A while back I attended a talk given by Eric Boomer and Sarah McNair where they described an adventure of a lifetime. Eric described it as a very intense ‘ double date’ with himself, Katherine Breen, Eric Mc Nair and Sarah McNair. They handcrafted their own Kayak’s and embarked a 1000km journey across the 5th largest Island in the world, Baffin. Their wonderful account of this awe inspiring journey encouraged me to plan my own little adventure outside my world of white water kayaking.
Our trip was to celebrate a good friend finishing University and to bid him a fond farewell before his move to the South of England. Unlike Boomer we would not have the time, capability or skill to make our own sea kayaks. Thankfully Pyranha very kindly stepped in to support our adventure by providing our kayaks and thanks to Facebook and the kayaking community we arranged transport of our boats to the beautiful west coast of Scotland. Dom picked me up from Newcastle on Thursday morning and after an epic 10 hour drive we finally reached our starting destination, a small bay just outside of Elgol. It was 2am when we arrived so we decided to set up camp and head straight to bed.
Friday morning arrived far too quickly and as we emerged from our tent we were greeted by a glorious sunny morning. We quickly made breakfast and packed our supplies into our boats as we were to be living out of our boats for the weekend. We spent the day familiarising ourselves with the kayaks and making preparations for the trip. Unlike our trip to Nepal we were spoilt for space and so decided to pack everything but the kitchen sink. At around 3pm we were fully packed and set off to explore the remote and inaccessible Atlantic coastline. While I thought that Dominic got the short straw carrying the extra 10k of coal for the bothy fire, the load seemed to give him some magical forward momentum and he glided effortlessly through the waves passing me with a smug smile on his face.
It wasnt long before we met the first of many new friends some curious seals playing hide and seak.
Spot the seal…
Having travelled through some awe inspiring coastline, we decided to camp at a long rocky gully were we carried our boats onto the only patch of rock free ground. Nestled in this remote place, far from noise and light pollution, we made camp and prepared for a nights sleep under the stars.
Saturday morning rolled around and we set off for the town of Elgol. A pesky headwind had got up which slowed our progress somewhat. We planned our route around the tides, allowing them to work in our favour and had hoped to stop off in the town of Elgol for an ice cream! The weather was magnificent and scenery was stunning with sheer cliffs, rock arches and layers of mountains falling down to the sea. A combination of fantastic scenery and Dom’s amazing map reading skills we paddled right past Elgol and landed on the shore of the Soay Island. It wasn’t really the extra 15k I had to paddle that bothered me but more the fact I had missed my only chance to get ice cream!!.Never get between an Irish girl and her ice cream!
After a light lunch on Soay, we paddled with the tide to the beautiful Camasunary Bay. This gave us spectacular views of the Cuillin Mountain range and with the wind and tide at our backs, we happily paddled and surfed our way to the bothy.
I Think I killed Dom!!!
We thought we were ready for everything that the Scottish weather could throw at us. We packed extra thermals, buckets of midge repellent and had even packed our dry suits just in case things got really serious! We did however forget to pack sunscreen, so when the temperature reached 27 degrees and there was nothing but glorious sunshine in the sky my poor Irish skin changed from milky white to red very quickly!! Regardless of the forecast, always include the sunscreen and aloe vera. Me and my bright red face just learned a very serious lesson!!
On the beautiful Camasunary Bay, we camped beside a stream running off the mountain were we could get some fresh water. Once again the marine and bird life on this remote coastline was awe inspiring. One of the highlights of the trip was when a family deer came to investigate our campsite on the beach. It was fantastic end to a great day on the water, We spent our final evening in the company of German & French walkers and fishermen who shared their catch and the camp fire with us.
We set out the next morning along with the tide to guide us around the perimeter of Soay. En route we encountered a yacht and stopped for a chat. Dom decided to challenge them to a race. Yacht vs sea kayak. Guess who won…
Lunchtime again on the west coast of Soay. We decided to pig out to fuel us up for the last big 10k open water paddle to our final destination, Elgol, another very important lesson I learned during this trip was “when padding in open water ALWAYS go to the toilet before you leave dry land” even if you think you don’t need to go!
When we arrived at Elgol, we were welcomed by Dave and his friendly dog Jake. Dave and Jake kindly gave us a lift to the car. As Elgol was packed with tourists swimming and eating ice cream we left our kayaks and kit with a lovely lady called Anne who kept an eye on them while we went to retrieve the car.
I experienced sea kayaking off West Cork with Jim from Atlantic Sea Kayaking, this trip was certainly a new adventure for me. While we did not have the thrills of fast moving water, the stunning coastal scenery, amazing wildlife, and planning our multi day trip around the tides, was an amazing experience.
For those white water kayakers who are keen to try something new. Skye with its somewhat sheltered coastlines fantastic scenery and water safari acts as a superb, breath-taking introduction to intermediate sea kayaking.
Our Trip: 57 km + Sunburn+ excellent company= trip of a lifetime.