Monday, April 30, 2012

Lunch on the rocks at Loch Ranza.

We crossed Loch Ranza, a sea loch at the NW point of Arran. Loch Ranza Castle was silhouetted against the backdrop of Arran's rocky ridges, which soared to the castellated summit of Caisteal Abhail, 859m.
 Although it was only seven bells in the forenoon watch, we decided to land on a rocky shore...

...for our first luncheon...

...before setting off across the Kilbrannan Sound.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Never ones to conform.

When we rounded the north of Arran we  could see the Kintyre peninsula which lies to the west of Arran.

 Looking back we could still see Millstone Point where we had camped the previous night. Then the still of the morning was broken as a slight breeze got up from the east.

 The vast majority of UK seakayakers still view sails on sea kayaks with deep suspicion... we have never been ones to conform and so we hoisted sails and...

 ...wafted past Fairy Dell...

 ...and this old boat, which has seen better days,... where a crowd of geology students had gathered round Hutton's Unconformity.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The taxman's hand on the Cock of Arran.

 As the sun began to rise in the sky...

 ...we came to lonely Laggan Cottage. Last year an author was in residence but it appears he has moved on. The shutters were up so we left...

 ...the cottage and landed... the long abandoned settlement of Cock.

We had noticed the buildings from the sea on a previous trip but this time we decided to explore ashore. This was a site where salt was manufactured between 1710 and 1735.

The crofters built their houses and work buildings on rocky outcrops leaving  as much of the fertile ground free for crops as possible. This was the remains of the salt excise office (salt was a valuable commodity and so was taxed). We were amazed that so early in the history of the united kingdom of Great Britain (1707) that the hand of the tax man had reached so far. The salt was used for preserving the many herring that were at one time caught in these waters. We noticed a bigger building in the distance...

...which was the pan house where...

 ...the salt pan full of water from the nearby sea was heated by burning coal fires underneath. The crude lignite coal was mined in the immediate vicinity of the buildings and today a number of shallow depressions in the ground mark the sites.

Today  the old buildings are slowly decaying and little alpine flowers have made their home in the crumbling mortar of the excise office. After three centuries, even the tax man's grip on the place has relaxed now relaxed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Down among the kelp beds

I was awoken before dawn on Millstone Point by the "put put put" of a small fishing boat making its way down the Sound of Bute.

 It was only when the sun came up...

...that the true extent of the slippery green rocks that separated our kayaks from the water was revealed.

In the Firth of Clyde, spring tides are associated with low water in the morning and evening so if you want an easy time, choose neaps when high water happens in morning and evening. It makes for less humphing of heavy kayaks!

There were three of us, so we used one of Kari-tek's really excellent portage straps to distribute the load and after some considerable labour (that threatened to dislocate my knee at any moment)...

 ...we were in the water...

 ...down among the kelp beds.

It was a relief when we stopped carrying kayaks and let the sea take their weight!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poetry in the landscape of Arran.

We continued paddling up the north coast of Arran passing...

...the great landslip of Upper Old red Sandstone rocks at the imaginatively named Fallen Rocks.

What with virgin's breasts, fallen rocks (and we haven't even come to the Cock of Arran yet) our ancestors sure had a poetic way with words when they named bits of landscape.

Gradually the dusk...

 ...gathered round the great expanse of the Sound of Bute and we eventually came... our camp site near Millstone Point. It was hard work labouring the kayaks up from the spring low water mark. Once we had the tents up, we soon got a fire going and cooked our meal under the Moon Jupiter, Saturn and a myriad of stars. One by one they followed the Sun as they dipped behind the high, unseen mountains in the darkness to the west.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The sound of silence shattered by Sannox submarine.

We looked wistfully back at the beauty of Glen Sannox and Sannox Bay and...

...continued north in near silence until we emerged...

...from the shade of the mountains into the last of the day's sun at North Glen Sannox.

Then the peace of the beautiful evening was shattered by a loud, low pitched throbbing, vibrating sound that was coming from this surfaced nuclear submarine out in the Sound of Bute (a recognised submarine training area). At first I thought the noise sounded like a heavy twin rotor helicopter like a Chinook but the arrival of a Sea King helicopter showed that the noise was much louder and lower than helicopter noise. It lasted for over an hour and did not stop till well after darkness had fallen. I have no idea what the noise was. As far as I know nuclear power submarines' engines have no reciprocating parts and they are designed to operate as silently as possible. Perhaps they were testing some sonar warfare device?

Whatever, we did not expect to see any ceteceans on this evening, they are easily disturbed by noise in the water.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Night gathers at Sannox.

 It was still sunny when we left Brodick...

...but there was a real chill in the air as we paddled beside the wooded shore. Birch gave way to Scots pine before bare hillside soared up to the granite torrs on the summit of Goatfell.

 At sea level the rock was not granite but old red sandstone.

 Last years signet was looking a bit sorry for itself. Its parents had just chased it off in preperation for some new arrivals!

 We soon found ourselves paddling in the shade as the sun set behind the high mountains.

 We took a break on the granite sands of Sannox Bay... night began to gather in the glens below the high peaks. We still had some way to go.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rapid return to Arran.

After returning from our day trip to Arran on Sunday night, Jennifer, Mike and I spent Monday morning packing for a three night trip round the island. We arrived at Ardrossan in plenty of time for the !515 ferry across to Brodick.

The high pressure system was well in charge of the weather and the conditions looked glorious... we entered Brodick Bay.

Away to the south, Holy Island showed the route of our return (in 4 days time) as we planned an anticlockwise circumnavigation.

We arrived in Brodick at 1610 but were on the water by 1645, just after the MV Caledonian Isles set off on her return to Ardrossan. We had about 3 hours of daylight to reach our intended camp site at the north end of the island. We were all set for another adventure on the isles and sea lochs of the West of Scotland.

P.S. Long term visitors to may wonder why my recent trips have been mostly confined to the Firth of Clyde. Sadly my knees are not good and although I have made a remarkable recovery after a traumatic accident and some pretty major surgery, I still find driving uncomfortable. However, I hope this trip will illustrate how lucky we are in the West of Scotland to have such magnificent coastal scenery, less than an hour's drive from Glasgow (which is Scotland's largest city).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

 When HMS Defender passed by the wind got up...

 ...and we soon sped past the Little Cumbrae lighthouse but the Drumchapel and Clydebank Club had already disappeared over the horizon.

 The wind strengthened off Gull Point and the water began to get a little livelier... David, Phil and Tony blasted ahead with the sails and I stayed with the currently sail-less...

...Andrew. We were back in the car park before the Drumchapel and Clydebank Club (who struggled with their kayaks over the greasy rocks below the car park). We were quite happy to use trolleys and take the long way round by the castle!