LCC Scottish Sea Paddling Expedition around Ardnamurchan Point

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07/06/13 LCC Scottish Sea Paddling Expedition around Ardnamurchan Point


Day 1 Saturday 25 May 2013 – The Journey to Scotland


The day began early for most with a plan to meet at Keith’s in Formby at 8am. 9 of the group were travelling from here with Andy and Dave setting off from Chorley. After much logistical planning ably performed by Pete Thomas 4 vehicles were making the journey north.  Big shout to Ade for picking me up on his way, we arrived at Keith’s to find the bacon and kettle on. Pete soon demonstrated his skill with a roll and a grill, and each arrival was greeted with a bacon butty, except Chris – no veggie option (note to organiser sort this for next year).

Cars were quickly packed and the designated drivers Ian, Ade and Pete set off in convoy with Ian leading the charge to Scotland. We headed up the motorway to meet with Dave & Andy at the Hamilton services, on the way passing towns named after the back seat passengers (Preston and Annan).


After a planning and strategy discussion at the services, the wind was blowing the wrong way, plans A, B and C were refined to heading to the Ardnamurchan campsite at Kilchoan. A gem of a place.


What followed for the rest of journey for Chris & I was a very entertaining, the ‘dads’ (Keith & Ian) in the front had much banter and debate about the merits of travelling via Stirling versus the new bit of tarmac on the M8 and being stuck in traffic at Loch Lomond. A short refreshing stop at the Green Welly Stop, with ice cream for some we continued on our way.

We arrived eventually it seemed at the campsite after a quick trip on the Corran ferry to reduce the driving time. The slope of the campsite provided a slight challenge, sheltering from the rain and sharing homemade sticky ginger cake we agreed a time to get on the water in the morning for out trip around Ardnamurchan point, we must have been on plan D at least by now!   More Photos……


Day 2 Sunday 26 May 2013 Kilchoan to Kilmory 26km


We all got up early (6.30am) to get ready and pack our boats but even so it was 10am before we were on the water. I can't speak for everyone else but getting all my stuff in the boat was a bit of a squeeze as it was my first multi-day trip. The beach by the campsite was rocky and slippy so getting the fully-laden boats down to the water's edge was a good way to start getting to know everyone. By the end of the week I had forgotten who I already knew before we set off, it was such an easy going group of people. 


Before leaving the campsite we were lucky enough to get some local knowledge of good camping spots from the campsite owner Trevor who seemed to know an awful lot about kayaking! It gradually became clear that there was much more to him than we first expected and I'm sure he will appear again later in the write up, but if you're curious check out:


It was sunny and calm and we decided to paddle across the glossy sound of Mull and touch the shore, as a matter of principal, before heading north around the point of Adnamurchan. After touching Mull we played “Follow Frankie” back across the sound and she led us to a beautiful sheltered spot for lunch - "the lagoon" - just south of the point, with green water, beds of seaweed, sea-urchins and white sand. According to some members of the dinner party a mysterious, black, weasel-like creature (a mink?) was trotting about behind the rocks, but was it a wind up? I never found out.


After lunch, leaving the lagoon a gentle breeze had got up and as we paddled around the point there was a lot less chatter as the paddlers became accustomed to the new sea state. The wind and tide were following us so the paddling was quite effortless, which allowed us to fully take in the beautiful scenery as the Small Isles came into view as we passed Adnamurchan lighthouse, positioned on the most Westerly point of the British mainland. In the background were the dramatic Cullins on Skye and, in front, the impressive peaks of Rum. Many photos were taken of the passing cliffs and headlands as we bobbed along. 


We paddled 33km in total that day and we were relieved when Keith scouted out an excellent spot to camp next to the beach at Kilmory. The weather turned a bit nasty in the evening and, after eating, we got our heads down, eager to see what the weather had in store for the next day.


Chris Preston              More photos…….


Day 3 Monday 27 May 2013 Storm bound in Kilmory


The weather forecast for Monday was 4 gusting 5+ so we knew the location of Sunday’s over-night stop was critical in terms of being out of the direct force of the wind & options for the following days activities. For some it would mean a strenuous day of making a brew and sorting kit, for others an exploration of the beautiful coastline & surrounding area. I fit into the latter category for after a few minutes I generally crave a different view point and a bit of exercise.


The first event of the day was however, around 4.30am Monday morning as the weather conditions lived up to the forecast - Continuous rain had lashed the tent all-night long then Three prolonged guests of increasing magnitude began to compress my tents geodesic structure beyond what the 3 season design tag, intended. The morning came – looking through the partially open fly a grey rain laden sky wrapped it self around the bay pushing row upon row of green waves into the deep U shaped cove until they broke with a roar and the death nail rattle of shoreline rocks tumbling against each other; as if moved by some invisible force. I spent the next hour or so examining the interior design & manufacture of my little dry abode, making a brew, looking over maps and sorting kit – by now it was at least 8am and I was getting bored - time for action.


I ventured around the headland and through a very well maintain deer fenced gate. The rain was only spitting but the wind was still easily a force 4+ and its force could be felt once out of the shelter of the bay. The whole of the Ardnamurchan peninsula is basically an extinct volcano, there where many volcanic vents sticking up out of the ground, left by the erosion of time.


The Chinese always give each passing year an animals name – may I propose this trip to be ‘The Year of the Tick’– with the almost total absence of our little friends the Midge, Chris became our ‘Tick Magnet’. We were always in the vicinity of live stock and their grazing land and so Dave and his tick removing pliers were in demand – I mention this as I am defiantly going to add these to my first aid kit, simple and effective having removed two beasties from my own anatomy myself.


We were becoming big news to the local hamlet, we had doubled the population overnight – they were very engaging and interested in our planed journey and took some of us up to their own water supply so that we could fill up with clean water – apparently the septic tanks from the houses above could overflow into the stream that we were using!!!


A number of us set of at various times to walk and explore with the proviso that we would all be back at 3pm to reassess the weather conditions – indeed by now we had blue skies and bright sunshine – this was to be the only rain all week apart from a bit of drizzle on the last day – Scotland’s, the new Mediterranean.


The remnant of the afternoon was spent sitting around chatting and putting the world to rights, discussing Tide Tables and possible destinations. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know the other 10 members of the team especially Andy, Chris and Dave who had not been on this trip before. By the way Dave is available for public speaking events, you can contact him at (Dave @ its the way you – humour aside one of the add-ons of this type of trip is to see how well the group dynamics work in real positive ways – and while were on this subject we have to thank Keith and Ian for making these sort of trips possible – I know for one, theirs no way I could venture into some of these sea conditions without their input – so thanks from the whole team.

The VHF weather updates gained their reverential silence, radio held heavenwards - Irish Sea, Malin, Hebrides, Rockall & Bailey the formulaic information was stated, we hung on each sentence, our future plans held in the hands of the weather\gods.


Fortunately the Gods seemed to be smiling and it would be feasible to continue on our journey the following day towards Moidart – the option of heading out to Eigg and Muck, tantalising held in the balance but their was a good chance of being storm bound latter in the week – something our employers might not appreciate.



The evening meal cooked and having washed up in the incoming surf, we settled down to what became a most fantastic light show.


The amber skies danced on the sea, bringing its symmetry to both sea and sky. This ever changing event seemed to last for hours only enhanced by the sound of the waves upon the shore.



John Pegram                More photos…….


Day 4 Tuesday 28 May 2013 Kilmory to Eilean Coille (Whitesands) 27.6km


Following an enforced but enjoyable shelter from a storm at Kilmory, where the locals had been curious but friendly, the forecast was good enough for a 9.00am start. We all set off as it neared high water (not so much of a heavy portage to the water) on a nice sunny day and with some small surf entering the bay, Dave took the opportunity to have a little play in the suds. The wind was still fresh so a bit of effort was needed paddling into it.


We headed towards our first reef of the day and although there was a gap we might have got through, Keith and Ian shepherded us to the outside as a swell was still running and much water was crashing and surging onto the rocks. As best we could, we hugged the coast to avoid as much of the head wind as possible and eventually stopped for elevenses in Eilagdale, a bay with a fresh water stream trickling through the very pebbly beach into the sea. There was also a small brackish lagoon close to where we sat and had our break. Following coffee, tea etc, people started drifting towards the stream to top up with fresh water. A couple of water filters appeared and a pumping frenzy began. Keith couldn’t be bothered with all of these gimmicks and said boiling would do the trick. As far as I know, he’s still alive so I suppose he was right!


By the time we set off again, the outgoing stream had dried and the tide had retreated, another heavy carry was necessary. There was a strengthening sun which made me realise I had brought no sun hat and goodness knows where my sun glasses were; on the shelf at home it turned out!


We paddled on around more headlands and entered a large open and windy bay with numerous small bays around the edge We spied enticingly sandy bays in the distance, which looked really appealing, but Keith headed for one which had no surf but was very pebbly. On approaching we realised that a lone house was above the bay and a noisy diesel generator destroyed the atmosphere. We gave this one a miss and the others shot off towards the large sandy beach in the distance and played for a while in the small amount of surf. The other half headed off to yet another sandy beach close by and we eventually all joined up for a sunny and relaxing lunch followed by some surfing activity and involuntary rolling by Ade.

After lunch we paddled on and eventually started to look for our night’s camp site. Looking closely at the map, Keith came up with 3 options, the first proved ok but only rated 3*, so we paddled on. By this time one of us was feeling under the weather and was looking forward to pitching the tent. The second option turned out to be a notch up from the first and would have been good except some other kayakers from Maidstone Canoe Club were there before us. There was plenty of space at low water with a lovely spit of white sand, but high water left a very small area to camp and this was already occupied. Keith‘s conversation with one of them pointed us to another possibility a further 2km along the coast.


We set off again, but our sickie was beginning to feel dire and, Big Ade, having stayed as our rearguard, used this opportunity to flex his muscles. With our sickie in tow he began overtaking everyone to arrive at the final camp in front of the whole group. It was well worth the extra paddle as it turned out to be the best camp site of the trip. Keith described it as a 5* and I can only agree with him. Situated just next to Eilean Coille near Smirisary Hill, there were three white sand bays dived by covering spits and flat grassy knolls to camp on. The view out to the Small Isles and Skye was just fantastic and we all appreciated being there.


On arriving at what we thought to be a totally deserted bay, we discovered a family playing ball on the far beach, very friendly folks who turned out to be the local landowners. We had a choice of pitch sites, those exposed to the dying wind with great views of Muck, Eigg, Rhum, Skye and the profile of the Black Cuillin Ridge, or a little hollow out of the wind. The hollow was where most of us opted to cook and eat our dinner. Curly decided the hollow was the better option to sleep in and pitched his tent bang in the middle.


Following our meal I decided to go for a walk along the coast to a small settlement (Samalaman) about 3Km away. On the way back I stalked a number of hinds for a while as I was downwind of them, but, as soon as I turned on my camera the small beep had them fleeing away with only a view of fluffy tails.

On arriving back at camp I discovered Pete had started a game of “guess the whisky”. It must have been quite difficult as most was consumed in the pursuit of guessing the label of the dram. Ian had also lit a beach fire which consumed all our waste material (not bodily)from the last few days. Where does it all come from? By this time the sun was setting and had us all enthralled with cameras snapping away every few minutes as the sun got lower and lower in the western sky, finally illuminating a golden path across the sea to our viewing platform.


We drifted off to bed in the twilight, darkness never really fell, midnight to 4.00am being the darkest but it was still not black dark as the longest day was only 3 weeks off. Torches were never needed. We all slept well, except for Dave in his amphitheatre of sound. Sleep evaded him as he thought the breaking surf was high and would engulf him, when in fact it was only a gentle hiss. He admitted he got up to check all was well during the night only to discover that the surf was tiny and in fact was on the opposite beach to where he thought. Serves him right for camping in what was in effect a parabolic sound reflector!


Another grand day on the water with friends. Thanks to Frankie for coordinating the whole trip, Keith and Ian for their invaluable experience in  keeping us out of trouble, and to Ade for keeping up the rear guard, giving us all a worry-free and very enjoyable week.


Carole Thomas     More photos…….


Day 5 Wednesday 29 May 2013 Eilean Coille (Whitesands) to Eilean Carrach (Bay McNeil) 28.1km


As has become the trend on these trips most people are up and about getting breakfast and packed ready to go about 8:30 to 9:00am.  So today started no different to any other with breakfast on the go; weather forecasts where checked and boat packing underway all at the same time.  The group where then call together for a discussion on the options for that day and potently the remainder of the trip.


From our campsite we had a number of choices we could make; some more committing than others:

A/ Visiting the Small Isles, and facing a long return crossing in a quartering sea.

B/ Returning around the Ardnamurchan peninsula to our start point if the weather permitted.

C/ Continuing north to Mallaig and then getting a lift back to cars.


In our favour was a good forecast for at least the next two days but then it may `get iffy` again on Friday.  So having discussed the various options we opted for plan B. That effectively saw us retracing are route back along the Ardnamurchan peninsula towards the light house and camping somewhere close to end so as we could pass back around the point at slack tide on the Thursday morning and cross to Mull and camp near the shelter of Tobermory.


So once sorted we set off and we made good progress crossing directly to the point at Rubhe Ard Druimnich.  Here we had our compulsory elevens stop at the same place we had the day before on a small stony bay. This was also an opportunity to refill our water containers.  From here we followed the coast west exploring bays and finding safe passages out around the various skerry that lie off of the coast.  These caused some  exciting seas at times. Having passed our storm bound camp site we stopped for another break at a sheltered bay called Fascandale. This was a possible camp site but as the field was full of cows and pigs we decided to continue on to find a better place to camp. It was also a point that we could have used to end trip had the weather been too bad to get back around the point.  We had left a car there as a contingency.


The next spot we had identified on map as a camp spot turn out not to be that good; as at low tide landing would have mean a long and dangerous carry over some very slippery rocks. So we carried on knowing we still had a couple of options left. We finally landed at a very nice sandy bay just east of the Ardnamurchan light house. This was where a sand dune island separated from the land by a sand spit which gave an ideal camp site and sheltered landing.


Having been quizzed about our boats and kit by some holiday makers we set up for the evening.  Some put tents up straight away on top of the sand dune, others felt they would camp on the beach. As we cooked tea various people speculated on the amount of beach that would be left at high tide and exactly who’s tent would be getting wet. We thought about a walk to the light house and viewing point after our evening meal but soon changed our plan as we realised the sand bar was disappearing fast and we may have to swim back to the soon to become island. After the meal boats and kit were moved up to a safe height and the evening was spent still debating where to put remaining tents and watching another super sunset and tasting Malt Whisky.


Ian Bell                              More photos…….



Day 6 Thursday 30 May 2013 Eilean Carrach (Bay McNeil) to Loch Dram Buie Via Tobermory 28.7km

We woke to another gorgeous sunny day, if a little windy. After breakfast and packing it was decided to wait for the tide to slacken around the point in the hope that the sea would flatten as with wind against tide it looked a little "Interesting" out there. While we waited Chris Limbered up and impressed us all with his head stand!

Waiting over the time came to launch into the calm water’s of the bay. This wasn’t to last and well before we left the bay we were crashing over large swells.
Mike was leading and took us out well clear Ardnamurchan Point. If the sea had settled down by now I’m glad we didn’t set off earlier, we were being pitched forwards by large wave’s coming over our right shoulders. It was a roller coaster out there and the Taran proved to be a real handful wanting to be powered through the waves in order to feel stable. At one point Mike was shouting at me to slow down as I was getting hurled forwards by wave after wave. I think my knuckle’s were white and my Botty was gripping the seat!
We soon cleared the point and could relax just a little as we paddled on looking for the little cove at the entrance to the Sound of Mull were we had stopped on the way out.

After Lunch in the sheltered cove we headed into the sound. With the swell now behind us this made for easy progress and after a couple of K`s we turned out into the sound and headed over towards Mull. The swell and waves were now coming over our right shoulders. Out one point I saw John execute a perfect low brace as a wave threaten to turn him over!

Just over half way across Ade called me over and led me astray. We went to the back of the pack were we could play turning to run with the swell. Ade was interested to see how fast the Taran would go........Game on! Yeeeehaa.....I had no idea I could get it going THAT fast! what a buzz.

We were soon passing Tobermory Lighthouse and heading for the beach in front of this pretty little town. Fish and chips all round
and a visit to the local co-op for provisions (Bacon and Beer) Yum Yum. No sign of Great Uncle Bulgaria....maybe he was having 40 winks!

After relaxing for an hour in the sunshine we set off in search of a campsite for
the night. We headed out of the Harbour passed Calve Island and into Loch Sunart before turning into the sheltered waters of Loch Dram Buie. I think we were all more than ready to stop for the night so the sight of the single beach with a large flat area of grass at the top was more than welcome.
With tent’s erected the whiskey and beers were soon out. After only a couple of shots and a single larger it was time for bed. I was pooped after an amazing day on the water!


Dave Blake                           More photos…….


Day 7 – Friday 31 May 2013 18 km Loch Dramn Buie to Ardnammchan Campsite. Calm, Headwinds then sunshine 17.7km


We set paddle from the only midgey campsite of the trip to go round Oransay, an ambitious undertaking, given the state of the tide. The loch narrows to a picturesque 5 metres wide and the bottom rises to a channel passable at high water. I had a look at the portage, but we were too lazy and idle to carry the 150 metres necessary.  It was Friday and slackers day after all.


We re-traced our steps, an arduous task given the prettiness and increasing visibility of Loch Dramn Buie. The last crossing of the trip was made uneventfully and on time to the headland of Ardslignish and we pootled along the coast against a cool breeze.



Someone got the first (non-messing about) wet bum of the trip on launching after lunch from the bowling ball beach. Then they were a bit sea sick, but eventually recovered well to complete the day. 



Mingarry castle was broodingly handsome in a derelict sort of way, and was undergoing a facelift, or underpinning with one of the noisiest drills I have ever heard with builders’ abseiling down its cliff cragged sides. There was also a bonfire set by the locals to choke the wildlife and paddlers into not lingering.



Once past the smoke, the ambitious ones in the group set to rolling practice. Egged on by the seals. It’s quite strange the way rolling seems to have decreased in importance over the years as paddlers can now buy peace of mind from gizmos instead of graft. All the gizmos and snake oil in the world take time and time is never on the side of the swimming paddler. I don’t think it’s elitist to mention the roll.  It’s the seas job to drown people, and some just make it easier by exposing all the body to the cold and rocks.



 The grumpiness of grounding out by some ambitious gap paddlers was replaced by the joy at seeing a wild otter running down to the water along its own basalt dyke. We saw a white tailed eagle getting chased by Oystercatchers and numerous seals fishing the day away. That’s the joy of coastal pootling with the bonus of staying sheltered from the cool wind.


And thus the trip was ended by the unusual meal out of chips and stuff in a box at the local hotel because the chef has Fridays off.  (another slacker) The ribs were very nice though and we had the added bonus of a table for 11, which we swapped for a smaller one to allow a big family to dine once we were onto the drinking, joking, yarning and for some, e-mails.


Now much modern and historical comedy is based upon the sudden swerve away from or towards something inappropriate. From Shakespeare to John Pegram from four candles to fork handles. Young Chris, being a yoga expert was slowly being tackled about the health and spiritual benefits of yoga and its uses to sea paddlers who wish to do head stands, gain inner peace and get the best paddling posture I’ve seen this century.



The swerve towards using yoga inappropriately came out of the blue.  It gained momentum from an unintentionally double entendred belly laugh and on into an out of control laughter spiral when the flames were innocently stoked with ‘Yoga, that’s the way to go then… ‘ 



We wandered back to the campsite in the gloaming, we did not see the Roman of Billy Connolly’s jokes, but there was plenty of Hebridean simmer light from the northern horizon, beckoning us back to the land of light after closing time….

Adrian Mould    
More photos…….


Day 8 Saturday 1st June 2013  – “the journey home”

Waking to glorious weather with a range of hangovers, the bags and boats were loaded on the cars, leaving behind such a beautiful view on a gorgeous day was difficult, especially as there were some issues getting up the track from the bottom of the campsite, various strategies including pushing, reversing and relaying the track were needed. Trevor we suspect may have had some repairs to do after our departure. Ade demonstrated the how to drive up a steep field with a fully loaded van beautifully.


In convoy we set off again, managing not to hit any sheep we arrived for a busy ferry hop and were approached by a gentleman who reported several sightings of use paddling round the coast across the week.


Once we were back in the cars the dad’s discussion about travel via Stirling, and yes we went via Stirling, stopped for breakfast on the way, and then Ian began the long drive home. During this time LCC tweeted twice! And emails were dealt with, photo competitions were discussed and future trip co-ordinators were recruited in Ian’s car, what happened in the other cars I have no idea, but they all arrived back at Keith’s before us.


After gear was unpacked we said our farewells, some hardy souls discussed joining the stacks trip the following day, we were all homeward bound filled with memories of an excellent trip in great company.    More Photos…….


The team

Frankie A, Ian B, Keith S, Chris P, Ade M, John P, Pete ‘n’ Caz, Don B, Andy E and Dave (Curly) B