Friday, October 07, 2011

Sea kayaking the Rinns of Islay.

A 37km, day trip round the west and north coasts of the Rinns of Islay. Launch at Portnahaven NR167521 small shop, hotel/pub, limited car parking nearby, toilets/water at top of hill. Recover kayaks at Crois Mor NR297703 in Loch Gruinart or a few hundred metres to the NE at low tide.

Portnahaven: Constant -0110 Oban (+0550 Dover) Tidal streams off Portnahaven run at 8 knots springs. Heavy overfalls occur off Oronsay and Frenchman's Rocks. In the north going stream a counter eddy forms in Lossit Bay, which can cause confused water where it rejoins the main stream at Frenchman's Rocks. Four hours into the north going flood, we met a SW going eddy along the coast from Cape Fear to Ton Mor.

N going flood begins +0530 HW Oban (HW Dover)
S going ebb begins -0040 HW Oban (-0610 Dover)

It is our experience that inshore streams round Islay turn about 45 minutes before the above published times in the pilots.

Don't be deceived by the calm of Portnahaven harbour, as you leave the harbour...

...all hell can be let loose. An unforgiving coast of cliff and surf beach stretches for an unremitting and challenging 26 km...

...until you turn the corner and find a respite

An Islay retrospective.

Dry mouths in the deceptive calm of Portnahaven.

Commitment off the Rinns of Islay.

Flotsam, jetsam and kayaks off the Rinns of Islay.

The ground was moving and it was nothing to do with the Laphroig!

Singing seals of Loch Gruinart at the end of a long day.


  1. Hi Douglas,
    What a wonderful snd rare trip. Given the location and potential weather conditions I'm guessing this won't often be repeated. Another one on the "to do" list! :o)

  2. Hi Douglas I have read this white knuckle report with great envy. We have taken the kayaks over 3 times to do the Rhinns. The weather forecast has been good each time but by the time we got there the water off Portnahaven was just too extreme to risk launching on such a long trip without safe landings. The only consolation is there are so many other great places to paddle on Islay. You have only heightened my desire to do the Rhinns though. Cheers Joe. PS will you be speaking at Paddle 2011 again? And what day? :-)

  3. Ian, Islay is one of our favourite islands. There are at least 8 foul weather alternatives to keep you occupied!

    Joe good luck on your next visit to Islay, I hope the Rinns work out then!

    I am going to be talking at the Perth show on Sunday 23rd October at 2:30 in the afternoon.

    Please say hello if you are there.