Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The best sea kayaking day trip.

Photo by Ian Johnston.
After our hot descent from the summit of Ailsa Craig it was a relief to cool off by plunging into the cool clear water off the granite spit. Two grey seals swam alongside us but were fortunately not too inquisitive.

 We then set off on an anticlockwise circumnavigation...

...below increasingly vertiginous cliffs. This area is the site of the former green  granite quarry. You can see the large number of quarried blocks to the side of the south foghorn.

 Great columns of rock soared into the sky though what we see today is just the volcanic plug. The original cone was 3500m high but was carried away by the glaciation of the Ice Ages. Erratic Ailsa Craig rock can be found all the way down the Irish sea coasts.

 This is where the gannet colonies begin, the flat tops...

...of rock columns are particularly favoured.

 It is possible to walk right round Ailsa Craig but only at spring low water as Stranny Point and...

 ...the Water Cave pose a formidable barrier at other states of the tide.

Beyond the Water Cave is the main gannet colony and the deafening croaking and overpowering smell ads to the spectacle...

...of thousands of wheeling birds in the air. It is literally raining with bird shit so bring a hat.

 Some gannets were fishing and...

 ...a fish would be lucky to escape their stuka dives.

 ...and plunge into the depths.

 This one could hardly take off, its gizzard was so full of fish.

Next we came to the green slope where...

 ...the puffins hang out! Their numbers are steadily increasing since the island's  rats were exterminated.

 A steady stream were flying in with sand eels in their beaks for hungry chicks.

After the puffins came...

...guillemot city.

 " I am not quite sure he is one of us..."

 Then it was the cormorants. 1st cormorant on a rock: "I look down on him because I am upper class."

2nd cormorant on a rock: "I look up to him because he is upper class but I look down on him because he is lower class."

3rd cormorant on a rock: "I know my place."

 As you swing round the NW of Ailsa Craig the vertical cliffs become...

 ...even more vertical, if that is possible!

 Next we came to the grey seals, some were very big and...

...some were very small.

 This one is called Gollum, it followed us right round the Craig.

 We rounded the great cliffs of the Eagle's Seat which tower over the...

 ...north fog horn and the Swine Cave.

Next on our tour was the blue hone granite quarry which had a narrow gauge tramway back to the lighthouse area.

All too soon we were back at the lighthouse. This is where photographs stop. Despite a forecast of light winds we left Ailsa Craig into a line of breaking white water. Out of nowhere a wind at the top end of F4 got up from the SE which was 45 degrees off our bows. The tide between Ailsa Craig moves in great swirls and sometimes tide was with the wind and sometimes against. Occasional braces were required in the breaking waves. As the sky to the SE grew darker we pushed on and despite the partial headwind completed the crossing in 1hr 55 minutes which was considerably faster than our usual time of 2 hours 45 minutes. It's amazing what a little adrenaline can do!

So our mission to Ailsa Craig had been accomplished, Ian had made it despite missing our last camping trip to the Craig. He had left his home near Aberdeen at 04:30 on the Friday and managed to get back by 01:30 the following morning. Ailsa Craig...a day trip from Grampian, who would have thought?

Ian and I cannot think of a better day paddle, stiff hill walk and incredible wild life experience than a trip to Ailsa Craig!