6 May 2012

Weekend trip from Glenfinnan to Arisaig 28/29-4-12

THE original Glasgow Kayak Club's trip, planned for the weekend of April 28/29, was for a circumnavigation of the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde.
HOWEVER, as the weather forecast deteriorated dramatically three days prior to leaving for the launch site at Portencross, (winds up to 30mph) many paddlers dropped out or found that they had hair to wash that weekend! (oh, just me then).
However, the forecast for further up the west coast was spot-on for two days paddling in sunshine and little wind and stunning, stunning views....
A weekend trip to my favourite paddling area was posted and, as it was for the Arisaig area, the number of paddlers grew quickly to 11 and we were off to the launch site on Loch Shiel outside Glenfinnan House Hotel.
Myself, Muir Porter, Crawford Brysland, Robin Cole, Eric McCrory, Emily Glasbey, Tom Sanaghan and Dave McColl set off from the shed to meet up with the Johnstone's Ken and Maggie at Glenfinnan and Chris Bell would arrive early the next morning.

A Blatant early showing of sunshine, beaches and at times, overly excitable Kayakists!

The Stealther paddlers amongst us got onto the beaches early to clear them of the Tourists...

After the gang had met at the club shed on Friday, and duly boated their cars, I was with Muir and Crawford in Muir's new Merc! and off to Tyndrum for a Good Food stop before landing in Glenfinnan.
An initial idea to go check out the launch site at the pier was further inspired by a visit to the very elegant Glenfinnan House Hotel http://www.glenfinnanhouse.com/history-of-glenfinnan.html
TALISKER was 'Malt of the Week'.. Get in there.

Muir and Crawford check on the boats at Rannoch Moor with The Black Mount checking on us.

Glenfinnan Station

The view out my bedroom window

The first night was to be spent in a First Class carriage. NO, it WAS a former First Class railway carriage at Glenfinnan railway station and museum, run by a friend (ex-brother-in-law) of GKC's Robin Cole and to have 10 beds spare for one night was a miracle as the carriage is booked up until September.

The Railway carriage bunkhouse, fabulous amenities and views

All points head to Arisaig

Our launch site at Glenfinnan pier with Meall a Choire Chruinn (634m) as a backdrop.

The dramatic Meall a Choire Chruinn (634m) stands guard overlooking our 22 mile paddle down Loch Shiel

The Glenfinnan Monument http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenfinnan Not Harry Potter Monument (Apparently).

The troops pass gently under Meall a Choire Chruinn (634m) with a gentle tail wind blowing us the 30km down Loch Shiel, were so lucky.

And, as we had a gentle tail wind, Tom whipped out his sail and ripped it out of everyone else as he effortlessly cruised down the loch.

Our first stop of the day came about 15km at the wee beach at Eileanan Comhlach at Gaskan Wood, leg stretches and I found out one has to lift one's Spray Deck when one goes to the bathroom!!!... (don't ask :-)).

Eric is dwarfed by the impressive hills in Glen Aladale

Our second stop and main luncheon stop was at the historic island of Eilean Fhianain, home of St Columba's contemporary St Finan's chapel and a stunning graveyard built around 1500AD.
ruined chapel on the island was probably built on the site of the cell used by the saint who sanctified the isle. He was a contemporary of St. Columba. The Bell of St. Finan’s was said to rest here, brought by the saint from Ireland. 

A pair of very weather-worn, ancient tombstones

A stunningly carved section on the tall cross in the graveyard.

Tom explores St Finan's Chapel

The alter of the chapel where it was said that the bell of St Finan was placed when he brought it over from Ireland.

After luncheon it was continue down the loch;

Until we got to Acharacle and The Shiel Bridges  http://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Shiel_Bridge_(Acharacle)

The smaller of the two Shiel Bridges, and the sound of Banjos was quite discernible...

In a borrowed boat, Crawford takes his life in his hands (only if Andy McManus was to find out..:)) and hits the end of Loch Shiel 'rapids'...

Out into Loch Moidart and the first major thing we see is the inspiring Castle Tioram (Pronounced; Cheerum). 

Another wee stoplette was on a sandy beach on a southern part of Eilean Shona after a dramatic crossing of the South Channel of Loch Moidart as the tide was out we were barely the thickness of our boats' hulls away from grounding.. some did.

The classic views of the Sma' Isles of Eigg (foreground) and Rum started to come in thick and fast.

After a first day paddle (for me) of 41.6km there were more than a few of the 11 a bit puffed out.
So, the big beach below the Smirisary Hills, and on the mainland next to the Eilean Coille, (Just round the west corner from the famous Glenuig Inn) on the other side of the North Channel was targeted.
But, as we approached we could see that there were already paddlers strewn over the land in their colourful tentages.
However, there was more land available than we could see from the sea, and more than enough for all of us.. a great site

The view from behind my tent and chair 

A stunning sunset over Eigg and Rum just finished the great wee day off perfectly.

Chicken Drumsticks and Sunsets... (the title name of my next album)...

Camp-site with, In the far distance our objective for Day 2 - The Arisaig Hills (foreground), in front of the Skye Cuillin.

Camp Kayak

After what seemed the coldest night in history.. (try bringing a sensible amount of clothes for a night in a tent in April Milney! and don't spill the bottle over your sleeping bag during the night) it was off for a crossing of Loch Ailort and more magical vistas on this wonderfully calm and peaceful morning.. not a breath of wind and the most aqua marine coloured water in the shallows made us wish we had out Speedos..:-) (note to self; take mask and snorkel). Great start.

Maggie Johnstone leaves the camp-site, what a colour of water... no filters were used in the making of this image..:-)

The troops gather after leaving the camp-site and are just gob-smacked by the views of the Cuillin hills and the peacefulness.

Ken Johnstone spots crofts at Port an Doichgil, Smirisary.

Chris Bell, on the way to Ardnish, passing in front of the impressive An Stac, in the centre of the picture, at western end of Loch Ailort.. oh, oh! looks like rain in the cloud top left

The team takes a break on the beach below Peanmeanach ruins, Ardnish in Loch Ailort.
Just paddling into this beach Ken Johnstone and I had a great wee chat about his climbing days and we were very taken by the approach as the sand grew whiter and the sea became more and more aqua-marine, and the sun shone.

Sometimes words just fail me.. The team takes a break on the beach below Peanmeanach ruins, Ardnish in Loch Ailort.

Haw, Crawford, something missing?.. like water?.. like paddle?.. it's behind you.

Crossing Loch nan Uamh (or Omph, as I eventually settled on)

After a fairly bumpy ride round the western end of Loch nam Uamh as we hit the forecast northerly wind at mid-day, we were ready for lunch, so Muir and I had convinced the party to head to our wee favourite beach that we had discovered and camped on last year at Port nam Murrach.. and what a place.. more white sand and aqua-marine seas.. bliss..!

What a place to stop for lunch.. and we had three sleepers during the hour there..No names, no pack-drill..:-)
HOWEVER! we had forgotten that the wind had picked up and we would have it in our faces all the way into Arisaig via the outlying Skerries.
Yes it was windy, yes it was in our faces and yes it was bumpy, but, it kept us focussed and I did get a wee back tweak from a side on, waist-high wave, but it was all worth it... even the mud-fest that greeted us in Arisaig harbour as we had to carry the boats one at a time over the mud as the tide was out.
The sun was still shining, no one cared.. everyone shared. (The title to my next album).

Some of the after party debris...

Thanks to Chris Bell, our route and mileages in KMs :-0)

I personally covered 70kms and I am glad I did.