Robert and his group wanted to do a sea kayak tour of Jura but didn’t have time to go right round. So we took three trolleys and crossed the isthmus at Tarbert. We were rewarded with four stunning days of other worldly scenery (one of the group likened the raised beaches to a Dr Who set) and some great wildlife. Not all of the trolleys made it back!
We launched from Crinan with a forecast for NW force 3-4 and that’s exactly what we got. Taking a direct line to the tiny Ruadh Sgeir, despite the swirling currents, we ate lunch and moved off quickly to minimise any disturbance to the seals. The tide was ebbing now and even though it was close to neaps we had the bizarre experience of paddling straight at Jura and watching the shore slide past rather faster than we were moving forward! All to the good though as we needed to go that way.
Our wild campsite was just short of Tarbert and the following morning we paddled about 1200 meters and then landed and loaded the boats onto the trolleys for the portage to the West Loch. Passing a standing stone, negotiating cattle grids and a distinctly rough track we managed to transfer six loaded kayaks over the 1.9km route (height gain 22 meters) in two journeys, taking just over two and a half hours. Might have been less but the tubular frame of one of the trolleys broke. Just as Norman and I realised that we would have to do a double shuttle, Robert magically appeared with one of the other trolleys having guessed that something had happened to ours. To be fair, Eckla never intended their trolleys to be used for serious off road work with a full kayak.
Over the next three days we had a blissful and unhurried cruise along the stunning west coast of Jura. White beaches, gnarly cliffs, dramatic volcanic rock formations and eery raised beaches. It’s a wild and unique place. The weather, for the first time this year, was gentle, enabling open air eating and evening walks, yet the breeze was just enough to keep the midges to a minimum. Some of the group even went for evening swims! Pretty much idyllic apart from the ticks that resulted in frequent resort to the tweezers. But other wildlife was more welcome. Three Otters (one no more than paddle length away) a Sea Eagle, wild goats and groups distant curious but furtive Red Deer.
The approach to our final campsite in Baigh Glean nam Muc was entertaining, situated as it is within the western entrance of the gulf of Corryvreckan. We got into “battle formation”, that is: paired up and with a “sweeper” at the the back. Everyone followed my line as I picked a route through the swirls and eddy lines. Quite a tricky manoeuvre this. If anyone swam it would have been very difficult in the 5 knot current to keep the group together and avoid being swept past the entrance of the bay. When you are leading a sea kayak group in something like this you have to remember that you are effectively driving a long vehicle. The people following tend to cut the corners so you have to take changes of direction wider than normal or you end up with some of your group tangled up in the eddies.
In the evening we were able to walk to the headland and look out over Corryvreckan to the Scarba shore. The Hag (the whirlpool) was working well considering that it was neap tide. In the evening light everything was silhouettes and golden glow. We watched in delight as an otter swam and dived in the eddies below us.
On our last day the tide was flooding all morning so we had time to explore some more before forming our ballet one for the run through Corryvreckan on the start of the ebb tide. After some turbulence in the exit from the bay it was straight forward enough and the following breeze and tide shot us across to the Dorus Mor and the island of Reisa Garbh for a break. The wildlife show produced a thrilling finale here when a male Perigrine returned to the nest with a rodent of some sort. We got an excellent view as it landed, changed it’s grip on the rodent and then disappeared into a crevice in the cliff face. We could clearly hear the excited chicks.
And so to Crinan and the cars.
Thank you O Weather Gods!