Scottish Sea Expedition – Jura 2011

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LCC Scottish Sea Expedition - Jura

Day 1: Loch Beag to Lussa Bay       23.7km

Day 2: Lussa bay to Craighouse –        26.1km

Day 3: Craighouse                               0km    

Day 4: Craighouse to Loch Tarbert –   34.8km

Day 5: Loch Tarbert to Luing –            39.3km

Day 6: Luing to Loch Beag –               5.4km

Total:                                                  129.3km


Some photographs have been posted on the site.  Click to view them…….


Saturday 28th May / Sunday 29th – A wild weekend in Oban

Oban – Gallanachmore campsite


Saturday morning its’ raining and the wind forecast isn’t looking too favourable, but hey I am on holiday! Meeting up at Brian’s talk turned to paddling options and the weather forecast over bacon butties provided by Brian. (sadly Brian couldn’t join us but made sure we set off fully fuelled for the long journey)

After padding and faffing the trailer was loaded with boats and Simon’s van filled with bags and people and the convoy to Oban began, only 2 hours behind schedule.

Apart the silver Clio that literally stopped on the bends on the way past Loch Lomond, the journey passed smoothly and at the “Green Welly Stop” a quick text to Helen kicking her heels waiting with John M in Oban had the campsite for the night organised.(£7.50!) Tents up on the Oban Caravan and Camping park we headed off to find an eatery – which Saturday evening in Oban for 11 people proved more difficult than expected.  I hear the curry was excellent but I was happy with posh haggis, neaps and tatties in the lounge bar, though John P did think they had served him a starter not a main course.


Sunday morning arrived wet and windy and waking to hear Keith calling a meeting under the tarp to discuss the days plans did raise some of us from our snug comfy tents so with little prospect of paddling, after meeting under the tarp preparations for the day began .An hour back asleep was great prep for contributing to the Oban economy, but first a visit to view the Falls of Lora in the wind and rain. Following this a party of us intrepidly explored Tesco and the outdoor shops of Oban and lunched in a cafe for shelter. Back at camp the discovery of the campers’ kitchen made for a pleasant evening cooking and eating with a little planning thrown in. This was now the Jura trip. The weather forecast and late start meant this was a better option. As I sit doing this write up on a campsite by the Jura distillery - good plan is the thought that springs to mind. Frankie


Monday 30th May – Is there any tide in the Sound of Jura?

Craignish Point to Lussa Point


Armed with an AA road map we waded through what smelt like the devil’s excrement with copious amounts of rotten fish thrown in (putrefying kelp), and after much balking at the smell we were finally on the water with the Paps of Jura in our sights. 


We crept down the west side of the Craignish peninsula with the tide pushing against our bows and the stiff breeze wafting against our salt matted hair and gleaming pates.

Our progress over to Jura was brought to an abrupt halt by a feisty little tide race that was steaming past the tip of the peninsula. At this point we took an extended lunch stop for three hours and waited for the tide to slacken off.  Much mooching, munching and boat spotting ensued.


Three o’ clock came and we were finally in business. The tidal stream had slackened and it was all hands on paddles.  The views across the sound of Jura were stunning with the spectacular Paps of Jura in the distance.  It took us roughly two hours to cross the sound in breezy yet pleasantly bouncy conditions. From near the top, north end of Jura we paddled down the calm and sheltered east side of the island towards the tranquil Lussa Bay where we camped for the night.

After all the initial stops and starts we were finally on our way and cooking with gas, so to speak.


Helen Siertsema


Tuesday 31st May – The Distillery

Lussa Point to Craighouse

Light was just dawning over the Sound of Jura as I awoke at 0520 so as to catch the early morning shipping forecast. Oh well, the report sounded favourable, and as I couldn’t hear any rain on the fly, it was promising to be a lovely start.

A quick breakfast, and then just as I started to take my nice dry tent down, along came a shower. Darn! The rain soon passed, boats were loaded and we set off for the second day of paddling, with a rainbow leading us on to journeys end. I wondered if there would be a pot of gold at the end?

The group zoomed along the coast, staying close in to try and catch sight of any wildlife. We were soon rewarded, a group of deer were foraging close to the sea shore, however, they were hard to spot as their colouring provided excellent camouflage.

Elevenses, which is more a state of mind than an actual time, was taken in a delightful old harbour. The sea wall steps providing a perfect sun trap of a pit stop, but all too soon it was away with the munchies and back on to the sea. From this point on, the scenery changed as we began to get sight of the Paps of Jura for the first time, and a change in the geology meant the coast line frequently was devoid of anywhere to land. Also we were now no longer in the lee of a headland, and the sea had changed slightly in character.

We reached a beach, perfect for lunch, but were advised that an even more perfect spot was only a short paddle further. This second beach was full of golden sands, protected from the increasing wind and had guaranteed perfectness. We paddled hard and soon arrived, to find a windy stinky, gloopy, knee deep landing through rank kelp. Nice! But we stopped anyway, we had paddled far enough!

Fully revitalised, we headed on. However someone decided that they needed to put reins on Helen just to stop here form running off. Her race was a picture!

With uncertainty over the next days paddling prospects, the group split. Some went to the shop, whilst others looked for a campsite. We touched lucky, very lucky! The small shop had an amazing stock, whilst the local hotel allowed us to camp on their front lawn. No charge, but donations gratefully received at the bar. NB, they also had showers and washing facilities that we could use.

That night I found my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a delicious venison pie in the pub. Fantastic!    Mike A


Wednesday 1st June – Any Port in a Storm



Woke up Wednesday morning to strong winds and rough seas meaning no paddling today and a forced stay at our campsite below the Jura hotel within the shelter of Craighouse bay.


Not a lot to do around hear other than a tour of the distillery or feed the midges some took the opportunity to dine in the Jura hotel we all had a drink or two in the bar, although not all alcoholic (in content I mean).  Thursday’s weather report promised to be good so to bed early for a 7am on the water start.  Although Glad of a safe haven I think we all will be keen to get paddling in the morning – Anthony Vaccaro


Jura is famous for raised beaches

The geology of the west coast (mostly quartzite) is cut by Tertiary dykes (volcanic intrusions of molten magma squeezed into cracks) and features numerous caves caused by past sea level rises that have eroded the coastline some 10 to 20m above its current level.  

 Jura is famed for its spectacular raised beaches.  Abandoned shoreline caused by dramatic sea level drops, some of these beach lines can be seen some 30 metres above the present sea level.  This island (and all of Scotland) is still rebounding from its last "Ice Age" where the weight of 2km of ice pushed it down into the earths crust.  This (isostatic) rebound is still happening today but the UK is pivoting and Devon and Cornwall is slowly being lowered into the sea causing many flooded valleys or “ria`s” along its coast (ie river Fowey and river Fal valleys)....   More information on the raised beaches of Jura……..




Thursday 2nd June – the Sound of Islay and the west Coast

Craighouse to Rubh an t-Sailein - Edge of Loch Tarbet 34.8km


It was with rested arms (storm bound in Craighouse for 24 hours - thank goodness!)  and full bellies (venison pies, sticky toffee puddings, apple pies and 16 year old malts) that we broke camp from our delightful spot, bathed in the gentle spice/honey/ peaty aromas of the Jura Distillery. We were all keen to get back on the water and following our master and commanders' (Keith and Ian - poetic licence only, don't let it go to your heads…) instruction we were on the water by 7am.


My boat considerably lighter now for having offloaded several tins of gin and tonic; the sun shining and the wind at our backs, we enjoyed a glorious paddle round the bottom of Jura into the Sound of Islay. Scenery to die for; seals playing alongside the boats, deer watching from the shore, cormorants drying their wings on the rocks, the conditions perfect as the tide turned to push us along to elevenses (flushing toilets and running water!) at the Feolin Ferry.   It doesn't get much more idyllic than this, I thought to myself. …..that was until Helen broke the magical poetry of the moment with her delightful pirate talk (this is on a need to know basis, suffice to say, the magic was gone, replaced with much laughter and hilarity…….).


We surfed out of the Sound of Islay on the Cal-Mac ferry's wake under the shadow of The Paps. Briefly exposed to the winds and big swell as we crossed the mouth of Loch Tarbet it was noticeable that Helen's usual position (20 feet out to sea from the rest of the pack) was wavering, her powerful strokes were no longer forging her certain path through the waves…..John M went to her rescue, only to find that her skeg had disappeared…. Thankfully, we soon reached the lea of Colonsay and everyone was back on a straight line through to our next idyllic wild camp at Rubh an t-Sailean.  Nearly 35 km under our belts, we set up tents and then spent an afternoon relaxing in the sun/exploring the headland.


John M set off as team photographer (thanks John) to capture more of the island's beauty and soon found a magical storm beech of flotsam and jetsam. Tony chose a pair of shorts to explore in, only to return covered in ticks, thankfully, he avoided the adders. The rest of us had the weighty decision to wrestle with…..when to cook dinner to avoid the midges vs lying around in the sun. I think we all timed it to perfection (other than my falling backwards off my cooking rock) and after washing up in the harbour with a seal for company, we all retired for an early night and well deserved rest, to be back on the water again at 7am. Another perfect day.    Kathy M




Friday 3rd June – Atlantic Swells and Corryvreckan Whirlpool

Rubh an t-Sailein to Luing Island


My day started a bit damp getting the dew wet tent stowed and getting under way a little too slow (sorry guys).  The seal, that had checked us into the little harbour we camped next to was breakfasting somewhere else, so off we went.


With pleasant following Atlantic swells we made excellent progress up the west coast. There were seals and deer right at the shore to enliven a morning that already had sunshine and blue skies. What would be next? I kept looking out to  deeper sea to the west hoping for a square silhouette on the waves. This, I understand, is the shape the basking sharks fins make when they are on the surface.


No sharks though. Then, John calls from the back of our group “I think there’s a dolphin here”.  Between us and the shore we are gifted with a pair taking a breath or two. A big one and a little one, maybe mother and calf. Thanks John, I’d paddle round the island just for that moment.


A sprint to catch the group up had me doing the cooked lobster in my drysuit, salopettes are the way forward.  A bit later, Keith and Ian lead us into a lovely sheltered bay for a nice long lunch in the sun with a couple of nice yatchs and the opportunity to see what Corrievreckan looks like in flow.


Yes, big impressive standing wave. Then we see the high powered tourist boats ferry gliding in front of the wave.  Their motors sounded big and yet still being challenged by the flow. Glad we waited for the slack water.


Mind you, an elderly gentleman, who had escorted us into the bay in his aluminium dinghy and tiny outboard tells us that it’s possible to make passage using the little refuges and a locals knowledge of the eddies and currents. He wasn’t crossing, but he did leave  well ahead of us. Motoring close to the shore and puttering away round the headland.


Much preferred our leaders plan and later cautious departure, up the south side of the strait to the east end and then after a good look, across we went. Big eddies some more than fifty feet wide pushed and pulled us in a weaving path. Good that these were just the ghosts of the forces when the tide was in flow.


Then we were across.


The bothy camp site on Scarba was a bit too exposed and small, so we made a second little crossing with an oblique following sea to the next island, Luing.  This wave pattern was a new challenge, Helen had fun without her Capella’s skeg. I certainly learned improved technique with my Thatcherite (as in, not for turning) Icefloe.  Stable and sea kindly the boat looked after me, really well. Might not use a wing paddle next trip though, ahem.


Wild camping again, we were visited by some locals. Seems John had pitched next to a favourite scratching post for the Angus herd sharing our accommodations and we were between them and their evening drink. They were gentle, though, and left the tents alone.


Last night,the two pleasant nights in the haven at the Jura hotel meant a lovely big dinner as the sun went down beautifully,  we even drank some of the wine I’d hauled round all week!


Amazing day, great sights, the best company. Lifetime memory.


Thanks everyone.  Paul Hanley



The Corryvreckan is the third largest whirlpool in the world, and is on the northern side of the gulf, surrounding a pyramid-shaped basalt pinnacle that rises from depths of 70 m to 29 m at its rounded top. Flood tides and inflow from the Firth of Lorne to the west can drive the waters of Corryvreckan to waves of over 30 feet (9 m), and the roar of the resulting maelstrom can be heard ten miles (16 km) away.

more information……


Saturday 4th June – a short hop home

Luing Island to Craignish Point


Having run the 'tongue of the Corryvreckan tide race; breaking out into the Sound of Lung we were left with a  45minute ferry glide across to Lung Island. That evening it was time to reflect on a week of paddling and enjoy the setting sun surrounded by water and amazing panoramic mountain views. We were also joined by the resident Angus herd who seemed to know the tide times as much as us as they munched their way through the camp and cross a small inlet exposed by the low water - the bull being most impressive. John`s tent narrowly missed being mistook for an expectant heffer!

As we sat around our stoves cooking our evening meal (to the sound of I've got some broccoli left does any one want some) I carried on stirring my pre packed soup and pasta with an inward chuckle. The weather again transformed the view as a blanket of cotton wool cloud enveloped the landscape blotting out the whole of the isles of Scarba and Jurua leaving us isolated on our little island. Wind had been the main adversary of the week coupled by the tidal streams and tide races. This was my first sea trip and the first time out in my sea kayak, it was simply a fantastic experience. The combination of venturing out on an adventure/ journey where you had to be self sufficient, thinking through the strategy of where and when to paddle, being part of the ever changing scenery that was simply stunning and mesmerising all combine to make this the complete package. This trip has impressed upon me the importance of a sound knowledge and understanding of tides and water conditions, this is a sport where I have only begun to scratch the surface of all the skills and experiences that there is to learn; that's what makes it so appealing.

We all zipped up our tents encouraged by the chilly wind and incoming rain ready for a 7am start. We woke up to a clear sky and the stillness of an early morning slack water, 7am had been an significant number as it corresponded to high or low water, the crossing took no more than an hour or so with relatively flat water for most of the way; for most of the time we were immersed in our own thoughts reminiscing on the weeks events and experiences. Eventually I began to recognise some familiar features, namely the stone boat house and slipway the point of our departure some 6 days ago. Thankfully the tide was still high so we could paddle over the kelp field that we had to negotiate on the first morning we had reached Craignish Point and the end of a great sea trip - thanks guys for making this happen and being part of a great group of people. John P


Ian Bell, Keith Steer, Frankie Annan, Mike Alter, Paul Hanley, Simon Howlett, John Pegram, Kathy Morton, John Maddock, Helen Siertsema, and Anthony Vaccaro        Click for more Photos….