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2022 Scottish Sea Kayaking Trip – Day 01 Sunday Loch Etive – Airds Bay (Taynuilt) to the head of Loch Etive by Ian Bell

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2022 Scottish Sea Kayaking Trip to Arran and Mull
The Celtic Sea Kayaking Trip

This year’s trip was organised as two separate weeks but both starting from the same campsite at Oban Caravan & Camping Park. This would enable people to paddle for either one or both weeks and would allow for greater flexibility. Week 1 had some unsettled weather, so we opted to explore Loch Etive and then head over to circumnavigate the Isle of Arran. Week 2 saw a stable ridge of high pressure develop over Northern Scotland and would allow us to try to circumnavigate the Island of Mull. On both occasions, we were self-sufficient and camped out of our boats.

The Paddlers
Andy G, Catriona H, Debbie H, Frankie A, Ian B, Keith S, David B and Gary E.

Oban Caravan & Camping Park
The site is situated at Gallanachmore farm and covers 340 acres set by the sea with magnificent views to the Island of Kerrera. The site offers all the charm and tranquillity of a truly rural setting – guests may feel they are a million miles away from the bustle of modern life, but just three miles down the road is the delightful centre of Oban with its shops, restaurants, and many other facilities. We were able to launch from the small beach near the Kerrera ferry slipway and were careful not to block its access. We then moved the cars away from herringbone parking to park on the verge about 100 metres away.

Oban Caravan and Camping Park

Day 01 Sunday Loch Etive – Airds Bay (Taynuilt) to the head of Loch Etive by Ian Bell

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The Weather forecast was not quite stable enough to commit to the Mull trip which is open to the Atlantic swells and on the edge of a line of lows expected to the North of Scotland. Force 5-6 winds required a more sheltered venue. After breakfast and some time discussing options, we packed up and headed for Loch Etive. This is a beautiful and remote loch with limited road access for the northern half and had been on several members’ bucket lists for a while.

We drove to the beautiful spit of land that is formed by the River Awe flowing into the Loch, Bonawe point which has a pier for the old ferry (now not used). We quickly packed our boats from the cars – this proved to be an ideal maximum of 5 metres from the cars to the sea kayaks, it was high tide. After parking the cars safely out of the way, we headed across the narrows and proceeded to paddle along the Northwest shoreline. This was the first time for some with fully loaded boats, but we quickly glided along.

We paddled past the quarry (still working with lorries and diggers) and left all signs of habitation. There is a walking footpath along this side of the loch, but it is not visible for most of the way. Two walkers, a group of sunbathing seals and occasional fly-bys from the odd heron.

Elevenses were taken at around 12 midday (the first break is always referred to as elevenses no matter the time of day). I found the first of 3 rope swings on this first trip kindly added by the locals for visiting paddlers.

We paddled on Northwards with darkening skies but where the sun broke through it was too warm for a jacket. As the day went on, we started to look for options for a campsite. They were relatively few and far between as the steep loch sides (the loch was in a steep glaciated U-shaped valley). We ideally wanted to camp around the loch head where the river Etive flows into the loch. There is a small road here which connects with the A82 and Glen Coe. The wind quickened and whipped up white breaking waves, fortunately, it was directly behind us and blew us quickly along.

At the head of the Loch, we investigated several options for a suitable campsite – we needed a nice beach with access at low tide and room enough for 8 tents. Bizarrely there was a Scottish Wedding at the small car park with gazebos and full kilts. We opted to keep clear of the photos and headed for the small pier and beach on the northern edge. Tents were put up, stoves fired up and it proved to be a good little site. Running water, excellent views but relatively sheltered.

The wind died away later, and the full moon lit the valley around but most of us were tucked up in our sleeping bags well before the midges headed out to find their evening meal. (Nb the midge is the only known human predator present in the British Isles)

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