Friday, February 29, 2008

White tailed sea eagles of the Dorus Mor.

While we were exploring the islands of the Dorus Mor we saw these two magnificent white tailed sea eagles. The strong currents and disturbed waters of the race bring fish to the surface and the sea eagles are ready to swoop down and catch them with their talons.

In the summer you can also find gannets feeding here but they can dive more deeply and catch the fish with their bills.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The stout trees and roots of Isle Macaskin.

We paddled up the rugged east shore of ~Loch Craignish then crossed to Island Macaskin.

From its shore we walked over the bracken (which has covered once fertile ground) to the abandoned settlement. Inside one of the cottages, two barn owls were roosting. The settlement had 6 people living in it on the 1881 census but it was abandoned by the 1891 census. One of the last people to be born on the island was Ann Gillies in about 1860. She married Neil MacEwan and lived nearby at Kilmartin on the mainland.

This is the view from one of the cottages. The people who lived here enjoyed this fine view and took the trouble to plant these stout trees. These islands are the roots of the Scottish nation.


From Nick in Chichester:
That landscape shot looks almost photoshop' a fantasy landscape! lovely.

From Savage Family:
Your pictures are always of very high quality, but I am particularly struck by the two today that are taken apparently into the sun, but in which detail is preserved, rather than shaded. I was wondering what sort of settings and exposures you have used to obtain such pictures? I don't mind, of course, if you prefer not to reveal your methods, but I think you have achieved good results there.

Hello Nick and Savage Family, I am glad you liked those photos, thank you!

Most cameras give a silhouette when taking into the light shots or in other high contrast photos. This is so common that it looks "normal" and high dynamic range photos such as the two you refer to look unnatural, (yet they are much more akin to what your eyes see at the time).

The web is full of how to take HDR photos, which are normally composites of several photos, taken with different exposures and blended in Photoshop. I often use that technique but it is not possible to do it easily where the light bits are so intertwined with the dark bits as in the tree shot.The tree shot was taken with a wide angle lens, 21mm, to make the sun a relatively small source of light. I used an expensive lens (Canon L series lens) to minimise flare and maximise contrast.Expensive lenses also tend to distort the horizon less when it does not run through the centre of the photo.

It is easier to reclaim detail from underexposed parts of a photo than from highlights, which once burned out are lost for ever. So in this case, I exposed for the sky rather than the foreground. The exposure was 1/800th at f20 at 400ASA .I used the camera RAW setting to save the digital photo. This results a much larger file than the usual jpeg but it stores a lot more detail, particularly in the shadow areas. On the computer, I used the Camera Raw software to open the file and used its exposure and fill light controls to bring out the shadow detail on the trees and bracken. It was pretty easy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

From Loch Crinan to Loch Craignish

From the Crinan Canal we left the pub behind and paddled north across Loch Crinan to the sandy beach below Duntrune Castle.

This was a wonderful place to stop for a leisurely lunch.

From the mouth of Loch Craignish, looking out through the Dorus Mor to the Gulf of Corryvreckan.

After lunch we wanted to make sure the tide had built up to maximum flow in the Dorus Mor, so we took a little detour into Loch Craignish to give it some more time.


Seakayakcobber to paddle from home to Moldova!

There are so many sea kayaking expeditions going on it is difficult sometimes to keep track of who is doing what and where.

But here is one that jumps right off the screen at you! Jörgen, from seakayakcobber, is going to paddle from the lake, where he lives in the Netherlands, by river and sea all the way through the heart of Europe to Moldova (some 4,200km distant) passing through 11 counties on the way.

He is not just doing it because it's there, to be first or to be fastest etc.. He is doing it to help raise money so that children in Moldova who are born with congenital or genetic facial malformations can get surgery.

It's an absolutely brilliant expedition. He will need our help with sponsorship.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Crinan, the gateway from the Clyde to the west coast.

Continuing our recent paddle in the waters of the Dorus Mor, we approached sheltered Loch Crinan. In the summer this bay will be full of moored yachts. Most of them will of course remain on the mooring for the summer with perhaps a weekend trip motoring up nearby Loch Craignish to Ardfern.

The village of Crinan stands on the rim of a steep promontory in the loch. It is sheltered by the wooded isle of Eilean da Mheinn. In the 1580/90s, Timothy Pont mapped this part of Scotland. He annotated the map thus "heir is a herbory for a ship at ylen Damein & also wthin the throat of the river".

The sea lock of the Crinan Canal.

Since his time, the Crinan Canal was built between 1794 and 1816 by John Rennie and Thomas Telford. It is 9 miles long, has 15 locks and rises to a height of 65 feet. It connects Ardrishaig on the Clyde with Crinan on the Sound of Jura. This saves the long and dangerous 128 mile long voyage round the Mull of Kintyre.

There is a fine hotel here with a very good public bar but for once we decided to make best use of the unseasonal sunshine and paddled on! We must return on a rainy day!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The long and winding road, to the Mull of Galloway

I might have mixed up my McCartney songs but you get the idea...

Despite being part of mainland Scotland, when you are travelling through the Rhinns of Galloway, you feel you are on an island and so must have fallen asleep on the ferry.

The lambing season starts early here, hinted at by palm trees being just about the most common garden plant in these parts. In the southern half of the Rhinns of Galloway, you are never more than 2.5km from the Gulf Stream warmed sea and so frosts are rare.

However, it is not always like this in winter. High on the Mull, Kennedy's Cairn commemorates a postman who died on this road while delivering the mail in a snowstorm .

We left one car at East Tarbert to pick up later when we landed there. There is a road down to the old lighthouse boathouse and jetty.

You can get right down to the grass beside the boat house. The jetty was built to service the lighthouse before the road was built. If you look carefully at the top of the beach you can see a huge steel deck hatch that has been washed off a ship rounding the Mull in a storm.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

End of a Mull of Galloway day.

We continued eastwards along the Mull of Galloway and came to a huge cave.

As we left the cavern in the gathering twilight, we caught sight of a waxing gibbous moon.

That reminded me of a total eclipse of the moon that was due at 3am on 21/02/2008. Since I had already got a great view and some photos on the last eclipse at 23:20 03/03/2007, I decided to give this one a miss!

Rounding the Mull of Galloway we encountered a brisk eddy which impeded our progress towards East Tarbert.

The chill February air caught our breath as the sun sank below Tarbert leaving us in darkness.

I have said this before, but you should come and paddle this amazing coast before the crowds come!


Friday, February 22, 2008

Sea kayaking perfection at the Mull of Galloway.

When we entered the Mull of Galloway tide race we found ourselves travelling at 12km/hour when not paddling. Fortunately there was no wind or it would have been a real wild ride!

There are a couple of bays along the Mull that you can break out of the tide into. There are a variety of caves and stacks to explore.

As the sun went down we realised we would need to move on... allow time to play on the eastern race beforer the sun went down.

Why do we go sea kayaking?


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Winter sunset as we approach the Mull.

We left Rainbow Rock as the thin winter sun was sinking towards the south western horizon and the air was full of the mournful calls of wheeling gulls.

With each headland we felt the power of the tide increase until it was like a huge lazy river, pushing us ever faster and inevitably towards the Mull of Galloway.

The rocks turned red as the sun sank lower.

We were often tempted to break out of the tide and take a diversion through rocky channels.

At last the Mull of Galloway, surmounted by its lighthouse, lay before us. We would be rounding it at 3 hours after slack water and there was now no turning back....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rainbow Rock

Rainbow Rock, Rhinns of Galloway

Leaving Slouchnamorroch Bay, we continued our paddle past cliffs that plunged straight into the sea. Just offshore huge blocks were inclined to the same angle as the cliffs.

With increasing tidal assistance we made our way round Crammag Head and found ourselves under the rocky ramparts of Dunman Hill. Two millenia ago, ancient Britons held a hill fort on its southern flanks.

On the north going flood tide (this is looking south) the sea builds up behind this gap and you shoot through the gap like a river rapid.

Far beneath the summit of Dunman lies the "Y" cave.

We stopped for a second luncheon of Christmas cake, just south of Portdown Bay, at the stunning Rainbow Rock with its folded strata.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The bare bones of the Earth exposed in Slouchnamorroch Bay

Rounding Cairnywellan Head we came across the most amazing coast of indented coves and jagged headlands. We entered a small cove just to the north of Slouchnamorroch Bay. Just for a moment, dwell on what sort of a landscape gives rise to such an original name as Slouchnamorroch! There are only a couple of references to it in Google and one of these is this site! Let me now introduce you to this corner where land and sea meet.

We drew our kayaks up onto a beach of bare bedrock.

There were boulders scattered about on the rock and you could see where they had worn hollows in the rock. One can only imagine the bedlam here on a stormy night when wild waves drive these boulders about the beach like some crazy pinball machine.

The beach was mostly bare of sea weeds and shellfish, but here and there a few barnacles and limpets survived in protected hollows and crevices.

A dyke rose boldly in the middle of the beach and marched its way inland to rise to the sky in the cliffs behind.

One can only imagine the cataclysmic forces that have created this place and yet we had it all to ourselves. We did not even need to get up particularly early, we left the house at 8am!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Ocean Paddler #8 "Myths and tides of the Mull"

The Mull of Galloway.

Unfortunately there was not space in Ocean Paddler for the fact box to accompany the article: "Myths and Tides of the Mull" part one of a Rhinns of Galloway Trilogy. I will make sure there is room for the fact box in one of the remaining two articles. In the meantime, here is some information to help those planning a trip to this fantastic location.

The Mull of Galloway Essential Information.

Distance: 27km day trip.

Launch site: Drummore: NX141363. There is no toilet at the car park so stop at Ardwell NX109453 en route.

Landing site: Port Logan NX494094.

Getting there: From Glasgow, head south for Stranraer on the M77, then the A77. through Stranraer. Leave A77 on A716 for Ardwell then B7065 to leave shuttle car at Port Logan. 100 miles allow 2hours 30mins. Then take B7065/B7041 to Drummore 4.5 miles allow 15 minutes. If coming from the south or the east, head for Dumfries then west for Stranraer on the A75. Just before Stranraer, take the B0784 then A716 for Ardwell then B7065 for Port Logan. Dumfries to Port Logan is 60 miles allow 2 hrs.

Accommodation: For Hotel, B&B and self-catering accommodation: New England Bay Caravan Club Site NX120424, tel 01776 860 275, has beach access for kayaks.

Local weather forecast: BBC Radio Scotland (94 to 95 FM, 810 MW) Outdoors conditions forecasts are broadcast at 19.12 Monday-Friday, 06.58 and 18.58 on Saturday and 06.58 and 19.58 on Sunday.

Tidal constant: Mull of Galloway +0035 HW Dover; Drummore: +0045 HW Dover.

Tidal streams: Tidal stream information here that differs from the pilots is from personal observation and discussion with local fishermen. The pilots show that well south of the Mull of Galloway the E going stream (flood) begins at -0545 Dover and the W going stream (ebb) begins at +0020 Dover but close inshore, where kayakers will be, the east going stream begins about +0530 HW Dover and the W going stream about -0130 HW Dover. Spring rates exceed 9km/hr. From Port Kemmin to the Mull there is an E going eddy close inshore during the W going ebb, from about +0120 HW Dover. The interface with the main west going stream can be very disturbed.
To the west of the Rhinns of Galloway and close to shore, the S going stream (flood) begins +0425 Dover, the N going stream (ebb) begins -0135 HW Dover. There are overfalls at frequent places and after half tide (on both flood and ebb) counter eddies form close inshore. Spring rates at headlands exceed 12km/hr.

Tides on the day (24/03/2007): Our trip was midway between springs and neaps and we arrived off Lagvag, the east point of the Mull, at -0145 Dover. Note that Cooper and Reid suggest arriving slightly earlier than HW Liverpool (about HW Dover) if you do this, you will not round the Mull at slack water and you will face stronger eddies on the north part of the trip.

Warnings: This can be a serious trip if there is any wind against tide; here is a selection of descriptions from the pilots: one of the most dangerous points on the British coastline; heavy and violent race; the race at the Mull of Galloway is violent; passage can be hazardous on an outgoing tide in SW winds above force 4 and should not be attempted; very heavy seas off the Mull. Check tidal information with original sources and take account of conditions on the day.

Danger Area: Luce Bay is an active bombing range. If you keep inside the yellow buoys you should be well clear but if in doubt phone the range on 01776 888741.

Maps: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 82; Imray Chart 1:150,000 sheet C62

Books: West Coast of Scotland Pilot, UK Hydrographic Office
West Coast of England and Wales Pilot, UK Hydrographic Office
The Yachtsman’s Pilot Clyde to Colonsay, Martin Lawrence
Firth of Clyde inc. North Channel, Solway Firth & Isle of Man, Clyde Cruising Club
Blazing Paddles, Brian Wilson
Scottish Sea Kayaking, Cooper and Reid

Useful website:


Rockhopping down the Rhinns.

We set off from High Ardwell Bay on the wild west coast of the Rhinns of Galloway.

What followed is some of the best sea kayaking rockhopping you will get anywhere.

Round each headland there were yet more rocky channels and small stacks.

As we approached the Mull of Logan the flood tide began to build.

It ran through the channels like a river.

This magnificent arch is just SE of the Mull of Logan, it is not even marked on the map!

For the second time in a week, we bypassed a perfectly good sea kayaking pub (at Port Logan). Instead, we rounded Cairneywellan Head on our way to our first stop at Slouchnamorroch Bay.