Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Summer Isles again

After our trip up to the Summer Isles with Ansgar and co last year, I have been wanting to get back, so when I decided to organise a club weekend away, the Summer Isles was my destination of choice. The sign up went up on the website and after the usual can come, can't come, we ended with 10 of us up for it.
I had booked into Port a Bhaigh Campsite in Altandhu, deciding on a base camp as opposed to wild camping. We had a variety of paddling abilities and families coming along so this seemed the best option, folks could sit out a day if they wanted.
"Rubbish" statue
Lovely conditions!
Trips were planned, cars packed, dances to the Sun Gods made and off we went. Some of the group had left earlier on in the day, were well settled by the time we arrived and were already on their way down to the water with their boats. The evening we arrived was absolutely stunning, had my dance to the Sun God worked?
After a rather yummy meal in the bar above the campsite, we discussed the next days plans over a pint or two.
The Motley crew!
Next morning was still nice when we set off from the campsite. We had been chatting to another couple of paddlers who had organised a beach clean for the day, I felt a bit guilty for not staying and helping, but we didn't know it was going on until we were on the beach with our boats and kit!
We all got on the water, well I say all, Aline was at her usual pace, still on the beach wondering if anyone had packed paddles for her! They were in her boat, she just hadn't looked!
Off we set across the bay to cut through between Isle Ristol and the pier at Old Dornie, before heading over to the big bay in Tanera More where we stopped to post a card back to the Kayakey Kid and Wee Sis with a Summer Isles very own postage stamp.
Our next section was round the bottom and over to Tanera Beg  which we paddled round before cutting back down between Tanera Beg and Fada to have lunch on the coral beach. Unfortunately the tide was quite far in, so there wasn't much coral to be seen, by the time lunch was over it was a bit more exposed. We carried on round Eilean Fada Mor and up through the skerries before heading back over to Isle Ristol. Some of the group decided to call it a day at that and headed back up the channel to the campsite, the rest of us carried on along the south of Isle Ristol where we were treated to the weird and wonderful sound of a Loon (Great Northern Diver) which I have to say is much better than the sound of a cuckoo which seemed to be round every single corner, no matter how far out we were or what time of day it was.
Along the end of Isle Ristol, we decided we would pop over to Eilean Mullagrach to what we thought looked like a big cave, it wasn't, just a big dark area! Further along, we came across a narrow entrance which we had a wee keek into. It was rather stinky, but wonderful once you were in, the best cave yet! We decided to name it forever more as "Stinky Crack"!
As we came back to the beach, we could see what a difference the beach clean squad had made. Lined all the way up the side of the path were black bags full of rubbish. Speaking to one of the beach cleaners later, she said they had collected over 500k of rubbish. It's not a big beach, it worked out at 300k per 100m. It's great they cleared up so much rubbish, but sad that so much rubbish ended up on the beach in the first place, most of it being rubbish washed in from the sea, not dropped by visitors.

Achnahaird launch spot
Young Trevor cutting through from 1 cave to another
Back at the tents, dinner, then up for a bit of debriefing (aka a couple of pints!) in the pub up the hill.
Forecast for the next day was for wind, rain, fog, everything but sun, obviously the sun dance wasn't that good!
We decided to take the cars over to Achnahaird and paddle up the coast a bit. The caves up this section were wonderful and took us out of the rain! We then made our way across the bay and round Eilean Mor before stopping for lunch at Cuil Lochain. Then it was back into the drizzly rain, round the coast and back to the car. A welcome hot shower was had before our next "debrief".
Although Monday's forecast was better than Sunday's had been, there was still a southerly "breeze", so we decided against our planned trip to Priest Island, instead we packed away our kit and headed for Ardmair where we could paddle over to Isle Martin which would be more sheltered and also on route for heading home.
One thing that really did stick out about the weekend was a distinct lack of seabirds. Having Inchcolm in the Forth as one of our regular paddling areas with the number of different species and quantities out there made us very aware of how few birds were on the west coast.
Pretty Wheatear

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