Friday, May 28, 2010

A crusade by sea kayak to the Holy Island

A 20km paddle from Brodick on Arran round Holy Island, March 2010.

The north going flood tide enters Lamlash Bay by the South channel and exits by the North Channel the south going ebb tide runs in the reverse direction.

N going flood +0605 HW Greenock -0500 HW Dover, 1knt springs S channel 0.75knt N channel
S going ebb +0040 HW Greenock +0200 HW Dover, 1.5 knt springs S channel 1 knt N channel

Lamlash tidal constant -0025 Greenock +0050 Dover

Destination Holy Island!

The mountains of Arran

No egos at Portencross!

Seeking shelter in Brodick Bay.

Egalitarian cruising on the Clyde

Little and Large in Lamlash Bay.

Do Holy Island monks think they are above the Law of Scotland?

The west coast of Holy Island, Arran

The Inner (and Outer) Light of Holy Island

Tony hangs up his hat on Holy Island

End of a Crusade to Holy Island

Photo album map

Monday, May 24, 2010

She sailed of into the sunset...

We did not have long to get changed and get the kayaks ready as the Arran ferry arrived at Brodick not long after us. We soon boarded and made our way to the dining room.

After a very pleasant evening meal of Calmac chicken curry and chips it was time to return to the kayak deck, ready for disembarkation at Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast.

We had just loaded the kayaks on the cars in the time it took the MV Caledonian Isles to reload with another set of cars and passengers on their way to Arran.

Then the MV Caledonian Isles...

...sailed off into the sunset...

...which grew deeper by the minute. Our Arran adventure was over.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

End of a Crusade to Holy Island

We left the shady beach on the east coast of Holy Island and paddled towards the north and the sunlight slopes beyond.

Crossing the north entrance to Lamlash Bay we took one last look back at the distinctive outline of Holy Island, the subject of our recent crusade.

Passing low Hamilton Isle, we made our way to the...

...tumbling slopes of Clauchlands Point round which,

Arran's snow covered peaks came into view one after the other.

Reluctant for our paddle to come to an end, we loitered in Brodick Bay as long as we could, as our ferry, the MV Caledonian Isles, steadily increased in size on the eastern horizon.

All too soon our time on the water was coming to an end. None of us knew it then, but this would be the last time that Tony and the second last time that Phil and I would paddle with our good friend Jim.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tony hangs up his hat on Holy Island

We left the sunshine as we paddled north up the east side of Holy Island...

...and entered the shade under the steep slopes of Mullach Mor (314m). In the distance the snow covered slopes of Goatfell were still in full sun.

We stopped at a remote, stony beach to stretch our legs and enjoy a quick (it was cold) bite to eat. Tony and Jim looked out over the Firth of Clyde to the barely visible Ayrshire coast beyond.

All round the top of the beach there was the sadly all too common plastic tat of flotsam and jetsam etc. Always with an eye for the camera, Tony modelled a fetching helmet in an attractive shade of sky blue.

The monks had erected this tasteful plastic post, adorned with a goodwill message in four languages. Tony was impressed by its simple message.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Inner (and Outer) Light of Holy Island

At the SW corner of Holy Island we came to the Inner Light. No it is not some higher plane of enlightenment merely a NLB lighthouse.

We then rounded the southernmost point of Holy Island only to discover...

...another lighthouse which is named, with a great deal of logic, the Outer Light. Perhaps, to continue the Harrison analogy, a case of within you, without you.

Why might you ask should Holy Island be blessed by illumination by two lighthouses so close together? Perhaps it is because Lamlash Bay is one of the great natural harbours of the World. Although it is not bordered by any great centre of population, it provided shelter for ships of the Royal Navy in both World Wars and as a relay point for convoys. Somewhat before the construction of the lighthouses, King Hakon IV of Norway gathered his fleet of Viking long boats here before his defeat at the Battle of Largs in 1263.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cloven hooves on Holy Island

Under an overhanging cliff on the west side of Holy Island, we spotted a cave.

It is the cave of St Molaise who established a Christian retreat here in the seventh century and lived in this cave for ten years. Over the years a number of species have been introduced to the island. These Soay sheep and Saanen goats have taken possession of the cave and St Molaise would not find it a very pleasant place now.

Eriskay ponies are another of the introduced species and one of my friends was warned by a monk that the ponies are savage and aggressive. In fact they are very calm and docile animals.

The steep sides of the island tumble straight into the sea in a boulder field but there is actually a lovely grassy path that winds its way in and out of the rocks above the beach.

The monks have painted colourful images on some of the boulders by the path.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The west coast of Holy Island, Arran

After second breakfast, we proceeded down the west side of Holy Island. Although the monks would rather you did not camp, they are quite happy for you to stay in their hotel. This is the original farmhouse, which has been rather tastefully restored and extended. Rooms, single and double, are available from £55 to £75 and that even includes some vegetarian meals.

Jim was very pleased with his new P&H Quest, he loved the white deck, which matched his paddles!

Tony looked back over Lamlash Bay and the village of Lamlash to the snow flecked cliffs of Beinn Nuis 792m, and Beinn Tarsuinn 826m.

Rounding the shallows off White Point, the south end of Holy Island stretched away to the Inner Light in the distance.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Do Holy Island monks think they are above the Law of Scotland?

Well the Calmac bacon and sausage rolls had barely settled before it was time for second breakfast. We decided to land at the north end of Holy Island. Unfortunately it was low tide and there were innumerable slippy boulders to negotiate. No sooner had he got out his kayak than Jim made his way over to assist me. He helped me to the top of the beach while Tony and Phil carried my kayak.

My knee nearly dislocated again as I winced, just watching Phil try to negotiate his way up the slippy beach!

Soon we were sitting enjoying second breakfast and a wonderful view over Lamlash Bay as the MV Caledonian Isles made her second approach to Arran of the day.

Then Phil went for a stroll but soon returned in a rather agitated state. "Come and see what I have found!"

Just a short way along the beach, Phil showed us this. Right on an ideal spot for wild camping, which is a legal activity under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, the monks have built a little cairn round this illegal sign.

If you wish to camp here, do not be intimidated by these Buddhist monks, who have an excessive attachment to the land and a disregard for Scottish law. This is a perfectly legal place to exercise your right to responsible wild camping. If this possession of and attachment to the land is typical of Buddhist behaviour, then it is easy to understand why Mao Tse-Tung was so hostile towards the religion.

Scottish history has many landlords who have enjoyed possession of the land. Well it looks like the monks of Holy Island are on their way joining the company of Elizabeth, 19th Countess of Sutherland et al. Fortunately for the monks, Scotland is a democratic and law abiding country, which has not undergone a People's Revolution.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Little and Large in Lamlash Bay.

Jim, Tony, Phil and myself left the shelter of Brodick Bay at Corriegills Point where we met a fresh offshore wind.

It was exhilarating paddling in the sunshine, under blue skies and snow capped mountains.

Nearing Clauchlands Point, our destination, Holy Island came into view. It lies in the middle of Arran's Lamlash Bay

Despite its size, Arran only has three satellite islands. Holy Island is the largest and the highest, next is Pladda off the south coast and the smallest is little Hamilton Isle, seen here just off Clauchlands Point. It is completely dwarfed by its larger neighbour, a case of Little and Large in Lamlash Bay.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Egalitarian cruising on the Clyde

After arrival at Brodick, we trollied the kayaks off the ferry and turned hard left at the top of the ramp. This took us to a little beach of reddish Arran sand.

We were on the water quickly, almost as soon as the MV Caledonian Isles took to turn around.

We launched into light winds and flat water which was in total contrast yo the conditions on the far side of the Clyde. We had not only made the right navigational decision, we had enjoyed a nutritious breakfast on board the ferry!

Beyond the MV Caledonian Isles we spotted the MV Hebridean Princess at anchor on the other side of Brodick Bay.

The MV Hebridean Princess is a former CalMac ferry that has been converted into a small luxury cruise liner. Don't expect to get much change from £2,500 per week in the cheap cabins. However, I understand the cuisine is in a different league to the fare we enjoy on the Arran ferry! Note the freshly painted navy blue hull which was previously black. Hebridean Princess has just undergone a major refit and this was her first outing in her smart new livery.

She was built in 1964 and, as MV Columba, she served on many routes out of Oban. Latterly she was a relief vessel for more modern RoRo ferries. When she was sold to Hebridean Island Cruises in 1988, she was the last hoist loading ferry in CalMac's Western Isles fleet. Originally she took 50 cars and 870 passengers. In her current role she carries only 49 passengers.

Cruising on the Clyde can be enjoyed by rich and poor, it's a very egalitarian activity.

We were looking forward to our yummy SPAM sandwiches, here is what those cruising on Hebridean Princess could look forward to:

Fresh Hand Dived Scallops
With a Thai green curry sauce

Isle of Mull Cheddar Cheese and Red Onion Tart

Carrot and Orange Soup


Fresh Fillet of Sea Bream, Savoury Pancake
With red pepper dressing and sautéed greens

Guinea Fowl with a Herb Mash and Ribbons of Courgette


Chocolate Nemesis with Crème Chantilly
And mint syrup

Strawberry Pavlova with a Duo of Coulis

Selection of Cheeses


Coffee and Petits-fours
Will be served in the Tiree Lounge, the Conservatory and the Look Out Lounge


Seeking shelter in Brodick Bay.

As the Arran ferry, MV Caledonian Isles, approached her terminal at the head of Brodick Bay, the snow covered mountains crowded round us and the sea in their lee flattened.

Lying at anchor, in front of the decorative turrets of Brodick castle, we saw an unusual ship. She was the MV Hartland Point. One of a fleet of six Royal Fleet Auxiliary Point class sealift ships. These are RoRo cargo and personnel vessels. When not being used for Royal Navy purposes, they can be contracted out for commercial trading and ferry duties. Hartland Point was the second of the class to enter service in 2002, after being built at the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast. She displaces 23,235 tons and can cruise at 18 knots with a maximum speed of 21.5knots . She is 193m long, 26m beam and 7.6m draught.

Like us sea kayakers, the MV Hartland Point was taking shelter in Brodick Bay, which is sheltered from the prevailing SW winds. She was waiting to berth at the MOD Glenmallan jetty (alt. Glen Mallen) in Loch Long before making her way across the Atlantic to Becancour in Canada's St Lawrence River system. Glenmallan jetty is licenced to handle up to 44,000kg of explosives at any one time.