Expedition Scotland (part two) Kyle of Lochalsh to Loch Ewe
Before continuing on my way up the coast I spent a very entertaining couple of days with my two sons plus chum touring round my favourite spots around the area in search of its amazing wildlife.
Camping was cold at Sligachan on Skye.
And wet at Moidart.
But we got a great view of a White-tailed Eagle.
And had a bit of sport paddling down the river Shiel again. This time there was a rapid at low tide where the river exits into the sea.
When son Tim dropped me back at Kyleakin so I could continue north, the northwest wind was whipping under the Skye bridge pushing up a mass of whitecaps and the temperature was well into single figures. A wiser person would have checked into the local Hotel for the night. But we had already done that and it smelled a bit musty and I didn’t want to go there again. I wanted to get moving. So I did.Bad move.
I passed underneath the bridge as Tim passed over with the car on his way back south and his wave somehow conveyed that he thought I was completely moronic paddling off in these conditions.
Away from the relative shelter of the bridge the waves repeatedly sloshed into the cockpit and I was sitting in a foot of water as it drained out slower than it filled up. And a few slapped me in the face. Although I felt a bit vulnerable the biggest issue was that the amount of forward progress really didn’t match the amount of effort put in.
I laboured past Plockton and then across the mouths of Loch Carron and Kishorn. I found a dismal place to camp in the rain on the (unnamed) peninsular on the far side near a thundering waterfall.Still better than the musty hotel though.
Continued rain and north wind in the morning ,but I packed up and made a bolt for Uags bothy in the shelter of the craggy coast. I arrived before 12 but there was such a welcoming patch of putting green type grass that I couldn’t resist pitching my tent there.
And there I stayed for two days while the winds abated. Loads of cuckoos.
I managed a quick turbo-paddle around the Crowlin islands but even this was a bit hairy with a one-mile open crossing which became severely lumpy as the tide pushed against the wind. Nice seals though.
I wasted no time with an idiotically early start the day the wind dropped. Excellent otter encounter , in fact several, as I passed Applecross and scrounged some milk from the hotel which was full of bikers eating huge fried breakfasts. Funny how bikers seem to be about the same age as sea kayakers?!? Generally a different shape though.And more tattoos.
Cup of tea at the lovely sandy beach called ‘Sand’ (come on…be a bit more original) and then a long haul ten mile up the dead straight and fairly uninteresting coast towards Loch Torridon. Still a niggly headwind and bouncy swell.
Suddenly livened up however by the explosive appearance of a large and very active school of Bottle-nose dolphins. They powered around all over the place and sploshed beside me. A little bit intimidating in fact as they are quite big and condition were still lumpy.
At Cuaig the sun emerged, I found a deserted sandy beach and pitched camp, drying everything out while admiring the view over to the northern tip of Rona and Skye, and watching the dolphins appear again and surge past.
I was eagerly anticipating my entry to Loch Torridon and the view of its mighty mountains, many of which I have hiked when my legs were a bit more functional and had a bit more meat on them.
But rounding Rubha na Fearn into Loch Torridon I was confronted with a howling southeast wind that was funnelling down the loch, complete with its complement of large waves. Blooming heck. I dodged about trying to find as much shelter as possible behind islands and headlands but was pretty pooped by the time I arrived in the very quaint hamlet of Shieldaig.
Stuffed in a cod and chips before camping on a grassy beach and then getting awful indigestion from eating all the greasy batter (or was it the pint of Guinness?).
I was determined to paddle round the entirity of Loch Torridon to get the best views of the mountains so set off into the unforgiving headwind the next day. Needless to say it suddenly dropped as I reached the head of the loch and started to head back.Typical.
27 May is my daughters birthday and when I checked I had phone reception so I could give her a birthday call, there wasn’t any. Lucky it was 5 am, so I had a chance of getting a signal at the mouth of the loch. Only problem was that was fifteen miles away. (I wasn’t going to ring her up at 5 by the way, I was just checking for later. I’m not THAT weird).
My hasty de-camp was made even more rapid by the plague of midges that hurled themselves in vast numbers into my ears, up my nose , and into my eyeballs. Can’t see that it can help the species as a whole when half of them failed to return from my various orifices alive.
It was a sunny flat calm morning so my progress up the north shore of Loch Torridon was as quick as it could be. I was rather sorry I didn’t get a better look at the village of Diabaig which is squashed between the rocky hillside and sea Norwegian fjord style. The sun was directly in my eyes. And I didn’t want to hang about.
I made a very brief stop at the excellent sandy beach of east Redpoint and then tried for a signal while bouncing about off the headland. Success. Phew.
My afternoon destination was Big Sand campsite on the north shore of Loch Gairloch. Time for a shower. Superb location above a long sandy beach and I plonked my tent just above the slipway.
The campsite was highly organised and clean and very busy with campervans. I made straight for the shower block and was a bit puzzled why I attracted longer ‘glances’ from passing campers than I would have otherwise expected.
The huge mirror in the shower block revealed why. Angelos Epithemiou sprang to mind.My budget underclothes smacked of refugee, and my face was encrusted in dried salt,sweat, dozens of dead midges and I think that was a bit of Tikka Masala in my patchy stubble.
Next day was a doddle, a tour round Loch Gairloch. Past the cosy shelter of Badachro and up to where the Kerry river pours into the sea. I stopped in a cafe for a full fried breakfast which was surplus to requirements as it was only 9am and I had already consumed my five Weetabix and a Kitkat Chunky. It went down well though…think perhaps I wasn’t eating enough generally.
The forecast of light winds for the next few days made me much more relaxed about tackling the big headlands of Rubha Reidh and Stoer. In fact Rubha Reidh was about as easy as it could get with smooth surface and only a slight swell.
Otter just after the lighthouse. I stopped for a tea break at the stupendous beach of Camas Mor. This has g0t to be the best beach in Scotland. Remote location, beautiful sweep of sand, backdrop of steep cliffs and stacks, dunes with the perfect pitch for one tent. I was tempted to stop but was due to meet an acquaintance in loch Ewe.
I sent my fishing rod back home with my sons. Long distance touring and fishing just don’t go hand-in-hand. And towing a lure behind the kayak doesn’t yield the results it does in Devon and Cornwall. So that’s it for fishing…maybe.
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Tags: Camas mor beach, camping Uags, Cobra Expedition kayak,dolphins loch torridon, kayak applecross, kayak Crowlin isles, kayak river shiel, kayak Rubha Reidh, sea kayak applecross, sea kayak gairloch, sea kayak loch torridon, Uags bothy