Sarah and her kayak head for the Hebrides this time. To the island that sits in my own memory as ‘the most beautiful place on earth.’ Other than Liverpool, obviously. Let’s see how she gets on?
So my last ‘four days on the water’ were not to be and tinged with sadness, and now I am off to Mull for another ‘four days on the water’. I hope it will be a better tale this time. I have driven up to Oban, and am catching the ferry across to Craignure, where I will be staying during my time on the Isle of Mull.
I haven’t been this far north since 2009, when Ronnie and I first came to Mull, twice in the same year, we loved it. As I drive north I have the sense of really getting away. Things slip into irrelevance. It is a good feeling.
Passing the lighthouse at the end of Lismore.
And I arrive at Pennygate Lodge, my home here on Mull.
The view from my window.
The next morning, day one, is windy and wet. Me and Mark, of Venture-7 (who is coaching me for the next four days) drive to Lochbuie. This is a sea loch on the south of Mull, where we will spend the day in the wind, for my learning and improved confidence.
Visibility is poor, as the cloud is so low.
We find some gentle surf to play in, which makes me happy.
Lunch in the rain and seaweed.
A good first day.
Driving home, with both boats on my car now, ready for tomorrow.
And back ‘home’ for my journal and a delicious meal at Pennygate Lodge.
I am happy here, I have observed before about being in the Hebrides that time seems to pass slowly here.
Day two is sunny. I drive to Ulva Ferry to meet Mark.
And we set off for a journey.
A first for me – I navigate the following open sea crossing, to the isle of Eorsa, in Loch Na Keal.
We then make another opening crossing from Eorsa to the opposite shore. And we lunch on a white sand beach, opposite the isle of Inch Kenneth.
Then back to Ulva Ferry, passing cliffs made of basalt, similar to the configurations found at Fingal’s Cave on nearby Staffa.
The map of our journey.
As we are driving away, we stop to look back at the loch and the places we’ve been.
A good day and I am pleased. We had some fairly choppy conditions and I was happy with my performance.
Back home, my kayaking gear is rinsed and hung out to dry in the sunny evening, which brings a lovely sunset.
I sleep well.
Day three, we head out into the Sound of Mull from Craignure, it is nice to have a slipway just at the end of the garden!
And we are followed and watched by a group of seals.
Today, I have been put in the role of ‘group leader’, and as you can see I am carrying the additional kit on my kayak, which makes me feel quite important! Mark says I am ‘evolving’ as a paddler.
And we head back to Craignure, into what looks like a pleasant afternoon.
But there is a surprise in store for us. We have discussed how the environment here is ‘dynamic’, it’s changing all the time. The tide and weather are constantly shifting, and we have to stay aware of that.
The sky becomes dark. Charged. And then we hear thunder…
We are out in open water, so we paddle swiftly to the nearest shore, and listen as the thunder comes closer. We are not far from our end destination but it would not be sensible to stay out on the water now, as there is lightning too. And as the highest things on the water we would be vulnerable. So it’s time to get out of the boats. We sit away from the shore, wearing our ponchos which keep us fairly dry, and wait for the storm to pass. The seals pop up to have a look at us.
I have not experienced a storm out on the water before, and it is an elemental reminder about the environment we are in. A good reminder.
We later finish our journey, arriving back at the slipway – you can see Pennygate Lodge in the photo below.
And after the storm the evening is golden and blue.
And the sunset is even better.
Eventually it’s time to sleep, and I am grateful for the wooden shutters in my bedroom, as it’s so light late into the night.
Day four, our last day, and we are making another journey, this time starting at Loch Spelve in the south of Mull, and we will make our way back to Craignure. Helen, Mark’s partner, drops us off to begin our trip.
We leave the seaweed-y shore and are soon in the middle of Loch Spelve.
We turn out into the Firth of Clyde
And make our way up to Duart Castle, back into the Sound of Mull.
Here there is a handy beach to land, where we have our lunch.
And then it’s time to head home.
And end the day at my ‘local’ slipway.
Time for my last evening here at Pennygate Lodge.
Where the food is superb.
And I am packed ready to leave in the morning.
Arriving at Inverary it is raining over Loch Fyne, but the sun comes out as I slip back south along Loch Eck. I love this watery place, the many greens and the flashes of silver, and the peace. Me and my boat have been very happy here.
And then I complete my journey away from here on a ferry from Dunoon.
And make the long drive home. Tired, but happy. And one of my stops is at Annandale Water services to be greeted by the geese in the car park!
Tuesday, today, I am home, reflecting on my trip to Mull, and what I want to do next with my sea kayaking adventure. It is only just over a year since I began this adventure, and it’s surprising how important it has become to me. And how much it adds to my sense of well being and confidence. It is essential to me.
I stayed at Pennygate Lodge in Craignure. Many thanks to my hosts Fiona and Tony for a lovely stay and for your attention and care, I had a lovely stay. The bed was so comfortable it was hard to get up in the morning! Thank you both for everything.