Bay for lunch and swim – beautiful sandy beach. Camas Mor for mid- afternoon. Other than a young couple that had walked over from Rubha Reidh for the day we had the whole place to ourselves. A beautiful location with a fine sunset.

Tue 6th Camus Mor across Loch Gairloch to an un named Bay South of Red Point. E F2, bright with little cloud, 36 Km
Earliest start of the week with 0630 on the water to get slack / start of the WSW going tide around Rubha Reidh. Conditions perfect and rounded headland by 0700. Into little bay to South of lighthouse for good and apparently rare opportunity to view the lighthouse from this position.
South down dramatic coast with sea eagles, caves and tunnels. Met a couple paddling North to Ullapool. Past Melvaig to Seana Chamas beach for mid- morning stop. Longa Island SW Bay for lunch. PM rounded Red Point to bay just East of Tioram Island. Evening walk out to abandoned fishing station.

Wed 7th Across Loch Torridon to Applecross Bay E F2, bright with little cloud, 29 Km
An 0900 start which became the norm for the rest of the week. Crossed Loch Torridon, break at Loch nan Eun. Lunch at Sand and chat with lone kayaker returning to Plockton after rounding Raasay. Swim in the bay. PM into Applecross Bay and found camp to North of the village. General camping in this area has recently been discouraged by the community though, as helpfully explained by a local ranger an exception would be made for a small party arriving by kayak. No fires were requested and complied with. Walk to the village for drinks.

Thu 8th Applecross Bay via Uags Bothy, Loch Alsh to Glenelg Bay E F2/3, bright with little cloud, 34 Km
Usual 0900 start and South with tide inside the Crowlin Islands. Hard push East to Uags Bothy for lunch. Bothy in a lovely remote setting above the bay. Long lunch break to time arrival at the Skye Bridge for the start of the ingoing tide to Kyle Akin. Encountered a work boat apparently leaving a fish farm as we crossed Loch Carron. We were going to pass just behind it until we realised that it was towing the fish farm. Afternoon tea in the old harbour at Kyle Akin. More paddling into the wind in Loch Alsh to arrive at the entrance to Kyle Rhea for slack water and then the start of the South going stream. Tides at Equinoctial Springs so relieved to get through in less than an hour. Zipped by the Glenelg ferry where filming by drone was taking place and tight into the North of Glenelg Bay. Just found room for our 3 tents below the single-track road.

Fri 9th Glenelg Bay, Sandaig Islands, Loch Hourn, Doune to Sandaig Bay E F2/3, bright with little cloud, 27 Km
South West out of Glenelg Bay to get a nice push towards the Sandaig Islands. Lots of mini whirlpools and easy to see how this area would need to be avoided in a strong wind against tide. Everyone feeling energetic so decided to push on across Loch Hourn for a stop at Camas Garbh. Sea Eagles at close quarters. Lunch on Airor Island. Chat with paddler off Doune (new owner of accommodation and restaurant) and invited to camp nearby. In the spirit of maintaining the remoteness of the trip plus wanting to have a short day to finish on we pressed onto Sandaig Bay. Walk onto Torr na Innse with views across South end of Sleat. Distant and certainly large marine mammals spotted, probably basking sharks moving up the sound. Good swim but savage midges. Darkness and a campfire eventually driving them away.

Sat 10th Sandaig Bay to Back of Keppoch E F1/2, bright and sunny, 16 Km
0830 start to cross loch Nevis. The dramatic scenery of the north beginning to give way to more mellow views. Plenty of sea traffic in and out of Mallaig harbour and very different to the past 6 days. Morning break on bright yellow beach below River Morar (many to choose from here). Down through the skerries to a beach below our Back of Keppoch campsite. Lunch and swim.
Gordon onto the train to start the trip back to Ullapool via a bus and overnight in Inverness. Dinner in the Arisaig Hotel for the 2 Steve’s

Sun 11th Inverness to Ullapool (bus) Ullapool to Arisaig to Helensburgh (car).
Gordon returned mid afternoon via Skye Bridge and Armadale ferry. Loaded up and all 3 of us back in Helensburgh for 20:00.

200 Km of dramatic coastline, high cliffs, caves, rocky headlands, loch crossings, sightings of seals, dolphins, porpoises, sea otters, sea eagles, basking sharks. Distant views of Skye, Rhum, Eigg, nearer of Rona, Rassay, Scalpay. Added in with a couple of major headlands and tidal gates and 8 nights camping.

A great trip now fondly committed to memory.

Next year – Cape Wrath!?

Steve Wheaton

Loch Broom
Mellon Udrigle
Slaggan Bay
East of Camus Mor
Camus Mor
Rubha Reidh Lighthouse
Exiting Tunnel Rubha Reidh
Applecross Beech Trees
Applecross Locals
Uags Bothy
Sea Eagle North of Airor
Sandaig Bay
Back of Keppoch