Ailsa Craig August 2019

Paddlers; Steve W, Gordon, Innes and Hugh

Report: With the Islay trip to round the Rhinns and the Oa put off on the Saturday due to wind that made it marginally untenable it was decided that this peer group go for Ailsa Craig at 1630 on Saturday afternoon when the wind was forecast to drop from F4 to F3 allowing us to overnight and explore (summit) on Sunday morning before returning.

We set off from just N of Lendalfoot for the 7.5 Nm crossing with a helpful SSE breeze in sunshine and temperature about 21 degC. An uneventful crossing saw us land on the Craig at 1920 with enough daylight for a quick look round, getting the tents up and a driftwood fire going. A warm, dry pleasant evening ensued around a good fire and although Campbelltown and Arran were a fair distance away we could just catch the occasional faint aroma of their distilleries. Our sleep was somewhat disturbed by squawking birds and some strong gusts of wind so earplugs are a good idea if camping.

On Sunday morning we headed up to the castle which is more of a keep but nevertheless interesting and then steeply up to the summit at 340m (1120ft), a fairly spectacular viewpoint on a clear day. From there we could see a couple of small vessels carrying tourists out from Girvan. They had a picked one of the few days when it was exceptionally warm and no foul weather gear was required. In the higher parts of the island seems to support a substantial rabbit colony and many were out and about during the day.

Exploration continued back at shore level with a walk to the granite quarry and the redundant N foghorn served by a complex walkway with several bridges with wire handrails in rather unsafe condition. Evidence in the broken granite of curling stone diameter having been core out showed how some of the work was done before transporting back to the buildings for finishing.

The crossing back to the mainland was very pleasant in warm sunshine and calm sea and was made special by the appearance of what appeared at first sight to be a dolphin but turned out to very probably be a Minke whale. It surfaced several times as we approached – and in the Clyde! The Minke whale is the second smallest averaging about 7-8m and weighing 5 tons.

Lismore August 10th/11th 2019

Paddlers; Steve Wheaton, Colin Hosey, Gordon Smith, Damien Theaker, Robbie MacLachlan

Route: Anti-clockwise from Port Appin

Sat Aug 10th 2019. Port Appin to Southern end of Lismore via West side

Weather: NNW F3-4, HW 15:10, just past neaps, sunny intervals

Port Appin 1100hrs, cars left in public carpark, boats launched alongside slipway.

Lovely paddle across sound with little N. going tide felt. Through islands off Port Ramsay where several good campsites spotted. Lunch at Castle Coeffin among ruins with superb vantage across Loch Linnhe to Kingairloch.

Passage inside Bernera Island and coffee break on beach facing Bernara Bay. Late afternoon with S. going tide underway met very choppy sea for 1.5 Km NE off Eilean Musdile. 1700 hrs all glad to find shelter in the passage and the camp site on bay at S. tip of Lismore. Very little wood available from the beaches but managed to split enough from the one substantial log found, so food and merriment round a fire for the evening.

Sun Aug 11th 2019. East side of Lismore to Port Appin via Eilean nan Caorach

Weather: NNW F2-3, LW 10:07, cloudy with showers later

0900 departed for run up E. side of island. Plenty of shelter from the island to the N wind. A fine and interesting shoreline with many limestone features  

Stops at Port Kilcheran & Achnacroish, pondered the climb up to Tirefour Castle on cliff top but left for another trip.

Pushed on past top of the island for lunch on Eilean nan Caorach using the shelter of a lime kiln from the drizzle.

1600 returned to Port Appin. Total distance 40Km.

Creagan Hotel for coffee and scones.

Wildlife seen;

  • 1 Eagle
  • 4 otters
  • Numerous seals

A Stunning Night on the Clyde; 23/07/19

Paddlers: David, Martin, Damien, Geoff, Andrew and Grant M.

Weather: Still, clear, stunning

Report: A hastily arranged Tuesday evening paddle saw 6 of us at Craigendoran for an evening paddle. First stop was the Sugar Boat, where we disturbed fifty or sixty shags/cormorants. The number of shags and their roosting patterns suggests the former.

Damien and Andrew inspect the rusting hull of the sugar boat

Some of the Shags off the wreck are disturbed again at our approach

The cruise liner anchored at Greenock was our next objective. The Azamara Journey is a mid-sized ship of 30,000 tonnes (compared to the monster liner berthed with her until 5pm the Brilliance of the Seas, 90,000tonnes) . She left Greenock at 10pm .

The Azamara Journey

From the international quay we headed east to the Grand Harbour, passing en route about a dozen paddlers from the Royal West Club on their club night trip.

Paddlers from the RWSBC

As the sun started to descend in the west the paddle across from the harbour via Ardmore was a wonderful combination of perfect peace and gorgeous surroundings.

We landed at 10pm just as the cruise liner left and the dark rolled in. A great evening.

The Mighty 333: 18-20th August

Members Paddling: Grant, Geoff and Martin

Report: Periodically the club gets requests for support for events, often fund raising, such as open water swimming. The request in this case was to help with the kayaking section of a personal sponsored challenge by David Miller (see . David was a youth international rugby player who was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a rugby accident 30 years ago. The difficulties he has overcome have been immense e.g. he is unable to turn his body which makes transfer from wheelchair to kayak extraordinarily difficult, not to mention paddling without any form of body rotation using only the arms.

The challenge was to complete 300 miles using a hand pedalled bike, 30 miles on a tandem S.O.T. kayak and 3 miles walking on a frame and our task was to help with 3*10 mile days on kayaks operating each day from Luss. With us were both experienced paddlers and complete novices.

The weather was extremely kind with a lot of sunshine and the Loch, as ever, was beautiful.

David on the SOT with attendant supporter

David and his partner were surprisingly fast and effort was required to simply keep up. The company was excellent and the paddle each day was over very quickly, in part because there were no lunch breaks as David was unable to get off/on the kayak. An excellent three days which, in these apparently selfish, insular times, reinforced my rosy spectacled view that there are an awful lot of wonderful, kind, generous, warm hearted folk anxious to make the world a better place for all.

Mull, Little Colonsay, Staffa and Iona; June 6th/7th 2019

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  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.

The view from the campsite across Loch na Keal to Ulva

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.

Launch beach with InchKenneth in background

Rather than go directly to our first objective, Little Colonsay it was decided to go north to the coast of Ulva, partly to chow the group the Bothy at Cragaig. More details of both the bothy and Little Colonsay (and InchKenneth) can be found on the report of the 2014 trip

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.

The “Beach” at Colonsay with our start point in the distance

From Colonsay we headed to Staffa. The wind was picking up, the swell was increasing and Staffa seemed a long way away.

The group head out from Little Colonsay on right with Staffa in the distance

In fact, although the sea was becoming increasingly rough, the paddle was quickly over.

Half Way and increasingly rough.

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.

Goat Cave
Bill and Basalt

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.

Bill’s plateau site
The camp site

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.

Note: On a computer the photos are best viewed in full screen by linking to the Google photos file

Beginners Canoe Camp, Inchtavannach, July 29th/30th 2019

Paddlers: Kian, Robert, Amy, Toby, Tee-Jay ; Ross, Adam, Tim, Malcolm, Melani, Euan, Geoff

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:

Beach at northern end of Inchtavannach where we waited for latecomers
The latecomers
Entering the narrows with a brooding Ben Lomond in the background
And Rain
Group lands at main beach on Inchmoan during evening paddle
Sun eventually breaks through; late evening looking at Glen Luss
Return to Aldlochlay (Sunday)

Royal Northern; Thursday 27th June 2019

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.

What a day for a daydream: Loch Long 16th June

Paddlers: Geoff and Colin.

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.

Looking south down Loch Long at a ruined habitation.

Looking North

Thursday Evenings

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.

Loch Lomond North; 22nd May2019

Paddlers: David, John and Geoff

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.

Approaching Ardlui

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.

MacGregor’s Bothy

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.

Typical Scenery in this part of the Loch (featuring Ben Vane)
Eilean I Vow in centre
About to land on the island

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.