Monday, October 31, 2011

Sitting it out on the Sound of Islay.

After our trip round the Oa peninsula, we camped overnight at Kintra campsite. During the night the wind increased and the tents were lashed by rain squalls. The forecast was for strong westerly winds, veering north west and for heavy rain becoming sunshine and showers. We rose early and broke camp before driving to Port Askaig, where we would get the late afternoon ferry back to the mainland. We loaded the kayaks with some food for breakfast and were on the water before 8am.

The Sound of Islay was ebbing fast and we were whisked south, past the Carraig Mhor lighthouse, at a very satisfying 12km/hr.

The clouds were well down  and a strong W wind blew well above our heads as we were in the lee of the Islay mountains.

We stayed well out in mid channel, taking advantage of the tide, until we spotted the McArthurs Head lighthouse.

We then broke out of the tide, paddling towards the Islay shore...

...towards our destination, the delightful bothy of An Cladach. Where better to spend a few hours on grey, wet day while waiting for a ferry?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sea kayaking round the Mull of Oa from Claggain Bay to Kintra.

A two day, 43km, paddle from Claggain Bay to Kintra, round the Mull of Oa on Islay, the most southerly point in all of the Hebrides.

Tidal streams 200m off the Oa peninsula at spring tides run at 4-5knots:
NW going flood begins HW Dover (11:31 on the day) overfalls off Rubha nan Leacan, Sgeirean Buidhe, Mull of Oa.
SE going ebb begins -0610 HW Dover overfalls off Mull of Oa, Sgeirean Buidhe, Rubha nan Leacan.

However, we found that close inshore, the NW stream begins about -0100 HW Dover.

The south east coast of the Mull of Oa.

The Mull of Oa.

Islay retrospective #2.

The Ardmore Islands and appropriate consumption.

The intoxicated Giant of Ardbeg.

Taking a break at Lower Killeayan on the Oa peninsula.

There's a kind of hush, all over the Oa tonight.

Oa, what a place to see g-oa-ts and sea eagles!

Oa my! It's a tight squeeze getting out of Bun an Easan!

S-oa-ldier's Rock.

End of the day at Traigh Mhor, Islay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

End of the day at Traigh Mhor, Islay.

 Beyond Soldier's Rock, the coastline of the Oa peninsula is riven by a series of basalt dykes in various states of erosion. Some like this one are still in place.

Others like this one, through a stack off Rubha Mor, have eroded away leaving channels just wide enough for a kayak to sip through.

When we rounded Rubha Mor we saw the great sweep of Traigh Mhor backed by the distant Paps of Jura. It is one of the biggest beaches in the Hebrides.

Our two day trip round the south coast and the Oa peninsula of Islay came to an end at the commercial camp site at Kintra. While I pitched the tents and unpacked the gear, Tony cycled the 21km and 360m of height to recover the car at Claggain Bay. If you arrive by sea kayak, check in at the farm before you pitch your tent as there are a limited number of pitches by the sea and you might need to carry your gear about 100m inland.

That night we enjoyed an excellent curry in the unprepossessing Maharani Restaurant in Port Ellen all washed down with lashings of ginger beer (it is not licensed). We both agreed that the west coast of the Mull of Oa is one of the best paddles that we have ever done.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

S-oa-ldier's Rock.

 Our voyage along the west coast of the Mull of Oa continued with undiminished interest. Just before we turned east along the north coast...

 ...we came to the great sea stack...

 ...called Soldier's Rock.

In an alcove beyond the stack we came to...

...a huge cave with several windows in its roof.

It even had a cave within a cave and...

 ...a waterfall tumbling down through a skylight!

The door of the cave was the perfect frame for Soldier's Rock.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oa my! It's a tight squeeze getting out of Bun an Easan!

From the beach at Lower Killeyan (where we had enjoyed first luncheon) we had paddled quite a long way along the Oa peninsula. It was now well past time for our second luncheon!

So we landed in the delightful cove of Bun an Easan "foot of the waterfall". We climbed up the slope behind the beach and enjoyed a tasty meal of Stilton cheese, oatcakes and red grapes washed down with a little Ardbeg. As we lay back in the sun, enjoying a postprandial doze, we looked over the sparkling blue waters of Loch Indaal to the distant Rinns of Islay.

After dining, we strolled back tdown o the beach and through a little cave to a hidden...

...valley with a burn. It is called Sruthan Bun an Easa or "little stream of the foot of the waterfall".

Tony and I found another cave entrance, high on the grassy slope above the beach. Its floor angled steeply downwards. Standing in the entrance, the cold air inside sighed back and forth past us, like the breath of a giant. Feeling the walls we descended into the darkness. At the bottom we came to a dark carven into which the unseen ocean swell was surging and booming.

Time passed too quickly at Bun an Easan and it was now time to leave. Tony was in for a surprise (I had been before):  the In Door is wider than the Out Door!

It was a tight squeeze and our paddles clattered and echoed on the rocky walls. We made it through, despite our large luncheons!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oa, what a place to see goats and sea eagles!

 The west coast of the Mull of Oa on Islay is rockhopping heaven. We paddled through geos and...

...tumbled straight into the sea from the hills above. But we were not alone...

...we were being watched from both the land...

 ...and the air, by the resident feral goats and a sea eagle.

Friday, October 21, 2011

There's a kind of hush, all over the Oa tonight.

We set of from Lower Killeyan Bay and were soon weaving through a series of offshore stacks and...

...channels through the skerries. To the north of the bay, the tidal eddy was running against us even more strongly than it had before.

We took a last look back at the Mull of Oa from Sgeirean Buidhe Ghil before we took a...

...well earned rest in the shelter round the headland.

From high on the next headland our progress was watched over by...

 ...rocky gargoyles until we were hushed...

...into silence by Shhhhh rock!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Taking a break at Lower Killeayan on the Oa peninsula.

The west coast of the Mull of Oa is characterised by many offshore skerries and stacks. The Mull forms the SE boundary of Loch Indaal. Despite the flood tide, a strong counter eddy was flowing south, out of Loch Indaal, and joining the west going Mull of Oa tide race. At several pinch points we found ourselves paddling "uphill"!

 We took a break at the lovely Lower Killeyan beach. Visitors are advised not to swim here due to the strength of the tide.

Tony went off exploring while I sat on the rocks looking over the mouth of Loch Indaal to Orsay and its lighthouse some 14km away. It was near there, at Portnahaven, that we had launched to paddle the west coast of the Rinns of Islay just a few days before.

The way ahead looked even more interesting than where we had just come from so...

...after a leisurely luncheon we returned to the kayaks. It was a good feeling knowing we had passed the tidal crux of the journey and could now relax and enjoy paddling the incredible coast to come...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Round the Mull of Oa.

We now approached the great rock blade of Sgeirean Buidhe, which lies in the centre of the SW coast of the Oa peninsula.

On another trip earlier that year, we had encountered a major tide race off these rocks but on this day, Tony and I zipped past the headland on relatively smooth water before...

...breaking out into the eddy behind the point.

Ahead lay the Mull of Oa itself. It was still 2km away and is topped by the prominent American Red Cross Monument. It was erected in 1920 in memory of those who died when two troop ships, the Tuscania and the Otranto were lost off Islay in 1918.

The sharp eyed might notice the dark line on the horizon off the point, with white water licking the dark rocks. We were fortunate that there was no wind because by the time we got there the race was rushing westwards with standing waves 2m high. There was no escape inshore so we gripped our paddles and paddled straight into the race. We lost sight of each other in the troughs then when we cleared the headland, we battled northward against a south going eddy...

...which was making its way down the west coast of the Oa. We breathed a huge sigh of relief. We were safely through the tides and now we could enjoy paddling what is probably the best bit of sea kayaking coast on Islay...the west coast of the Mull of Oa.