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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:47 am 
I have wanted to visit the Treshnish Isles for many years now but on three previous attempts have turned back due to bad weather or marginal forecasts. The islands are off the west coast of the Isle of Mull, and are fully exposed to the open Atlantic. This year it was very calm and I had an easy crossing with just a little tidal movement and light variable winds to contend with. I paddled out of Loch Tuath, one of the big sea lochs which bites into the west coast of Mull, which gave me a fairly short crossing to the nearest of the islands.
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Arriving amongst the skerries between Lunga and Fladda, two of the main islands, I found myself in a dream environment of perfectly still, crystal clear water. I could not tell how deep the water was, and had frequent feelings of vertigo floating at what appeared to be a great height above the sands.
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There didn’t seem to be many options for camping and I went for an obvious spot which appeared to be well used.
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After dinner I walked up to the summit of Cruachan, the highest point of Lunga. The island has a very large population of Puffins (Fratercula arctica) which wandered casually about just a few feet away.
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A group of ornithologists were busy catching Puffins, Guillemots (Uria aalge) and Razorbills (Alca torda) for measurement and ringing. Many UK seabirds have been declining seriously in recent years, possibly due to rising sea temperatures affecting their food supply.
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The view from Cruachan at sunset looking towards the islands of Coll and Tiree.....
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…..and at dusk looking north east towards the coast of Mull.
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Next morning, the forecast wasn’t quite as optimistic as it had been and I decided to do two days in one, rather than risk being caught out by bad weather. First stop was a visit to the Cairn na Burg islands, at the north end of the group. These two islands both have castle ruins and I stopped on the larger one to explore. Although only a few walls remain they were pretty impressive; there were only two or three ways up onto the islands’ summit and all had been fortified at one time. It didn't take much imagination to see how difficult a position it would have been to take.
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I continued south again, exploring as I went. There were huge numbers of Lion's Mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata), including this very large one which had ensnared a Moon jelly (Aurelia aurita), apparently a regular prey species.
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On the west side of Lunga is an impressive isolated stack, covered in nesting auks. This was where the man pictured above was catching birds for ringing. I could have paddled between the stack and Lunga, but might not have made myself popular for doing so for obvious reasons. I just admired the birds from the outside. The furthest south island, Bac Mor is in the distance.
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The short crossing felt like a trip out into the open Atlantic which I guess it is really. There were a few porpoises; many Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus); a solitary great shearwater (Puffinus gravis); and best of all, a little gaggle of Storm petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) for company. How on earth do such tiny birds survive on the open sea for most of the year?
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I rounded the end of the very last island, Bac Beag before heading south east for Staffa.
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Staffa looked a long way off, but I had the mountains of Mull to beckon me onwards.
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I arrived at the southern tip of the island by the famous Fingal's Cave. I've been to Staffa before but always in company, never alone.
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Looking back from Staffa towards the Treshnish Isles.
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I still had another four mile crossing to my intended campsite on the island of Ulva. I have camped in this spot many times before. I keep coming back to it though; it's probably my favourite wild campsite anywhere.
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Next morning I set off for a leisurely exploration of the nearby island of Inch Kenneth. The wind had now got up to a good force 5-6 as forecast though and I was glad I had not stayed out on the Treshnish Isles another night. I passed one of the local tourist boats heading for Staffa. They were in for a lively journey once out of the relatively sheltered waters of Loch na Keal.
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Unfortunately the wind funnelling through the gap in the hills above meant I had to change my plans; I just couldn't make progress against it. I landed on the sheltered, eastern tip of the island for lunch instead. Looking back to Ulva there appeared to be no wind at all but the last few miles back to my van were some of the hardest I have ever paddled.
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Andrea.


Last edited by andreadawn on Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:48 am 
lord high faltbotmeister
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Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 4:55 am
Posts: 575
Location: Dumfries, SW Scotland
Thanks for a great report & photos, Andrea. I've been to most of these places, but always by tourist boat, not kayak. One day...

Loved the jellyfish picture, the way you used the land reflection to give them a dark background.

My Scottish holiday this year (again, not kayaking) was further north, Lewis/ St Kilda. But for variety of scenery and wildlife, Mull and its surrounding islands are hard to beat.

Mary

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:21 pm 
Awesome Andrea, just aweswome. Great report, great pictures - a trip in itself! I've always wanted to visit Fingal's cave - it's part of the same basalt formation as the Giant's Causeway in Antrim in Northern Ireland. I've paddled that coast a bit, and paddling along such geometric rocks is very strange. Must get to Scotland sometime soon.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 9:05 am 
Another "thank you" for the beautiful pics! :D


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 4:04 pm 
The Lion's Mane was one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes adventures. Thanks for posting your beautiful photos and sharing your adventure.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2009 5:14 am 
Thank you for the replies.

maryinoxford wrote:
Loved the jellyfish picture, the way you used the land reflection to give them a dark background.


I'd like to be able to claim credit for that Mary but it was just pure luck! How was your trip to St Kilda? I'm very envious. I really must get out there one day. I certainly won't be paddling there though!

Andrea.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:21 am 
Awsome trip report, fantastic photos!! 8) Solo paddling in remote locations is great, one becomes more receptive to the sceneries, I think.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:04 pm 
lord high faltbotmeister
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Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 4:55 am
Posts: 575
Location: Dumfries, SW Scotland
andreadawn wrote:
How was your trip to St Kilda? I'm very envious. I really must get out there one day. I certainly won't be paddling there though!


Worth doing, although I don't know that I would make a habit of it... it's a long way...

For those who don't know the location: Off the west edge of Scotland are the Western Isles, a 150-mile-long chain of populated islands. Keep heading west, another 40 miles into the open Atlantic, and you find St. Kilda, a small group of precipitous, lonely islands. For centuries people scratched a hard living there, but the settlement is abandoned now. The only people are the military, who have a communication station there, and conservation workers in summer. People visit for the history, the seabird colonies, and the dramatic sea cliffs.

I went out there on a 12-passenger cruise boat. The same boat takes kayakers out a couple of times every summer, acting as mother-ship. But paddling there is not for the faint-hearted, and I was happy to be seeing it from a bigger vessel.

After a 6-hour rough crossing, and my first experience of being seasick, the stacks loomed out of the mist:
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Quite a sinister place...
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We anchored for the night in Village Bay, the site of the old settlement. Next morning, things were still grey --
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-- But by afternoon, the sun had come out, and the prospect was more cheerful:
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Third day of the visit, as we left the village, we could now see where we were going--
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-- and the birds we had gone to look at:
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Gannets swirling like a snowstorm over the colony:
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But if you want to go paddling there, you'd need to take care, because there are not many places you could land.
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Mary

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:57 am 
Thanks for adding the superb St Kilda pics Mary. Looks fantastic.

Andrea.


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