IOPCC Trip Report

Scottish Sea Kayaking Expedition
September 2010

Julie Wood Teresa Cobb Geoff Ridler
'A sea kayak expedition to Scotland was first talked about when Teresa, Geoff and I first met on the IOPCC training course (2 star improvers) in March this year. Over the months since then we have all progressed very much having invested various amounts of money on courses, and increasing our experience with many days on the water. This has all paid off as Teresa and Geoff both passed their 3 star Assessment early in September and I passed my 4 Star Leader Assessment recently (I passed my 3 Star back in April)
As between the three of us we did not have much experience of sea kayaking in Scotland we hired a local guide to join us. The plan also being that we would gain enough confidence to plan our own trips to Scotland in the future without a guide. Colin our guide knows the area very well and gave us a running commentary of places passed, the wildlife, local history and tales and also had suggestions on the best places to wild camp and to get hot chocolate and chips and some shelter from the typically Scottish weather that we experienced. (Going indoors was against our expedition rules but very welcome the few times we did it!).
Below is a brief account of our trip, which we all have contributed to, which we hope will inspire you to visit this amazing place which really is heaven for sea kayakers, with amazing scenery and wildlife and peace and quiet even with the wind and the rain! Our planned itinerary had to be changed due to strong winds and big seas but we still had an amazing trip and can’t wait to go back. Planning for the next trip has already started, this time without a guide!'

Julie Wood

Sunday 19th September 2010
Tayvallich to Carsaig 30km

Colin, our guide had joined us for a pre expedition dinner in the pub the night before so we were all briefed up and ready for launching this morning.
Making sure everything fitted in the kayaks after another practice run yesterday was a little stressful but we managed to get everything in including a few bottles of booze and food for six days. So without too much fuss we were on the water and setting off towards Carsaig. Picturesque views of Loch and Castle Sween were increasingly lost in driving rain though and with strong winds and loaded kayaks our first journey was fairly arduous. After heading down to the Island of Eilean Mor and back up the west side of the Peninsula we arrived at camp one, which was not the most idyllic, but we managed to put up the tarp and cook our first meal. The rain didn’t stop all night but we all slept well.

Monday 20th September
Carsaig to small island in Loch Craignish 24km

We awoke to find the rain had not stopped so after a breakfast under the tarp we broke camp and headed out from the shelter of the bay into strong winds and rain. Sunlight broke through dark clouds though just outside the bay to highlight a pod of dolphins spectacularly leaping across our path ahead. Probably Common but they could have been Bottlenose. Such delightful creatures and a real treat to see them.
We hugged the shoreline gaining some shelter as we journeyed north along the Sound of Jura towards Loch Craignish. As the sky brightened we were treated to spectacular vistas and delighted in watching a sea eagle soaring high above the hill tops. Along the entire route we were spotting lots of seals popping up too see what was going on.

Julie sorting out her belongings Burt!
Seil Sound Tigh-An-Truish Inn
Clachan Bridge Looking out from camp
Fantastic views Teresa's ledge campsite
Blue sky and flat water Julie and Geoff
Cold and frosty morning Dawn at Tayvallich
Julie, Teresa and Geoff
We stopped for lunch opposite Crinan on a beach next to a real Scottish castle where the sun came out and we all basked in it and marvelled at the scenery.
Unfortunately, the day was disrupted with Teresa suffering a migraine which left her incapacitated. The group dynamics dealt quickly with the situation, with Colin and Geoff towing whilst Julie searched out a suitable landing/camping spot. On landing Teresa was safely tucked up in her tent and kept a close eye on whilst she slept it off.

Tuesday 21st September
Island in Loch Craignish to Torsa via Dorus Mor 30km

Colin departed early to meet Jill, his partner, to collect medicine as a precaution to any further migraines, and we broke up camp. Fortunately Teresa was feeling much better.
Another blustery day so again we stayed close to the shore and headed south down to Dorus Mor which has a bit of a reputation! We may have had to go round the islands south of it had it been working but it was pretty calm (which was a bit disappointing!) so we headed through it without any problems. We spied the Gulf of Corryvrecken in the distance where we were going had it not been for the wind and noted this for a future trip!
Against expedition regulations (Teresa’s!) we stopped at Craobn Haven Marina for a caffeine fix (gratefully accepted by all including Teresa!) and a quick hair wash (Teresa’s!!!)
Further along the coast Teresa formed a very special bond with a seal (which she named Burt!) Following her for a fair distance into a crystal clear bay it gradually plucked up enough courage to nudge her boat and play with the toggle posing for the camera
A marvellous feeling to be so close to a wild animal.
With a following sea and wind we surfed passed Shuna Island to our camp on the Island of Torsa just in time for the sky to cloud over and the rain to start.
Teresa decided that her camp was going to be high up on an ancient turret with spectacular views whilst the rest of us opted for more sheltered sites!
The tarp was erected with great skill using all of our paddles, splits and a boat and we cooked our evening meal under it. The strong wind and heavy rain buffeted our tents the entire night, but we battened down the hatches and wondered if Teresa would still be there in the morning!!

Wednesday 22nd September
Torsa Island to Barnacary Bay 16km

We awoke to another very wet and windy day. But fortunately the tarp stayed up all night so we were able to shelter under it for breakfast, have a session on what you need in a expedition repair kit and plan our day.
We had hoped to go west out to Easedale Island but the weather was yet again against us So we set off up Seil Sound and again, breaking with expedition rules, we opted for a hot lunch at Tigh-An-Truish Inn, (translates into “get your trousers off in English”!!) next to the Clachan Bridge (Atlantic Bridge) sheltering from the heavy rain and waiting for the tide to turn.
We enjoyed a very relaxing lunch, with hot chocolate to follow as the damp had soaked through and we were all rather chilled. Julie donned her Reed Stealth Cag (it’s what all the fashionista’s are wearing) and we left deep puddles under our seats. Colin over indulged on the chip front, ordering two extra portions - nearly but not quite finished!
We paddled on once the water was deep enough after a photo opportunity taken from the Clachan Bridge of us kayaking underneath.
The afternoon gradually became dryer and brighter and we were treated to a picturesque panorama, flat water, reflections, islands and mountains and peacefulness and some fun rock hopping!
We chose well for our campsite in a idyllic spot with far reaching views to Mull and Kerrera and enjoyed a colourful sunset, beach camp fire and couple of drams of malt!
Teresa once again opted for a high level campsite perched on a ledge overlooking the bay and also was the only one to enjoy “a delightful and invigorating swim!”

Thursday 23rd September
Barnacary Bay to Ganavan Sands 18km

Strong winds and large white horses made for a strenuous paddle and we hugged the shoreline for shelter again. The wind had switched round to the north so it was feeling colder but no rain. We paddled up the coast line towards Oban then headed over to the Island of Kerrera and the small marina at Ardentrive Bay where we enjoyed hot chocolate and chips supplied by Colin, whilst sat under a heater that was put on to warm us up. (all calories consumed were soon to be burnt!)
We left the shelter of the bay and punched out into a force 6 and big exciting breaking waves to land safely at Ganavan Bay.
As the wind was forecast to remain F7 northerly for the next few days we decided to head back to base that night and paddle around the sheltered waters around Tayvallich the next day so Colin summoned Jill who arrived with transport and we headed back.

Friday 24th September
A tour of Loch Sween from Tayvallich 34km

We awoke to a clear and frosty morning. We paddled out of Tayvallich and up to the Fairy Islands which were quite magical in the sunshine then continued around and down Loch Sween to Taynish where we searched out Brittle Fish, Sea Anemones and star fish. The waters were translucent, rewarding us with a wonderful underwater world. A serene day and the perfect end to our week long expedition
We returned to Tayvallich and bid farewell to Colin, toasted our trip and then enjoyed a slap-up meal in the local.

Saturday 25th September 2010

The next morning we awoke to a very thick frost and a beautiful sunrise but alas we had to head off home. The scenery with lifting mist and the morning sun on the drive following the Crinan Canal and down the edge of Loch Fyne was one to take your breath away. A fitting end to an amazing trip.

Pictures of the trip are on the
Galleries Page.

Back to the Trip Report Index

Report: Julie Wood | Pictures: Geoff Ridler
Teresa Cobb



Paddling on the Jurassic Coast