West to east – paddling ten islands and then the birdless Bass Rock

Nov 30th – Dec 1st

So a free weekend and a good “high pressure” forecast, what to do?????  For other reasons I started the weekend in Helensburgh and had to finish it in Edinburgh. 

So Saturday the 30th at -2 deg C air temperature and an absolutely classic blue sky day.  I launched my fast sea kayak on to Loch Lomond just south of Luss in complete stillness and calm.  It seems there are at least 10 islands /islets in the southern end of the loch and to loop them all looked like about a 25 kms paddle.  Would fit nicely into the winter daylight hours and get me back at the beach by about 14.30hrs.

I had a rough plan and so went north east to start with – great views up to Ben Lomond on the right bank and the Cobbler on the left.  Looping past Inchtavannach and down by Inchconnachan I spied a sunken /capsized sail boat.  Called the Sea Witch and sitting on her side flooded she did not look healthy – nobody around in trouble though.  I did check later and gather from the rangers that this is not a new incident and they have a plan!

Cruising at about 7-8 kph I went south to Creinch and then off round the largest island of Inchmurrin.  A few cottages and a boatyard all seemed deserted as I went by.  The sea plane made itself felt though as its turboprop engine is quite a distinctive drone that intrudes on the peace.  Some other guy as well over the east bank in a Cessna doing aerobatics.

 I went across and in to Balmaha bay for a leg stretch / coffee break.  The last 50 yds near the jetty was still a sheet of thin ice so I had great (childish) fun carving through it.  Two paddle-boarders turned up and happily popped out on to the Loch whilst I was there; sun was shining still but I guess it would be good to fall in.

Round Inchfad and north through some narrows saw me once again in open water up towards Strathcashell Point, but still flat calm and easy going.  Round Inchlonaig and west into Luss bay.  The very low sun by this stage was straight in my eyes as it approached the horizon line.  Under the pier and back along to the beach.  Lovely.

Day 2 was to be nearer Edinburgh so I looked at the currents and planned a trip out from North Berwick.  As the Bass Rock is really only a couple of kms out, I drew up a circuit that would cover the 3 lumps of rock in this neighbourhood and be about 23 kms.  There was a freshish breeze from the west so the sea was not glassy smooth but good enough.

On the opening westward (upwind) leg I detoured a bit to meet up with a guy on a SOT just to say hello – he was a local just out for the exercise too.  The coastline here is a bit tricky as it has long fingers of rock reaching out maybe 500m from the surf line and it pays to keep your eyes peeled. Up past South Dog, round North Dog and then by the magic that is downwind paddling I was zooming along.

Past outboard of the Lamb and Craigleith, and onto the 5 km stretch across to the Bass Rock which had been looming over the trip all the time.  Very few birds on the rock at this time of year but that wasn’t why I went anyway.  It looked magnificent in the winter sun.

Headed due south to have a look at Tantallon Castle sticking up from the headland – it looks like there’s just the one remaining fortified wall standing  - a few tourists up on the battlements watching over me.  Then to get back I was upwind again but with a little tidal flow to help.  Past the Leithies and into Milsey Bay.  A quick run through  small surf and I was back on the beach without mishap, and before the light went.  Who says that paddling is a summer sport!


Riding in the Lakes

Oct 2019

A quick trip south of the border to enjoy (hopefully) the last of the autumn leaves on the fells and maybe chill-out.  Weather was a mixed bag with some breezy days but mainly ok for outdoor activities.  Did some MTB loops at Grizedale Forest, and the usual circuits on top of Askham/Helton Fell and up to the medium summit of Loadpot Hill.  Pretty damm breezy up there!

Also some mountain walks above Ullswater and then on Bowscale Fell.  Although the plan to do the full horseshoe round Bannerdale Crags was not achieved.  Great to have post-walk food at the Mill Inn (Mungrisdale) as their steak pie is scrumptious.

Old lags weekend in Bonnie Scotland

October 2019

Once a year there’s a reunion gathering of RCC old boys and hangers-on; it generally means that all the rivers are suddenly dry and so mountain bikes are brought along as well.  This year it was hosted by Chris and used the chalets at Inchree as a base.  A motley crew all gathered on the Friday (10 of us) for a quick pint + planning session.

Day 1 was actually a trip to paddle a river after the heavy rain – so we went down the Ailort on the Road to the Isles.  In normal water a grade 2/3 bimble but with rain the first 400m become rather more interesting.  No steam trains spotted this year (this is the Hogwarts line remember) and no drama with the rapids.  Very scenic but no one opted for the second run so all adjourned to the usual nevisport coffee bar.

Day 2 was an attempt to catch the Upper Roy at a good level but the rain had run off already.  Nevertheless, eight folk paddled the Upper plus Gorge plus Lower sections as a one-er.  Not an exciting level but OK.  “Headbanger” is a mandatory portage in these conditions but the rest of the gorge section ran ok.  We had one last challenge with the narrow blind slot bit – 3 down ok, and a tricky portage for others.  The Lower section back to Roy Bridge itself was a bit tedious and rocky-bashy.

The other days involved a session on the Falls of Lora but I didn’t feel too secure in my sea kayak that morning so paddled like a complete woos.  The others seemed to enjoy the workout and the winter sun.  Two other ladies present were having a good time with their sea boats too.

And I squeezed in a mountain bike descent using the gondola up-lift at Nevis Range.  The more westerly of the two trails is now graded at Black, although I forget its actual name.  Lots of board-walk to start with, followed by the boulder descent back into the forest.  Last time I did this run was on a 150mm forked carbon Jekyll so nice to also experience it on my more general trail designed Scout with less travel.  All went OK.  Cakes and coffee in the café to celebrate.

A return to MTB at Balblair

October 2019

A wet autumn day but I was in the area so made time to go round the black loop at Balblair forest.  Its not overly long and reminds me of Kirroughtree; but the short wet rock ascents proved tricky (lack of traction).  It was certainly a good workout.

The top of the ascent is marked "Candy Mountain" and apart from the ugly radio mast is actually pretty scenic.  The bare granite "pump-track" feature is also a challenge.

On completing the loop I headed northwest again through the forest and across the footpath/rail bridge route to the Carbisdale trails.  A bit strange as whilst the trails are nearly all there, the trail markers have all been removed!  Something to do with the change of ownership of the castle.  Anyway it was good to explore and by the time I was back at the car that was 24kms clocked up.


A Pace in Norway

Summer 2019

My paddling partner from the summer Norway kayak tour let me have some of the photos he took of me along the way.  So all photo credit for these to Gordon Milne.  These all feature my Tiderace Pace 17S as star of the show.  As a cruising boat for extended trips it was fantastic.

A paddle down (and up) the Kyle of Sutherland

October 5/6th 2019

I think this was the final planned weekend trip of the Club calendar for 2019.  It involved a hotel/bunkhouse though instead of wet canvas.  Nevertheless conditions for paddling were not without a challenge as we started down the Kyle from Oykel Bridge, two groups of seven sea paddlers trying to do a river!

By the end of Saturday we had conquered 21 kms against a headwind all the way to Bonar Bridge – the evenings social in the bar/restaurant kind of made up for it though.  Had a beer called Yellowhammer as well as the Ossian (plus the local Balblair single malt of course).  Some crazy pool players were in the next room sinking the white ball many times.

Sunday was subject to a revised plan so we started at the sea end of things (Meikle Ferry) and paddled up the estuary/river/Kyle to get off at Bonar Bridge.  Some variety in tidal flows /sand banks /chosen routes was observed but all ended well.

A relaxed programme for a w/e but pleasant all the same.


Bell Rock Lighthouse, out & back

Sept 28th

Sea paddling out to the Bell Rock lighthouse was a blast. Wikipedia says The Bell Rock Lighthouse, off the coast of Angus, Scotland, is the world's oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. It was built between 1807 and 1810 by Robert Stevenson on the Bell Rock in the North Sea, 11 miles east of the Firth of Tay. Standing 35 metres tall, its light is visible from 35 statute miles inland. 

Thanks Martyn T for planning and leading. The Dunhill tournament golfers were going to get in the way at the Fife beaches so we launched from Arbroath. The actual track totalled 43 kms with spring tidal flows. The wind was a bit fresher on the way back in than forecast so overall we were out for about 10 or 11 hours,  Two PB’s for me;  a launch essentially in the dark, &  a much longer open water crossing than I’d done previously.