Friday, 2 October 2015

A GOOD EIGG & MORE - By Tracy Arnold


What to do ? Camping from our kayak in Scotland with Whirlygig winds forecast or a Greek getaway with no kayaking and long faces ?
We couldn't forgo the camping,  we had some adventure food to trial and I needed to take my Pilgrim exped out for one last wild camp.
The forecast for Scotland included a couple of light wind sunshine days so we took our chances and many maps so we could be responsive to wind direction and like the two big kids we are excitedly set off . One bonus of being an adult and excited is we didn't ask each other if we were nearly there yet .
Parking up at the campsite at  at Caepaich outside Arisaig we had a lovely late afternoon paddle in sunshine and no wind.  We planned our next days crossing to Eigg , an open crossing of around 15k from the campsite.

We set off from within 3m of the van on the campsite reckoning on enough time to see us at the port on Eigg as the tide turned.  Winds were very light and 1knot of tide was with us .We had slight swell on our starboard stern which meant i had some sweeping and sitting in different positions to get the tracking right .I hadn't paddled this boat loaded for years.

The views were fantastic.  The Cuillins to our right and Eigg and Rum ahead. We paddled by a lone male Eider ,a couple of young Shearwaters that actually grumbled at us as we past, watched Gannets diving and saw a pod of about 10 porpoises.

A lunch stop near the campsite just outside the Port at Galmisdale and then onwards along committing coastline to the campsite of Camas Sgiotaig or Singing Sands on the northwestern side.
The coastline is stunning - amazing geology. Looking up at the Sgurr outlined against the blue sky as we paddled north was fantastic. Grazing cattle gave us an idea of scale of the height of the cliffs. Large caves are present on this side one of which was the site of a massacre hundreds of years ago.
 The sea state was a little higher on this side given that the wind was n- Nw.

We made camp  high up the beach on a fairly small area of grass and proceeded to enjoy watching the sunset behind Rum . We also managed to get the weather forecast which gave f 5-6 NW veering N the next day. We thought we would decide the onward commitment when we had the forecast in the morning.

The wind got up overnight ,we could not access the forecast so we decided to play safe and complete the circumnavigation of Eigg .We launched through 1m breaking surf and paddled north just as the tide turned against us. The swell was about 0.5 -1m at that point but petered out as we left the NE side after catching a few surfs on the way. Clear waters, many jelly fish and a Minke Whale added to our eye candy as we travelled along to the harbour to catch the ferry back to Mallaig.
Eigg is a community owned island and has earn green credentials for its management of its estate and a good cafe with a bar can be found at the Port ,  general store and Post Office . Leave food in your tent oat your peril f you stay at the campsite near the port. Apparently a rat enjoyed some teacakes that didn't belong to him (advice from paddler we met)

It was hard work moving the loaded kayaks off the ferry - thank goodness for the trolley but after a cup of tea in Mallaig, a chat with some locals, we paddled off in glorious late afternoon sunshine.
 The next leg of our Journey took us north from Mallaig to Inverie in Knoydart a distance of about 13k . We arrived just after 7pm . Just in time for the MIDGES.

Apparently the weather had been so bad the poor midges had not had time to hatch and live their lives so a couple of nice weeks had allowed them to make up for lost time. Note to self - ALWAYS take head nets unless it is actively freezing. Smidge is very good if you've never tried it .
Inverie was really beautiful but has a long carry if arriving at low water (Eds note: if the far right stream is used, as you look at the beach, one can get closer to the beach/camp areas.  Its close to a hide).  Thankfully this was not the case for us.

The next day dawned bright and beautiful - I watched a tick crawling over the outside of our inner tent and delighted in  the fact I was inside and he was out and ensured I tucked trousers my socks !
Knoydart is also owned and run by its community and is really stunning.  Westerly views look back across the head of Loch Nevis towards the Sound of Sleat , easterly looking into the mountains where a 2 day trek ends up at Glenfinnan.  We were so fortunate to see it in good weather and we made the most of the sunshine and katabatic winds keeping the midges at bay sunbathed and explored the village area.

A friendly cafe serving good food was a welcome find and there is a bunkhouse near the campsite that charges £4 for a shower which includes use of towel. The campsite loo is a composting one which was built using traditional methods and has a turf roof and hydro power is produced from the river.  The water is untreated being from the local loch and the advice is to boil it but It made delicious tea.No VHF signal so we had to  interrogate a fisherman to get a forecast for the following day which was NW-N F 3.

A misty day dawned and we set off at high water the following morning to paddle back to the van - about 20k. We sat and watched a white tailed Eagle for a while on the way out of Loch Nevis and had a pretty paddle back . Heavy rain rinsed us off as we came to the end of our journey and many seals popped up around us as we got closer to the campsite.
A long haul up the beach was necessary but after a break neck sort out of gear and superman type change into something more comfortable all was well with a cup of tea in hand.
Arisaig Inn is a lovely place to plan, eat, drink and enjoy the music and that's just what we did that evening, deciding to move to Glenuig the next day.

A leisurely morning with a clear cool start promising a beautiful day saw us finally launching from the jetty at Glenuig for an experiment to see how far into Loch Moidart we could get. The tide was with us as we paddled out in anticipation. The waters were crystal clear with many fish, sea stars and anemones' visible beneath.

A very interesting exercise in translating physical evidence to the map took place as we paddled south towards Eilean Shona and  entered the North Channel. It was an amazing day - we met a man who was practically bursting with excitement who told us how amazing he thought the coastline and the day was and that it was his first time sea kayaking. How fantastic !

 Eddy hopping up the North Channel was very pretty and we  just managed to paddle through  portaging about 5m over the ford. After getting back in the boats the water was flowing out with us which was very convenient ! We paddled round Riska Island admiring  13th Century Castle Tioram which was ruined by fire in the 1700s and lunched opposite on Eilean Shona enjoying the sunshine. Paddling west through the South Channel we passed quite a few seal covered skerries and found it difficult to give them wide berths on some occasions.

The journey back to Glenuig was an exercise in joyous relaxation and just being in the moment.
It was a super trip covering about 26k and a great finish to a wonderful holiday.

Tracy and Andy Arnold.

Foot note - The above Blog, is about an independent journey that Tracy & Andy made and aims to highlight and provide a snap shot of what others are doing, who are part of the mentoring programme.  Through coaching, support and encouragement from Coastal Spirit - great read and what a top time, you both had.  I love the mermaid shot at the end ...   ;)  
Thanks, Roger

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