Thursday, July 02, 2015

Lots of boats on the commute to Bute.

It wasa a bright Monday morning when Mike and I rolled up at the Wemyss Bay ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Bute. "Our commute to Bute" as we called it.

The mountains of Arran rose majestically above the low rolling ground of Bute. We did wonder if the ferry would arrive as one of the two ferries had burnt its turbo charger out just a few days before.

 Fortunately MV Bute seemed to have made a good recovery and she arrived right on time.

 It was with great anticipation that we left Wemyss Bay on the 45 minute crossing to Rothesay in Bute. We then drove 20 minutes north... Rhubodach near the head of the Kyles of Bute. The narrows were quite busy, several yachts passed before MV Splendour a converted 20m wooden fishing boat cruised down the East Kyle. She is the flagship of the recently formed Argyll Cruising company and this is their first season. I wish them great success.

No sooner had Splendour cleared the narrows than MV Loch Dunvegan rolled up the slipway. She operates CalMac's shortest ferry route from Colintraive to Rhubodach, all 420m of it.

We wasted no time in getting ready and soon we were ready to set off on another mini adventure!

Friday, June 26, 2015

A different time zone in the Sound of Jura.

It was not just the tide that picked up when we left the shores of Jura. A nice little tail wind...

 ...added to our gathering momentum towards the Kintyre peninsula.

 We were literally hurtled up the Sound and passed well to the north of the islets of Carraig an Daimh and Dubh Sgeir.   Carraig an Daimh means "rock of the stag". I have several times seen deer swimming strongly in the sea but I did not know they knew how to work the tides!

We were not the only ones making good speed up the Sound of Jura. "Ailsa Craig" is a work boat belonging to Marine Harvest of Barra. She was built of aluminium in Croatia.

 The swirling spring tides had carried us so fast up the Sound of Jura that Jura and Islay were now just distant memories.

 We broke out of the tides in the Sound of Jura  into the quieter waters of ...

 ...the narrow channel on the inside of Eilean Dubh...

 ...which always delights with its shallow, sandy bottom and frequent herons.

A final turn to the east took us back into Carsaig Bay where the white cottages and waiting car marked the end of our 46 hour mini adventure to Jura and Islay. As is often the case on a sea kayaking trip, we had entered a different time zone, one in which the passage of time was slowed and in which we both achieved and experienced much more than we could have reasonably expected. Indeed as we washed the salt from our eyes and cracked lips it seemed at least a week since we had left Carsaig,

After unpacking the boats we travelled home via Inveraray, where it would have been churlish not to stop at Mr Pia's for fish and chips!

In 46 hours we had paddled 96km and portaged for 2km. All in all a most satisfactory outing. On a previous trip, Tony and I turned north at the entrance to West Loch Tarbert on Jura and returned through the Corryvreckan. That was another superb outing, which I wrote up in issue 2 of Ocean Paddler magazine.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Carried away by the tide in the Sound of Jura.

When we left Lowlandman's Bay on the east coast of Jura, the flood tide was already running north through the Sound of Jura and would be our ticket home to Carsaig Bay on the mainland. We took a last look to the SE at the long peninsula of  Kintyre, which culminated in the Mull of Kintyre (at the extreme right of this photo) some 66km to the south.. The rocky mountains of Arran rose above the relatively low hulls of Kintyre. In the sky, streaks of gathering cirrus clouds fore told the wind that would arrive the next day.

As we travelled north, the view of the Paps of Jura became less anatomically correct with three (or even four) heaving above the horizon.

We passed the site of another Iron Age dun at the NE end of the peninsula, which nearly encloses Lowlandman's Bay.

To the NE, the Jura coast stretched away in a long succession of low headlands as far as the eye could see.

We followed the coast until we saw the wooded peninsula that marks the south side of Tarbert Bay where we had made landfall on Jura two nights previously. Then we struck out into the middle of the Sound of Jura to catch the full force of the tide.

 It was sad to be leaving Jura after such a rewarding but brief visit and once...

...the tide in the Sound caught us, it carried us quickly away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lowlandman's Bay and the "Light Houses".

 As we paddled NE up the east coast of Jura we came to the narrow entrance of  a deep inlet called...

 ...Lowlandman's Bay. It was clearly way past our first luncheon time so we landed... this delightful beach at its southern entrance. The rocky mound on the promontory to the east of the beach was the site of an ancient hill fort or dun and it is still called An Dunan.

We spotted an enticing looking building with a wonderful situation on the north side of the entrance to Lowlandman's Bay.

After luncheon we paddled across for a closer look.

It is not some fancy hotel, it is actually the "Light Houses" which were built for the families of the lighthouse men who manned Skervuile lighthouse in the middle of the Sound of Jura. When first built, there was no road to connect the Light Houses to the other communities on Jura. The only way in was by boat but it was no easy journey. During a storm in November 1881 the light house boat sank at her mooring in Lowlandman's Bay.

Skervuile lighthouse lies only 3.3 km off the coast of Jura but strong tides and winds in the Sound of Jura meant relieving and supplying the keepers was not easy. Skervuile was built by David and Thomas Stevenson, in 1860 but due to a commissioning disagreement was not lit until 5 years later. In 1945 it was automated and the keepers' families left the Light Houses for the last time.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Small Isles and Loch nan Mile, Jura.

From Craighouse on Jura we entered Small Isles Bay. The Small Isles  are a delightful chain of islands that lie across the broad entrance to Loch na Mile. We On calm waters we glided silently over the shallow sandy bottom as heron, eider duck and divers largely ignored our passage. The eiders in particular were engrossed in mating displays.

At the north end of Eilean nan Gabhar all was calm as we passed but the sloop Agnes of Campbeltown was wrecked here in December 1858.

 On the shore of Loch nan Mile the Forest Estate lies below the Paps of Jura. It belongs to Lord Vestey.

At the last of the Small Isles chain , Eilean Bhride, we came to the northern entrance to Loch nan Mile.

Before leaving the loch we turned to look back at the Small Isles, Craighouse on Jura and the Islay hills beyond.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Craighouse nestles in the bosom of the hills of Jura.

The south east coast of Jura has relatively few beaches and for the most part lines of cliffs dominated our tiny kayaks and fell...

 ...steeply into the sea.

As we proceeded northwards towards the main settlement at Craighouse, the cliffs gradually reduced in height and the...

 ...sea became shallower and our shadows glided smoothly over a sandy bottom, startling crabs and shoals of small fish as we went.

On shore, this wild goat was less easily startled. After gazing at us for some time it continued its saunter slowly along its rocky path.

Away to the north, the Sound of Jura was framed by the high ridges of Ben Cruachan, which were still flecked by snow.

 Round a small headland the Paps of Jura came into view then...

...we came across the village of Craighouse, which nestles in the bosom of the hills. The white houses were strung round the bay like a necklace.

Then we paid homage at the jewel in the heart of Jura, the distillery!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Rebirth of a malt whisky and a sea eagle on Jura.

 The first building we came to on Jura was...

 ...the impressively situated Jura House. The previous owner, Tony Riley-Smith, died in 2010. Along with Robin Fletcher the then owner of Ardlussa estate in north Jura he rebuilt the dilapidated Jura distillery in the early 1960's.

The house has an amazing view over the Sound to Islay.

It was a beautiful morning and we now paddled past Brosdale Island and into a...

 ...dazzling Sound of Jura.

The SE corner of Jura is marked by Rubha Uamh an Tuill and now we would be travelling NE.

 Some distaince up the coast we were officially welcomed back to Jura by this magnificent white tailed sea eagle.

What a sight!