Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Big Paddle. Into the far North

On a lovely morning CWW junior (1) (we'll call him Angus from now on) and I slipped out of Loch Broom on the way to the Summer Isles. This was the first time Angus had been in a boat for about a year. His last paddling had been the Dusi River Race in South Africa, not really the best preparation for Cape Wrath.
We had, initially, a calm day with fine reflections, though things deteriorated enough to give us a sleepless night on Isle Ristol, due to heavy rain and a strong wind.

The following day our main target was the Pie Shop in Lochinver. No trip to north west Scotland is complete without a visit here. It's a fair detour, particularly in heavy rain, but there's nowhere better for lunch. After a large meal we took a big carry out and departed about £50 poorer. Well worth it.

Running on pie power we sprinted up the coast to the campsite at Achmelvich. This is a rather special place where we have spent many family holidays. A wild day turned into a spectacular evening. On the beach we met a man who told us he had first come here as a teenager, on a school trip from England. He said, quite simply, that it had changed his life. I can quite believe it.

Next step was Stoer Point. The scenery was becoming ever more spectacular, and the sea was just rough enough to be good fun. As we passed under the light we saw a car with sea kayaks on the roof. My guess is that they must have been very envious looking down on us.

The lighthouse is soon followed by the Old Man. On this day he wasn't letting us get too close. Once upon a time I climbed him- the descent turned into a minor epic involving jammed abseil ropes and a lot of swimming. That was a much calmer day!

After some wonderful coastal scenery we finally found a beautiful sheltered campsite close to Oldany Island, which at low tide is an island you could just about jump onto. We walked up to Drumbeg Hotel for a beer and a meal. That evening we fell asleep with the seals playing just a few yards from the tent door.

The following morning Edrachillis Bay was flat calm. It was an effortless crossing in huge seascapes. Flat calms never last long. We left Scourie in a gathering breeze, explored some of the caves to the north, then set off to go round the wild side of Handa.

The outside of Handa seemed remarkably rough for the wind. We had to dodge a few areas of breaking waves, and searching for the Great Stack was going down the priority list. Coming round the north, we spotted what appeared to be a short cut of calmer water close to the cliffs. Thinking this would be the easy route, we plunged in and found ourselves in a maelstrom of downdraughts and currents. It turned out we were in touching distance of the Great Stack, but we weren't able to hang about and admire it. It was, in fact, a bit of relief to escape.
By the time we reached Loch Laxford we were getting tired. Finding a campsite wasn't easy. The landscape here is all rock and heather. Finally we found a platform of grass close to Fanagmore. It was a somewhat awkward spot to reach, but a slippery climb up the rocks made us comfortable. A mellow evening followed.


  1. So glad to see you've eventually had good weather!

  2. Well done, some really amazing photos along the way you have taken and an inspiring account.
    Any plans to do a talk or presentation about the trip at all?

    1. Thanks, Jinjacoo. I've no plans for a talk but if anyone was interested I'd certainly think about it. I'm very slowly trying to write something up to send some paddling magazines.