Black Isle and Cromarty for a crisp November weekend cruise

November 26-27th

A social paddling weekend based in the bunkhouse at the Berry Farm. Two "day" cruises, the first one from Rosemarkie beach going east and then north round the coast to Cromarty village.  Day 2 was from Nigg slipway and north up to Balintore harbour.  This was a NESKy group and so involved a mega-mix meal on the Saturday night plus a few glasses of vino.

Some folk managed to get sight of the dolphins, buzzards were soaring at the clifftop and some of us made the scramble up to the WWII lookout posts at the entrance to Cromarty.  The giant drilling semi-sub "West Phoenix" was very visible moored in the wider Moray firth. For some reason we missed looking at the mermaid that sits on the rock at Balintore.

Lovely area and we were really blessed with benign conditions given the time of year.

Blown round the Crowlin Islands

October 24-26th

Day 1: Monday – drove across to Kyle of Lochalsh with great weather and launched from the back of the playing fields about 2 hrs before high water.  Had planned a 4 day jaunt in a shortish weather window to see the Crowlins and to return to Scalpay.  Flat calm as I made my way up through the skerries northwards checking out the seals and round the headland towards Plockton.  Couldn’t see much of the actual village as the low sun was right in my eyes so didn’t hang about.  

Carried on east to the site of the old marker on Ulluva; headed across from there and again round the coastline past Loch Reraig’s inlet and on to a shingle beach for camp.  Nice sunset after a clear blue day.   

Pepperpot marker on Ulluva

Day 2: Tuesday.  Overslept as the camp site was still in full shade then tried to dry the tent outer (hoar frost!) so didn’t actually launch till 11:00hrs.  Headed west and then north around the headland (some other possible campsites here) and into Loch Kishorn simply to see what was there (there is of course the old offshore construction yard which just looks like a big coffer-dam;and I gather at the loch head there’s “selfie-phonebox”!).  Paddled west to Rubha-nah-Uamha and out to the southern tip of the Crowlins. Weather was worsening by this stage and to turn north into the natural harbour (between Eilean Mor and Eilean Meadhanach) was a pleasant change.  

Popped out the north end and started down the east side of Eilean Mor before cutting across for the beach at Uags bothy – this was a bit of a beam-on work out so happy to land about 16:15hrs with 24 kms for the day.  Had seen 2 porpoises during the crossing but neither them nor I felt like stopping to play.

I've even learnt what a "selfie" is.

Sirius all tucked for the night

Met the current occupant of the bothy, Steve, who had separately kayaked in the day before. Had a quick look at the other shielings on the hillside nearby.  The evening was pleasantly spent chatting with the log fire blazing away whilst the wind howled outside.

Day 3:  Wednesday -  Noted the stiff wind coming across the Inner Sound from the SW but given the shelter that the Crowlins provided then the paddle north up the coast towards Applecross was OK for a while.  Again was fortunate to watch an otter – this one a young one trying to eat fish and call out for its mother imbetween dives.  By Ardban though it had started to lash it down and so some shelter was sought in Poll Creadha (although I couldn’t find my pogies as I now wanted them).

Looked at the map and decided that it was still worth heading across towards Scalpay which would be essentially all head-to-wind and that would make the swell reasonable to handle.  The prudent course was via the northern tip of Eilean Beag though and then on to Longay.  

Conditions were a F3 and a significant chop but the periodic squalls coming across from the Broadford area were definitely not helpful. They brought some sets of bigger swell with them and a steady plodding pace seemed the best way to tackle this so the bow didn’t plough into the wave faces.  Still I had plenty of daylight hours left so across we went through the changing atmospherics, at some points it was like being in “the eye” with brightness and warmth!  All around the distant peaks though were in a changing grey veil – I could recognise Glamaig some of the time.

Landed on Longay for a break about 13:30hrs and again shelter from the rain.  Things were unlikely to improve if I just sat out the day on Longay and there was a risk it would just be the same issue but 24 hrs later.  Revised my plan so that it was one night less out in the open but would require an extra 18 kms today to get round the bay and back in to Kyle  -  looked do-able in the 4hrs remaining daylight and the seastate had moderated.

Dug around in the rear hatch some more and came up with my pogies which was a bonus.  Set off down the west side of Longay and then across to Scalpay’s southern coast.  This end of the island is unfortunately populated otherwise there could have been more options for camping.

Went round Guillamon Island just because it was there and then on to check out the smart looking property on the south side of Pabay.  Water was a lot calmer by this stage apart from the odd squall but at least it was coming over my shoulder now.  Still tricky taking photos though.  Headed east and under the Skye bridge to have a look, round and through the smaller bridge and into the cove to complete the trip at 17:00hrs.  This “shortened” day came in at 36 kms in 7.5hrs.  

Overall a challenging trip for doing solo given the conditions and a total of 78 kms.  This whole area is like one big amphitheatre with many possible routes and surrounded by majestic hills.


Ribble Reunion

Oct 8-12th.

A great plan of much activity with Ribble Canoe Club on their annual trip to bonny Scotland to be based in Grantown on Spey.... but it ended up as just one day's fun before I had to depart and drive south.  However the one day was well spent.  We pedalled the Ryvoan bothy circuit from Nethy Bridge round and over to Glenmore etc.  Big bits of cake and tea at the Loch Morlich cafe.  I'd also managed to get a pub dinner with Chris and Martin at the famous "pie&chips" pub in the town.

MTB in the Peak District under the parakite thingies

October 1-2nd

Two days down at Mike&Lyn's riding off-road around Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs on the Saturday, and a loop from Edale up Rushop Edge and round/down Jacob's Ladder on the Sunday.  Sunshine still out there so lots of tourists to dodge and also we seem to be buzzed by these kite thingies for a while.