Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michelin starred pow wow at Knockinaam

We had been paddling along the remote Rhinns of Galloway peninsula for what seemed ages. Our stomachs were groaning with hunger pangs. 

At last we came across a break in the previously relentless rocks, Port of Spittal Bay. We have several times passed this spot without stopping. There appeared to be a house standing a little way back from the beach. We started drooling with the thought that perhaps we could beg some morsels of food.

On this cold January day, the North Channel tide race was pumping on the horizon. There was a little shore break in the bay...

...and it was good to feel our feet on the beach of coarse, grey sand and shingle.

Weak with hunger, our faltering steps took us up the beach towards the isolated house...

...we opened the creaking door and stepped inside. We were warmly greeted and told we were to be the only guests at the Knockinaam Lodge hotel that night. We were told a previous resident had been Sir Winston Churchill, who held several secret meeting here with President Eisenhower during the dark days of WW2.

Even better, we discovered that the hotel has a restaurant (though it only has a solitary Michelin star). Despite there just being just the two of us, Tony Pierce the chef, put on the full menu. We dined exceptionally well that night then slumbered in the warm, comfortable room with the waves crashing on the shore as a lullaby.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sea kayaking Ayrshire's Atlantic Coast

A 23km day paddle from Lendalfoot to Finnarts Bay.

Exploring the geos of Bennane Head.

Bennane Head tidal streams:
The tides round Bennane Head are rather interesting. As the flood rushes up the Firth of Clyde, through the North Channel, you might expect it to flow north all the way up the Ayrshire coast. However, it hits Bennane head and splits, so south of the Head the flood is south going!

On the ebb the two streams reverse and travelling at 2.5 knots, they collide off the Head.  This disturbed water can get even rougher against a SW wind.

For kayakers, unless you hit the Head at slack water, you will need to paddle against the tide on one side of the Head or the other.

South of Bennane Head to Finnarts point
SSW going +0425 HW Greenock 
NNE going -0140 HW Greenock 

North of Bennane Head to Lendalfoot
NNE going +0425 HW Greenock
SSW going -0140 HW Greenock

A long shuttle to Loch Ryan...

A solitary perch on Whilk Isle.

The Cannibal's Cave and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo!

Bums on seats round Bennane Head.

An unadventurous lot, down on Ayrshire's Atlantic Coast.

Nightfall and landfall in Loch Ryan.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Meall a' Bhuiridh

Here is news of performances of a new musical composition accompanied by a display of fine art photographic images inspired by the Glen Coe ski hill. The music is by Spad and the photography by my daughter Jennifer.

Meall a’ Bhuiridh Commission Preview by Barry Reid

The performances are as follows:
1st March 2012– Glasgow, The Universal, 9.30pm (Tickets £6 and £4 consession)
3rd March 2012 – Glencoe Ski Centre, 6.30pm (free!)

The commission was supported by Creative Scotland.

Being a cheapskate, I thought I might head up to Glencoe on Saturday the third and go for a paddle in Loch Leven  then go for a a meal in either the Isles of Glencoe Hotel or the Clachaig before heading up to the ski centre. Anyone fancy coming?

Nightfall and landfall in Loch Ryan.

Night was falling as we came to the end of our three luncheon tour of Ayrshire's Atlantic coast. Away to the NW, Corsewall lighthouse had been flashing for some time...

 ...as work continued on the flood lit deck of OCV North Sea Giant.

Rounding Garry Point we caught sight of...

... the lights of the new Stena Line Cairnryan ferry terminal...

...before making final landfall at Finnarts Bay. We had just completed a paddle along one of the finest pieces of coast in SW Scotland.

Jim said he would have given 10/10 for trip planning but reduced it to 9/10 because this ferry arrived as we were packing up. We then had a long slow drive home in the convoy of HGVs, which disgorged from her vehicle decks before we got on the road.

This Irish Sea ferry goes by the romantic sounding name Stena Superfast VII. She and her identical sister ship, which goes by the no less romantic (or original) name of Stena Superfast VIII, were launched in Kiel in 2000 and 2001. They are 203.3m long, 25.4m wide and weigh 30,285 tonnes. Their cruising speed is 30.4 knots. They served in the Baltic but were refitted in 2011 in Poland and entered service on the Cairnryan Belfast run in November 2011.

P.S. Winter gales have banked up a steep gravel storm beach in Finnarts Bay. I tried to carry a kayak up this with David but felt a sickening tear in my left "good" knee. I had to drop the kayak and am very grateful to the others, especially Phil, who helped get my gear back to the cars. Thanks guys! :o)

Unfortunately my left knee dislocated a couple of days later and prevented me paddling in the idyllic weather the following Sunday, actually it confined me to the house for ten days. So was this trip along Ayrshire's Atlantic coast worth it? You bet it was!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Several shags, an Earth movement and a bridge too far.

Leaving Portandea, we entered Loch Ryan. The rockhopping continued to amaze us but you need to be careful. There are frequent ferries here, including high speed catamarans, and their wash can be dangerous, if you are in a tight space. This is MV European Highlander, operated by P&O. She was built in Japan and completed in 2002. She is 162.7m long, 23.4m wide and weighs 21,188 tonnes and cruises at 22.5 knots.

 As the light faded, we wended our way  through the skerries at the foot of Finnarts Hill.

 Burns tumbled down from the rocky slopes above and...

...the ledges were crowded with shags preening their new breeding plumage. A peregrine falcon perched on a rock high above. It was watching and waiting.

The cliffs of Craigantezart were vertical strata of greywacke which had been upended by some ancient upheaval of the Earth's crust.

The entrance to the cave at Garry Point is crossed by a rope bridge. It did not look safe. It is easily missed as the finish of this route is at Finnarts Bay, just round the point.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Portandea, any port in a storm.

Although the geology changed south of Currarie Port on Ayrshire's Atlantic coast, the interest continued unabated. Below the dark cliffs of Craigangal, we explored geo...

...after geo until...

...we came to the huge geo of Brackness Hole. After this there was even better rockhopping as the swell slowly increased. I couldn't resist chucking the Delphin into every gap. Its robust construction and my bracing skills got well tested so there are no more photos until we arrived at...

...the sheltered cove of Portandea. This part of of Ayrshire is the Glenapp Estate, which belongs to the Inchcape family. In the 1920's they built a holiday bungalow on the flat ground above the beach. In recent years it had become increasingly damaged by both the weather and vandalism, so I was not particularly surprised to see that it had recently been demolished and the rubble removed. A new road has been cut down to the cove on the track of the original footpath. A water pipe and electricity cable have been laid, so I expect the bungalow will be rebuilt. I hope it remains free from vandalism.

Once landed, victuals for third luncheon were unloaded from the kayaks.

 What a place for a luncheon stop, but a word of warning...

...Portandea is a surf trap. If you land through the surf, you need to be pretty confident in your technique to get back out. This photo was from an earlier trip on 21/05/2009 and is from the same viewpoint as the previous photo.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Skipping along the Ayrshire coast.

It was now time for second luncheon but there are few breaks in the rocky ramparts of Ayrshire's Atlantic Coast. Fortunately we came to Currarie Port just in time. Currarie Port is a surf trap that catches any swell going, on its steep shingle beach. Jim exploited its weakness by paddling up the burn that empties into  its southern corner.

This proved to be a first class spot to take a break and enjoy a chat about the wildlife and partake of a refreshment. David started the conversation off by asking Phil "So just how big, exactly, was this kangaroo?"

Our postprandial launch from the burn mouth proved so easy that Phil pushed himself off without his paddle. With all the excitement of catching sight of his first kangaroo, it must have skipped his mind completely. Fortunately Jim spotted it on the beach and threw it after him!

Leaving Currarie Port, the cliffs to the north are basalt and the hill behind Jim goes by the name "Donald Bowie". Who this gentleman was, has now been lost in the mists of time.

South of Currarie Port, the hillsides are still steep but they are now composed of sedimentary greywacke rocks.  As we approached the headland of Craigangal...

...we caught sight of the first of several ferries. They were heading for Ireland and keeping clear of Corsewall Point lighthouse, which...

 ...marks the western approach to Loch Ryan.  Andrew and Jim, who had not paddled here before, thought that the change of rocks signalled that our trip was now all but over...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Measuring up northern giants on the electric causeway to Ireland.

We first saw her looming out of the mist as we rounded Bennane Head. At first we thought she was the NLV Pharos, which we have previously seen in this area.

However, by the time we were off the mouth of the River Stinchar, it was obvious that she was much bigger than Pharos.
Time to consult the maps. "Nope, she's definitely not on the OS 1:50,000" "That's funny,  she's not on the Admiralty chart either! I wonder what it is?"

Although both the map and chart had been unhelpful, ShipAIS came to the rescue. She is North Sea Giant. She was launched in 2011 and is the World's tallest Offshore Construction Vessel. Her length overall is 160.9m with a 30.0m beam. Her gross tonnage is 18151T, which makes the Pharos, at 3,672T a relative midget.

She was holding a geostationary position above the Moyle Interconnector cable, which carries electricity from Currarie Port, Scotland to Ireland. The cable has a number of breaks and North Sea Giant has been replacing damaged sections of the cable.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An unadventurous lot, down on Ayrshire's Atlantic Coast.

All too soon it was time to leave the shelter of the River Stinchar.

As it was near high tide, the bar at the river mouth was well covered...

 ...but still gave David an excuse to practice his air braces.

South of Ballantrae Bay the coastline is dominated by steep cliffs of dark Cambrian basaltic rocks. On this stretch we came across this particularly fine pillow lava. It looked like it had just oozed out of the volcano but that was about 500 million years ago.

We now entered a sea kayaker's wonderland, the coastline consisted of a complex series of gullies, geos and caves.

Each time we came to a headland we would say "that was the best bit of rockhopping ever" only to discover, once round the headland,...

 ...that the next bit...

 ...was even better.

 Waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs, only to be lost in piles of boulders above the sea.

 Ayrshire's Atlantic coast...

 ...just kept getting better and...

...better. In the SW of Scotland we tend not to travel far to enjoy sea kayaking in exotic locations. I wonder why we are such an unadventurous lot?