Monday, 24 June 2013

Kayak Skye

After a long winter, spring started very well in May. Luckily for us because we had lots of kayak trips planned for the year. The Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium on the Isle of Skye from 24-27 May was the perfect preparation and the weather had been very kind to us! For three days we brushed up our skills such as forward paddling, edging, rough water paddling, tidal paddling and self rescues. In the evening various talks had been organised by people who had kayaked to/in unusual places around the world. For example, two very inspiring Scottish women paddled to St. Kilda from The Hebrides. Their film broadcasted by the BBC is definitely worthwile to watch, also for non-kayakers!
All in all, the symposium was very well organised, we learnt heaps and it was great to meet old friends again and make new ones.

Having a pitstop during our 4,5 hr drive to Skye

Beautiful scenery in stunning weather

Taking in the views from the West Highland College where
we stayed during the symposium

Spring is finally here; Scottish Bluebells everywhere!

Having a lunch break during our tidal session at Kylerhae

Coach demonstrating self rescue with paddle float

Coach demonstrating self rescue with paddle float
Then doing it ourselves!

After the symposium our achy bodies were desperate for some relaxing and our wonderful B & B Berabhaigh in Broadford was just the perfect place for that. We enjoyed some good food in the local restaurants, had a lovely walk along the coastline towards Loch Coruisk, were able to hang our wet gear on the washing line, plan the rest of our holiday in a cosy living room and stock up on food for our wild camping trip.

Sign in Gaelic

Looking towards Rum

Footpath to Coruisk

Still life of rubbish on beach in Elgol

Lunch break with Cuillins in background

After a walk a well-deserved tea break in the cafe at Elgol

Our friends Ansgar and Alice had been kayaking along the West Coast of Scotland since April (starting on Arran and travelling North) and we met them in Elgol to accompany them during their trip for a day or two.

Our kayak route
We first paddled along the coast towards Loch Coruisk bwithy stunning views of the impressive Cuillin mountains, then made the small crossing to the island Soay where we had our lunch break and had a look around. Although there are still some people living there, we saw quite a few derelict houses. A small and muddy footpath brought us to the harbour where there old shark fishing station is. In 1944, author Gavin Maxwell bought the island and established this factory to process shark oil from basking sharks, which he wrote about in his book "Harpoon at a Venture". Unfortunately, this venture caused a serious drop in their numbers and they have yet to recover.

Ansgar and Alice with Cuillins in background
Fantastic volcanic rock structures along the way
Old shark fishing station on Soay

Old telephone box on Soay

We continued our journey around the island and made our crossing again to mainland Skye in strong Northerly winds. Paddling so close to the Cuillin mountains meant we experienced quite some overfalls where the wind swirls downwards onto the sea. Late in the evening we arrived at Rubh' an Dunain, Headland of the Fort, where remains of prehistoric settlements can be found dating from the Neolithic.
We pitched our tent along Loch na h-Airde, a body of freshwater which also has a canal to the sea probably dating back to when the Vikings were here.

Paddling in evening light with view towards Canna

Our campsite on Rubh' an Dunain at freshwater Loch na h-Airde

Kayaking on Loch na h-Airde

Clearing the Viking Canal of big rocks so that
we could travel through it with our loaded kayaks

Due to the weather forecast and lack of time, we had to say goodbye to our friends the next morning who were continuing their journey northwards. We paddled back along the north side of Soay Sound. The wind had dropped (it was actually very hot!) and took our time to explore the beautiful geology of this coastline.

Wonderful geology

Lava channel in volcanic rock

Beautiful textures

By lunchtime it almost felt like we were in the Mediterranean so we decided to stop at Soay again, chill and sunbathe for the rest of the afternoon and watch the wildlife such as otters, seals and golden eagles. What a treat! There was also a freshwater loch here where you could wash/swim (nicely warmed up by the sun) and a stream where we could get water with our filter system.

Landed on Soay beach across Cuillins

Pure bliss!

Our evening meal; couscous, beans, chorizo and goats cheese
accompanied with a good Shiraz wine

The only downside were the midges who arrived later that evening

Cruise ship passing by

The next morning the weather completely changed into heavy low clouds and continuous drizzle. The midges were fierce so we decided to pack up and leave in the early hours and get back to our car in Elgol.
It was time to go home again unfortunately but we wouldn't have to miss this lifestyle for long because the next kayak trip was coming up soon again!