Saturday, September 20, 2014

Plucky paddlers work their way to weather past Pluck Point.

We awoke to a beautiful morning in Saddell Bay. Unfortunately so did the midges and their morning was made by our presence (not to mention blood).

 As a result we did not dally and were on the water below the old castle walls by 07:50.

 Initially we were in the shelter of the lee of Pluck Point but... we rounded the point we were me by a north wind which blew straight down...

 ...the Kilbrannan Sound against us.

 We kept going without stopping for a rest as the coastline was rather inhospitable for landing.

Eventually we reached the broad sweep of Carradale Bay. We reckoned we had now got upwind enough... launch the sails for a crossing to the King's Cave on Arran.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sunset on fire in the Mull of Kintyre.

After we had eaten Tony and I set off to explore the environs of Saddell Bay. We came to the little locked bothy at Port na Gael.

 It was unoccupied but looked sound and dry. We set off from Port na Gael across exceddingly rough ground  to...

...Pluck Point where we soaked up some great views in the sunset.

 The great basalt columns and sill at Drumadoon Point on Arran reflected the rays of the setting sun.

 Further north, the granite ridges of north Arran soared into...

 ...the sky on the far side of the Kilbrannan Sound.

This telephoto photo captures the low sun illuminating the guano splattered cliffs of the bird colonies on Ailsa Craig, now some 39 kilometres to the SE. We hoped to camp there in two days' time.

As the sun set we made our way slowly back over the rough rocks of Pluck Point. The Kintyre peninsula stretched away to the south.

 With the light now fading fast it was...

 ...time to start gathering driftwood from the shore under the grey walls of Saddell Castle. It was built in 1512 for the Bishop of Argyll but belonged to James MacDonald in the 1550's. He had raided English troops in Ireland and the Earl of Sussex retaliated by sacking the castle in 1558. Today the castle can be rented from the Landmark Trust as a holiday home.

If something looks familiar about this beach and Port na Gael cottage, imagine Paul and Linda McCartney and the Campbeltown Pipe Band in the scene. Yes, this is where the video for the Wings hit Mull of Kintyre was shot!

We wasted no time in lighting the fire and soon... was hot enough to put the baked potatoes on and flickering embers went  higher and higher into...

...the darkening sky as the moon rose.

We chatted long into the first night of this great sea kayaking adventure.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Out of the saddle at Saddell Bay.

We were well tired by paddling into the headwind that blew at us straight from our destination... Saddell Bay which we finally arrived at just before sunset.

Saddell House is now in the care of the Landmark Trust. It was originally built in 1774 by Colonel Donald Campbell as a more comfortable abode than the existing Saddell castle at the south end of the bay.

After a long hard paddle it was a relief to get out of the saddle onto the sands of Saddell Bay.

It was a delight to pitch our tents on sweet smelling machair, laced with clover.

We even managed to enjoy our dinner and Guinness before the sun set. Our Kintyre, Arran, Ailsa Craig, Ayrshire trip was well underway.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Heads down into the wind on the Kilbrannan Sound.

Once Tony and I left Campbeltown Loch and turned our bows north towards the Kilbrannan Sound we found that the wind became increasingly a head wind. We paddle sailed close hauled for some time but... soon came round to hit us right on the nose and we had to drop sails and get our heads down for...

...a stiff paddle into the wind.

At Ballymenach we passed the remains of a WW2 antiaircraft gun emplacement that defended Campbeltown Loch and Machrihanish Air Base.

It was a relief to catch our breath on a cobbled shore at Black Bay but rather worryingly, our goal, Ailsa Craig, was becoming more and more distant and was now little more than a slight blip on the horizon.

We gained a little shelter as we approached Kildonand Point and Island Ross. Some potential campsites in this area proved to be inaccessible at low tide so we continued up the Kilbrannan Sound which was becoming narrower as the coast of Arran drew closer.

Rounding the point we found ourselves back in the teeth of the wind. There was still no break in the dark rocks but fortunately we spotted the inviting sweep of the sands at Saddell Bay which was still 5 km away beyond Ugadale Point. It was getting late so there was nothing for it but to get our heads down again and make what progress we could against the wind.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A flying visit to Campbeltown.

The MV Isle of Arran entered Campbeltown Loch to the north of Davaar Island and it's lighthouse. The fishing boat CN17 Perserverance was dropping her pots not far offshore.

Tony and I made our way down to the car deck to get ready to embark at 16:30.

We launched from this slipway just to the north of the ferry terminal. Amazingly we were on the water by 16:56. This was to be a flying visit to Campbeltown as we hoped to get well up the east coast of Kintyre before nightfall. Leaving the slipway we passed MV Fame from Bergen. She is a general cargo ship and is often seen round the Clyde.

Although Campbeltown is a pretty quiet place these days at various times it has had a huge fishing fleet, a coalmine, a canal which was superseded by a railway, 30 odd whisky distilleries, a huge military airbase and extensive farms in the surrounding countryside.

It was not just the ferry that was bringing visitors to Cambeltown. This was the 18:05 FlyBE flight coming in from Glasgow.

The MV Isle of Arran soon swept out of Cambeltown Loch...

...and we followed in her wake, leaving Campbeltown quickly behind. A nice little tail wind got up so we wasted no time in...

...launching our Flat Earth kayak sails.

In no time we were at the mouth of the loch and caught sight of a distant Ailsa Craig on which we hoped to camp in three nights time but...

...for now we turned our bows north to paddle sail up the east coast of Kintyre towards the Kilbrannan Sound and the soaring granite peaks of Arran beyond. Our adventure had started...

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Friends reunited on the way to Kintyre.

Back in mid June, Tony and I set off on what was to be a fantastic sea kayaking trip from Campbeltown across the mouth of the Firth of Clyde to Arran, Ailsa Craig and finally to Girvan in Ayrshire.

We set off on the Sunday evening ferry from Ardrossan to Campbeltown.

The ferry passes to the SE of Arran and we got good views of Holy Island and...

...Pladda with its Stevenson lighthouse on the way. Ian, Mike and I had landed on both of these islands on our recent circumnavigation of Arran.

The great rock of Aila Craig lies some 24km from the south of Arran and we hoped to use this as a stepping stone back to Ayrshire. Tony and I were just discussing our route strategy when it was both a surprise...

...and a very great pleasure to meet the family of the late Jim Broadfoot. Jim was our longstanding and very great sea kayaking friend with whom we had paddled extensively in the Solway Firth, the Mull of Galloway, the Firth of Clyde, the Sound of Jura, the Firth of Lorn, the Southern Inner Hebrides, Ardnamurchan, the Sound of Arisaig, Skye, Wester Ross and St Abbs Head. I am pretty sure there were other places as well! In January 2010 Jim steadied my kayak while I buried my father's ashes at sea off Balcarry Point on the Solway. Although we miss Jim very much, we were fortunate to share so many wonderful trips with such a good friend. It was great to see his family looking so very well.

I knew it was Jim's birthday because we had celebrated Jim's 50th birthday on this day in 2009 on the north end of the Isle of Coll after paddling out to Coll and Tiree from Ardnamurchan. It turns out that Jim's family take a little trip on the water together each year on Jim's birthday. What a great thing to do! They were taking the ferry out to Campbeltown then returning to Ardrossan as a summer evening cruise. Mind you it must have been a bit of a busperson's holiday for Jim's daughter Lorna as she had spent part of her training to be a Merchant Navy Deck Officer on board the very ship we were on... the MV Isle of Arran!

Jim would have been so pleased to see his family enjoying themselves on his birthday, especially on the water :o)