Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Mull of Kintyre did not happen!

Mull of Kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here
Oh mull of Kintyre
-"Mull of Kintyre", Wings

An east wind holds up the surf on the 6km long beach at Macrihanish on the west side Kintyre peninsula. (Photo Jennifer Wilcox)

As the crow flies Macrihanish is only 45 miles from Tony's house in Ayrshire (on the east side of the Firth of Clyde) but it involves a 166 mile drive round all the sea lochs that branch deep into the mountains on the north of the Firth.

The Mull of Kintyre lies 10 miles away to the south round this headland, the Irish coast is in the distance.

Our destination was the Mull of Kintyre. This fearsome and remote headland juts out into the North Channel which separates Scotland from Ireland and is only 12.6 miles wide at the Mull. All the tidal forces that link The Irish Sea and the Firth of Clyde to the Atlantic and the Sound of Jura are forced past this spot. As a result, HW times at Macrihanish and Sandhead (which are separated by only 15 miles of coastline and lie on either side of the Mull) differ by 2hrs and 15 minutes. Just to the east of Sron Uamha, low water "slack" is characterised by 20 minutes of breaking rollers close to the cliffs, as opposing currents sort themselves out, truly fearsome!

The Paps of Jura lie on the far side of the Sound of Jura.

Things did not look much better from sea level.

We needed calm conditions for the trip, Magicseaweed predicted falling surf heights from 9.5 feet on Thursday to 4.5 feet on Friday. The Met Office, BBC, Metcheck and were all predicting force 2 easterlies on Friday and Saturday.

We went for it, leaving home at 5am on Friday morning. All the way round the Clyde lochs, the sea was flat calm but on arrival at Macrihanish there was a force 5 easterly blowing. Was this just a local and transient wind? Surely all the forecasts could not be be wrong? It would be 4 hours before we got down to the Mull, surely the wind would have dropped by then?

What did we do? We WIMPED OUT! Our image of hardened sea kayakers, able to down raw puffins in a single swallow, is dented. I had been so confident of a successful mission, I had not even bothered to bring maps of other locations. Did our lack of confidence mean it was a wasted 372 mile journey?

With dry paddles, we turned the car northwards in retreat....