Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Sound of Tomorrow, Islay.

Port Askaig on the Sound of Islay is one of the best places to set off sea kayaking. The Sound is only 0.75km wide so you can really only go north or south. However you don't even need to make that decision as the tide will make it for you (5 knots at springs can be somewhat persuasive).

The scenery on the Sound is stunning with the Paps of Jura being the high point on the horizon.

A number of lighthouses guard the salient points...

...but the strong tides still catch the unwary.

There are two distilleries situated on the Sound.

It is not just kayakers that use Port Askaig... is one of Islay's two ferry terminals and after the introduction of the new ferry MV Finlaggan for the summer 2011 season, it will be the only one until Port Ellen is upgraded.

There is also a small fishing fleet, which use the port as a base for their lobster boats.

The south end of the Sound, towards McArthur's Head lighthouse is equally dramatic and...

 has Scotland's best bothy right by the shore!

The waters of the Sound are pretty sheltered from the storms that sweep across Islay...

...but you never get away from the power of the tide.
Today the Scottish Government approved plans to build an array of 10 tidal generators mounted on the sea bed. These will  generate enough electricity to power several thousand homes and Islay's energy hungry distilleries.

Scottish Power Renewables are going to install 1 megawatt versions of the turbine developed by Hammerfest Strom tidal turbines in Norway.

Two of the turbines will go in just offshore from Port Askaig  with the other 8 going in further south. Apparently the blades will rotate slowly enough not to harm migrating whales and...

...will be deep enough not to interfere with ships or kayaks.

It sounds pretty good. The tides are a lot more reliable than the wind! The only downside is that no fishing will be allowed in the vicinity of the turbines. Just imagine a spot of kayak fishing and catching a turbine with a mackerel line!