More madness.... A mega project.

 We'll covid lockdown is just getting tedious. So as I'm now allowed, I've set off on a mega trip.

The solo round-Scotland sea kayak trip. Raising funds for Doddie Weird Motor Neurone Disease foundation. Of

This is an 8-10 week challenge and is live right now. Checkout progress on Facebook "solo sea kayak journey".

Will post a summary here later.


March not quite so madness...

 March 2021

So the weather has slowly been improving and certainly outdoor sports are getting less grim as the snow has receded to the high peaks.  Again C-19 rules have kept us all local but at least there is light in the tunnel.

March saw me get out for a short or medium walk probably every second day to keep the limbs moving plus a regular kettlebell class on a Monday+Friday to keep the core muscles in trim.


Heading to "Friend Electric"

Boating and biking continue to improve with ten MTB rides and six boat sessions.  Biking was all centred on the Aboyne trails (Master Blaster, Chutney Nudger, Oh Deer, Scooby Do, etc) but good exercise if only in shortish bursts.  Ground is pretty wet still and there was quite a lot of tree litter to stop & clear each time.  

Messing about in the GT, river high again

Sea boat 10k on the loch

The boat stuff was mainly training laps in either the Sting (slalom boat on the Dee in Aboyne) or my Pace 17 (on Loch Kinord, Dinnet) – could do with some real whitewater.  

Also completed a lap of Cnoc Dubh/Roller Coaster with some mates using my 29er in the last couple of days - ground is now drying up - that made 200kms for the month on the mtb.


Anyway things are looking up with the possible lifting of restrictions in April and having got a first jab.  Won't be able to go to the Alps in May but I'll dream up a different plan for UK fun.




More of the same...

 February 2021

For a while the sheer amount of snow was a real barrier to off-road cycling; once it turned to an icy base layer it was murder getting traction up hills etc.  

However we finally got some improvement and so I got 4 rides in on the new bike.  Still getting to grips with (see what I did there...?) the contact points for bum+hands and a series of minor adjustments went on.  Decided also on changing down to a 30T chainring to give me more uphill endurance for the Deeside hill climbs (eg Cairn Leuchan).  Changing a saddle is kinda difficult as you dont know what you like/dislike till youve spent your brass - a  bit like buying new single malts!

Also as the snow melted the river level rose and managed a couple of "sprint" training sessions in my old slalom racing boat.  And when things really kicked off I took my sea kayak for an 8km rush down the river.  Grade 2/3 rapids just flashed by as my GPS showed 22 kph at some points, 16 kph average.

No real plan to the days though yet as Covid lockdown continues.  Its not worth planning longer sea adventures until we get to maybe April when I can hopefully get across to the west coast.  I do see that for the second year running my trip to the italian alps for steep creeking (Valsesia river festival) is just not going to happen is it.

Other activities were mainly walking in the snow, bright day light does help the mood, and maybe some maintenance type stuff as I have my old bike to clean up & sell.

Cheers for now, S.


January 2021 been & gone, locked down again.....

 Well Christmas is over, and for hogmanay we were back to a lockdown.  It then started snowing and has done so on & off all month.  Means I was back to my trusty MTB and some solo riding all round the low hills of upper Deeside.

Certainly when it was fresh and crunchy, it's a very pleasant way to ride and get some exercise.  I've been exploring a more XC sort of loop that will form a 20 kms exercise track going forwards - and as the gradients are reasonable I intend to ride it in both directions.

However the snow is now freezing hard and things are getting tougher. Certainly the access track climb is now sheet ice and in SPD shoes that's not much fun trying to stagger up it.

The other ways of me staying fit are local walks with the missus in the hour of sunshine that seems to prevail around noon, and going for a blast round in my old slalom boat.  If I carry it to one end of the road I can get about a 45 minute session in before I get too bored.  Its only a grade 1 or 2 but allows some surfing on the pipe wave and a few break-ins/pirrouettes lower down.  Then maybe a few shuttle sprints.

Biking is off now as we head into February as I once learnt a painful lesson on some ice a few  years back.  Need a good thaw that will help the river and allow some longer MTB trails once more.

Got a zoom whisky tasting with my neighbours though one evening this week so not all too grim !   Slainte.


A mixed month, baa humbug to halloween

 October 2020


So a mixed activity set running through October as the summer seems to be well past us now.  First off a few chilled out mountain bike days with the missus whilst we had the van parked at Findhorn Bay.  Culbin Forest to the west of the bay has a few ups & downs and a super lagoon section to splash alongside (just watch the tide times).  To the east of Findhorn you follow the dunes along the Kinloss perimeter track and then through the pine woods towards Burghead – lots of little local bike trails in here).  And actually hidden in the woods at Forres there’s a small local trail centre.


Then it was over to Ardnamurchan to meet my mate Chris W for a few days sea kayaking.  Based at the Resipole Farm campsite with lots of covid rules but we got 3 good day trips completed.  We both have Tiderace Pace 17’s so well matched for cruising about. Day one was Resipole west to the island of Carna and then south into Loch Teacuis (the expected faster tidal flows didn’t materialise), exiting via the back of Oronsay (again you need watch the tide state).  Saw a porpoise briefly plus the seals. 40 kms for the day.

Day 2 was a launch from Kilchoan jetty going across the sound to Ardmore Point on Mull and then along past the lighthouse to Tobermory for a fish/chip supper (for lunch) before a circuit of Calve Island and back north via the Stirk buoys and Red Rocks passing Mingarry Castle towards the end.  A mighty sea eagle was watching from his clifftop perch.

Day 3 just before the threatening forecast storm so just went up east to Upper Loch Sunart (Strontian) and back.  Saw several otters in this area.  An easy 24 kms but very picturesque.  The strangest “spot” was seeing a splash in the water ahead of us that turned into a “wild” swimmer – no he wasn’t wild he just ignored us!


Nice area for when its too rough elsewhere on the west coast, and apart from the CallyMac boats it wasn't a crowded seaway.  Maybe next time we'll go round to Calgary Beach and see if the ice cream van is open.

Then a change of boats and friends – paddled the Orchy on the 25th in my Machno.  Not the highest river level but a good trip and nice grade 4 rapids to play with.  Thanks to Andy H for leading.


And then at the very end of the month I had a solo sea paddle out of Stonehaven in my (infrequently used) P&H Sirius; sunshine and just a blustery F2 so simply exercise in the great outdoors after a covid-secure run by the local recycling centre.


So October turned out OK afterall.  (Halloween is here along with a squally, gusty, wet day with the colour  blowing off the trees - at least there is 3 international rugby matches on the telly today).


(some photos courtesy of Chris Wade and Andy Holt)


How far west can we go...?

 Sept 19/20th 2020

The forecast was pretty good for the weekend but Monday was going to be a sudden southerly F4, so the plan to paddle across the Minch was squeezed out (and maybe by the early morning tidal start). We had another alternative as the Small Isles but two days didn’t seem to do them justice.  So we settled on a trip around the Point of Ardnamurchan which includes the most westerly mainland lighthouse in the UK.  We (“the team”) were Martyn T and myself.  Small & organised and able to simply get on with it !


Anyway – Saturday morning saw us move a car to Ardtoe on the northern flank of the peninsula and then pack the camping gear into the kayaks at Salen slipway.  The weather was fantastic and so the paddling was straight forward with just a hint of assistive flow westwards.  At some stage we spotted a Golden Eagle soaring at the cliff top but otherwise it was just a few solitary seals checking us out.


Lunch was a brief stop next to Mingary Castle which is a 13th century vertical sided fortress on the sea edge that has been restored in to some sort of bijou hotel by the Estate.  Looks pretty smart on the outside but it’s lacking a sweep of coral sand (the foreshore is all boulders!).  On westwards past Kilchoan and the proper expanse of Mull becomes obvious to the south.


Rounding northwards we were still in flat calm conditions with a breath of wind.  The Stevenson designed lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point comes into view quite suddenly with its bull horn clearly visible on the end of the land mass. 


And so we looked for a suitable campsite at the far end of Sanna bay – lots of walkers and so folk about but we ended up on  small patch a good walk up the shallow gradient beach (long boat carry).  The view was grand from here including the lighthouse and the sun dipping below the horizon.  The tidal range (springs) was also impressive as the 250m of sand disappeared at very quick rate.  38 kms that day.


Relaxed start on the Sunday around HW and after cleaning up some of the rubbish left by other muppet campers.  Sun was shining again and we had gorgeous views of Muck, Eigg & Rum; they looked “just” a short paddle across the sound.  A couple of northerly skerries gave us a chance to dodge some waves but otherwise it was plain sailing.  Elevenses were had on another steep bouldery inlet.  Not many seabirds around while we paddled – the odd razor bill and some gulls – and again a few solitary seals checking us out.


Paddled into Ardtoe beach just before 1pm for a total of 60 kms for the trip.  No hassles, topped up the tan, and all was good – back via the Corran Ferry.  Thanks for the company Martyn.



The tea-total non-distillery tour of Islay (A homage to the home of the peaty malt industry)

 Aug 28th - Sept 2nd 2020

The plan….  Do a sea kayak /camping circumnavigation of the island of Islay but start by portaging across Jura from the mainland (oh & none of the distilleries are yet open for business post lockdown)

Day 1, Friday Aug 28th 2020
Drove across Glenshee, Aberfeldy, Loch Tay, Tyndrum, Dalmally, Inverary, Lochgilphead then winding down Crinan and Tayvalich to edge of the Island of Danna.  Parked up, loaded my trusty Tiderace PACE 17S and away at 1410hrs.  Out beyond the rock finger at Keills and then north before going straight across westwards to Jura.  The crossing was hardwork with N wind F3 and a small chop (8 kms across). Exited in Tarbert Bay across the sand by the chapel and up the landrover double-track that heads NW. Bits were very bumpy so it took a while to ensure the load stayed on the portage trolley – slightly soft pneumatic tyres were a real boon.  Actually met two estate landrovers coming out as I tackled the last 200m. Anyway they were smiling behind their covid masks!

Quickly repacked the boat and launched again about 6pm into the lovely quiet inner Loch Tarbert with sunshine and peace. It is tidal but I didn’t see much flow through the narrows at Chumhain Bhig  (max my GPS reported was 11kph). Great scenery in the loch with a few moored yachty visitors and some estate fishing/working boats. Out of Loch Tarbert after 12 kms and the final push for the day with an increasing NW wind.  The crossing to Rhuvaal light on Islay was in a bigger rolling swell going south into the mouth of the Sound. I was heading directly into the sun (very late afternoon) due west, and it became dusk as I completed the crossing.  Nice sunset as I was landing on the first big beach past the light (Dhoruis), good job it had been a clear skies sort of day. So dinner was late and eaten in the tent. A total of 34kms for the day including the 2 km portage. Had spotted some seals but not much else.

Day 2, Saturday
Early alarm and launched at 0845. Still aiming west along the top of the island with a large lumpy “beam on” sea, bright skies though. Avoided the shallows at Gruinart Bay, past Ardnave Point, and saw some good looking landing/lunch spots on Nave island (for the future). Got some downwind action as I turned the corner to head south but also had to well aware of the sharp rock reefs extending out from the foreshore. Pulled over for lunch after a satisfying and refreshing 25kms at Fleisgein Bheag beach.  Unusual for me but took a good 45mins time-out here. 

Then onwards past alternating headlands and beaches on Islay’s exposed west coast. Sea state a little easier across Kilchoman Bay (about 38 kms so far – distillery #1 spotted on the rise) but it was big & lumpy for the final hour down to Lossit. 

Had maintained a good average speed so able to get an early finish at 41kms on a beautiful beach. Good campsite and still had some sun to dry out my gear – brilliant.

Day 3, Sunday
Off at 0915 to get the tides right round the Rhinns. It was a quieter sea and indeed so calm that I diverted around the outside of Frenchman’s Rocks. Lots of seals hauled out including pups so had to choose my route carefully – too far out and I would be heading Stateside.  So out wide and then cut inwards between Orsay & its neighbour.  Great little tidal overfalls there to surf across.

Tidal flow changed about this point and I could feel it starting to oppose my run east round Rhinns Point.  Eddy hopped a bit and turned north east towards Loch Indaal and Port Charlotte for lunch.
As a family we have good memories of Port Charlotte & Bruichladdich as we had once acquired a hogshead of spirit (in the year 2001 when the distilleries re-awakened instead of permanent closure) to mark one of life’s occasions – the family whisky is now well into its drinking phase.  The little light at Port Charlotte is still well maintained; Bruichladdich on the other hand was hidden in parts by scaffolding, I guess lockdown has allowed bigger maintenance to take over. 

Post lunch it was a gentle paddle across the idyllic throat of Loch Indaal to Laggan Head where a pair of buzzards were spotted soaring above the shoreline.  Maybe I thought of this as idyllic because there was nearly an hour’s worth of downwind paddling involved with a 1 - 2 ft swell and bright skies. In exploring the rock formations and crevices towards Laggan Point, I noticed that there was lots to do (explore) but only a few landing sites.  A pair of eagles came by to out-trump the buzzards, they took no notice of me.  The flatter sea state south across Laggan Bay was a little tiring  but with good mileage achieved I decided to go on to my second choice camp further round The Oa.  Arrived at a beach next to Eileanan Mora with many tall fractured rock formations in the bay.

Interesting place with wild goats passing through plus the farm’s free-range cows but there were remarkable cliffs and dykes as well.  Westward facing and a gentle breeze so minimal midgie menace.  42 kms for the day.


Day 4, Monday
Nearly missed my planned start time due to having a friendly farmer chat and as he was so positive I also did a litter pick of the shoreline.  Away by 0930 and round below the American Monument which seems to loom above you from sea level. 

Lumpy seas but it was bright; fresh from the SE (so the forecast was right as a new weather system became relevant).  There are great cliffs and rock inlets along the south coast of The Oa – tremendous scenery.  The opposing flow maybe started an hour early (springs) but it was manageable across to Rhubha nan Leacan. Then it was 6 kms NE up to Port Ellen lighthouse (Carraig Fhada) for lunch in its wind shadow, watched the Calmac ferry arrive at the big pier across the way.

So now a section I’d really looked forward to… across east and 4 distilleries within 4 miles. Of course I can visit none this year but they are great buildings from the sea – to think of the millions of litres of pure spirit  just resting there and becoming amber.  First off, Port Ellen (both a sleeping distillery and the local maltings for entire Islay), some interesting skerries to steer round and of course until I get past Texa the flow is against me.  Laphroaig next, then Lagavulin, and Ardbeg last.  Lagavulin sits inside a fortress of rock with 4 ft waves surging into the entrance under a grey sky – just a magic way to arrive.  Anyway – sugar sweetie time looking at Ardbeg jetty; got about another 15 kms to do before camp.

Some pretty large lumps of rock stick out from the SE corner of the coastline, some interesting paddling and some positive flow now as I’m well east.  Then a steady run to head north to Ardtalla. 

My planned campsite didn’t look that good I so went further north and landed on a beach just before McArthur’s Head.  Brilliant site. 

Sunny evening.  Chill time.  Waves crashing on the sand 20 yds from my tent.  Completed 39 kms for the day.

Day 5, Tuesday
Sunny start again looking at a steady breeze up the Sound of Islay from the south.  Aim to complete the circumnav and get back into the innards of Jura today.  But had an extra half hour relaxation as I want the peak tide up the way instead of using up my meagre muscles.  Briefly checked out the bothy at An Cladach on the way past as I hadn’t been there before – its tiny! 

Then steamed up to Port Askaig for coffee & sandwich from the shop.  Drizzle started now but peak stream so about 17 kph passing the upper channel light.  Got photos of Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain distilleries on the way up the sound.  


Once opposite the lighthouse at Rhuvaal that completed the actual Islay loop. 

Paddled east into the slash across Jura (Loch Tarbert) and the visibility dropped, the mountain down-draughts made themselves felt, and paddling became a challenge once more.  Presumably with a southerly wind the big hills create turbulence and each mini-Glen funnelled gusts across what should have been sheltered waters.  I could still see the raised beaches on the north shore though and the hundreds of tonnes of pebbles that must be a good 50 ft above the current shore level.  At times I seemed to have my own spot of blue sky above me and a rainbow to the NE; fantastic atmospheric action all around.  Seals, stone dykes & caves make up the horizontal views.

In to the first narrows (Cumhann Mor) and about a 3 or 4 kph assist but no excitement.  An interesting area to paddle through and will be worth a return visit some day. The odd estate boat moving clients about (or farmers moving their sheep), curlews around.  The final narrows at Chumhainn Bhig were again an anticlimax – dead smooth and only 10 kph on the GPS.  However after the work out in the drizzle/rain it was very pleasant to cruise eastwards in a more stable evening environment.  The final reward for being there was to spot a golden eagle soaring above a woodland on the side of Glac Mor, and then a sea eagle resting on a far shingle bank.  I drifted downwind and tried to take some pictures and it sat there looking at me (it struck me as being the same size as a turkey! But with a wicked hooked beak).  

It finally opened its enormous wings and moved another 200m away – magnificent bird.  40 kms for the day.

Day 6, Wednesday
Stormy all night in the tent and misty across the loch in the morning, I woke early with the nylon rattling about.  Made my porridge and had coffee anyway and then went back to reading a novel for an hour.  Once there were pauses in the wind/rain I went out for a stroll to reconsider my plan for the day.  Decided to do the portage across to the Jura east coast in the wet stuff and assess the sea conditions there.  The portage seemed to be a bit easier this time (maybe I had loaded the bags on the trolley better?) and I was back on the grey beach at Tarbert in about 45 minutes.


Packed the boat and headed out beyond the headland to see – still squally & grey!  However there weren’t any real whitecaps just roly-poly wave sets.  Headed due east for a km and then added in a 30 deg offset to allow for a southbound tidal flow.  The far side was a brown smear without clear landmarks to start with so mainly paddling with the deck compass; GPS actual track was my backup.  Got to the halfway point (about 4 kms) and conditions remained steady – vis improved and I had a big white house to aim for – wind possibly 20 kts blowing up the Sound of Jura.  Carried on with the graft and was soon able to veer down tide for the last 500m approach to the point (better able to judge landfall on the thin sliver of a rock finger of Rubha na Cille  (otherwise it was land on Gigha maybe).  Rounded that point and got the relief of going north (=downwind today) and the smooth waters near the Island of Danna.


Job done…. Back to the car after 210 kms and 5 nights away.  Went from sun to wetness to wild winds to midgies – of course the highlight was getting to see the sea eagle. Also I had paid homage to the distilleries along the way but didn’t even have a single dram.
Pretty satisfying trip.