Kayaking around the Morvern Peninsula
Part 3: Loch Sunart never disappoints
Three days in, less than 30km to go, and the weather turning brighter, calmer and sunnier; completing the circumnavigation was becoming much more of a reality. After yesterday's exertions, we made a slow start to the day having already made a decision to miss the early high tide and the opportunity to paddle through the gap at Doirlinn, Oronsay. 'Doirlinn' is derived from a Galeic word which means 'beach that floods from both sides' - a spit of land that joins one piece of land to the another and gets flooded at high tides. The island that Castle Tioram sits on is a good example and you'll see signs to Doirlinn as you turn off the main road near Acharacle.
Our only options were to carry over wet seaweed (I've done this on a previous trip and it really isn't worth the energy expended) or head back out of Loch na Drohma Buidhe and around the north side of Oronsay.
Droma Buidhe to Ardery
Day four: Carna, Oronsay and Loch Sunart
We opted from the latter and paddled out of Loch na Drohma Buidhe in conditions so different to when we had arrived yesterday. With time on our hands to admire the clear views across to Ben Hiant (pronounced 'hee-ant'), the highest mountain on Ardnamurchan, and the top end of the Isle of Mull, we skirted around the north shores of Oronsay before darting back in towards Loch Teacuis paddling against the tide. Given how storng the ebb tide was and how far ot was to enter Loch Teacuis, we decide not to but to head around the south east of Carna and emerge onto Loch Sunart through a very shallow Caol Charna (the Gaelic 'Caol' or 'Caolas' means 'a narrow neck of water' and usually has a faster flow of water) running with the ebb tide and over shallow waters.
If things had worked out differently over the previous three days, we could have spent the day exploring Loch Teacuis (only accessible by boat) and looking for seals, otters and eagles (Golden and White-tailed) that are fairly common in this remote area before camping at another spot nearby. Knowing the best camping spots enables maximum flexibility over the journey and gives the ability to tailor it to the people on it. We had discussed the options and decided to head on gently, in perfect conditions, and make it to another wonderful wild camping spot much further up Loch Sunart. One thing that Cameron spotted along the route, and I was already aware of, was that in over 160km of shoreline (including the Mull shoreline and both sides of Loch Sunart), there were actually very few decent wild camping spots. Which left some big gaps between possible locations - Loch Sunart being one of them.
I've paddled the length of Loch Sunart many times since starting Otter Adventures in 2017 and found very few locations that I would consider for wild camping. While there are places to pitch a tent, they often lack fresh, clean water, or are on quite steep slopes or overgrown with bracken (and ticks). Some are near roads or buildings, which goes against the wilderness feeling this trip should have. While I would use these if needed, we wanted campsites with views and sunsets, not cars and barking dogs.
And we made sure we got that for our last night of the expedition...
As we progressed slowly around the isle of Carna and along Loch Sunart, we made sure to explore any possibility of a wild camp spot as the next know (really good) spot was around 20km away (without any detours). While we stopped often, crossed Loch Sunart several times, we came up with very few possibilities and none that matched our two best ones so far or the one I was aiming for.
We did call in at the Salen Jetty Shop for a coffee and a restock (of whisky!) ready for our last night together in what was rapidly becoming perfect conditions for kayaking.
Do have a watch of my video diary for the fourth day and you will see what I mean.
The final eight kilometers on home waters
Rounding Rubha Aird Earnaich near Salen yesterday and I was most definitely back on 'home waters'. Even though I know the area really well, there are still small bits I have not fully explored. The scenery never fails to impress - especially on a day like this.
We were all happy to bimble along looking for camp spots, but I knew that none would beat the one I had in mind.
The final morning we were all woken by rising temperatures in our tents as there was not a breath of wind and the skies were clear and blue. After a breakfast of fresh eggs, fresh coffee and other goodies.
Passing through the Laudale Narrows against a gentle ebb tide is easy in comparison to Wednesdays efforts. On the Strontian side, the Ngoni super yacht had been anchored overnight. It is a sleek marvel for sure at 58m long and with a height of over 50m! It may look very different to our 4.9m kayaks, somehow it was just the same - a home from home from which to explore the seas and landscapes that frame them. Were we really that different?
With fresh fried eggs and coffee and several other goodies for breakfast, we were ready to tackle the last 10km or do back to Strontian Jetty and Otterburn B&B. It was not going to be a tough day, but one to review the week and congratulate each other for having made the circumnavigation of Morvern (even if it was a year later than planned).
Stopping (because we could) on Ardnastang Beach for another brew, we savoured the warmth of the sun before making our way to the head of Loch Sunart that many of my guests have paddled in canoe or kayak during one of our 'taster' sessions.
The adventure was a success. We made it all the way round, no one went hungry or capsized and we had a real mix of weather conditions. With photos waiting to be edited and stories waiting to be told (round the next expedition campfire, no doubt), we arrived at the jetty in Strontian just two minutes walk from our house where Laura had left my car and kayak trailer for our boats.
Back at Otterburn, we unloaded, made sure we had all our own kit and had a sandwich courtesy of Otterburn B&B before both Stuart and Cameron headed off eastwards back to Aberdeen or Cairngorm.
Both are keen for more kayaking adventures and I'm sure we'll be heading out again fairly soon.
I've got several other ideas for trips in the 'Ardnamurchan' area as it really does offer so much potential for sea kayak expeditions for beginners as well as more advanced paddlers...