Sea to Skye Blog

Sea Kayaking Beginner Course

We ran our first sea kayaking beginner course this week and the forecast was a little mixed with everything from snow, rain , and sunshine, which most would describe as a typical week on the west coast of Scotland. However, you shouldn't always believe the BBC and we were blessed by three amazing days on the water. 

Day1: After introductions over a cup of coffee and a chat about what everyone wanted to get out of the three days, the  participants were  given a choice from our wide variety of sea kayaks while I tried to ensure they had the right craft for their ability, even if the final decision came down to colour!! Day one of any course is always a bit of a faff by the time we get everyone kitted out for their adventures. With such a glorious day I decided that the sunshine couldn't last for the duration of the course and to give the best experience possible we headed for Plockton for our introductory day. Its sheltered waters make it an ideal venue to introduce the first time paddler to sea kayaking. So after the usual introductions to boats and paddles we headed for the crystal clear waters around Plockton. A perhaps less typical spring day afforded us amazing views of the Applecross peninsula which provide a perfect back drop to any day on the water.

Sea Kayaking  Plockton

My passion for kayaking comes from the freedom it provides to explore some of our amazing coastlines and it wasn't too long before we couldn't resist the lure of some of the islands that lie to the east of the village. So after an introduction to forward paddling my participants were off and paddling heading out to explore some of the islands. Stopping for lunch in a sheltered bay also provided an opportunity to explore a small nature reserve. After a review of the mornings activities and the usual wrestling with wet suits for a visit to the loo we headed off down the coast to view some local hide aways which to me highlights the advantage of using local guides, as they can show you points of interest that are only known through local knowledge whether it be culture, history or wildlife and I don't mean the local bar on a Saturday night!!

After a short crossing to Plockton light house and a brief stop on the Coral Beach, which is not actually coral but maerl, we headed back into Plockton, all be it a little red as someone had forgot to take the sun screen but at least it wasn't wind burn!!!

Day 2: Tuesday brought a little glitch in the west coast weather but with a prospect of an improvement in conditions by mid day, it was agreed that perhaps, we would do a trip planning and navigation session to look at some basic planning and where to source the information you need to get safely on the water. This included  a session on demystifying the dark art that is nautical charts, without giving everyone information overload.

Sea Kayaking Eilean Donan Castle

After an early lunch it was decided to head for Dornie and 914 Outdoor and move on the skills set from the day before. So after looking at improving both turning and control of the boats through edging we headed out across the loch from Eilean Donan Castle to Totaig and then once there, it was decided that we would make the short walk to the Broch which dates back to approximately 300 BC. As we kayaked along the coast we were also blessed by the unusual site of a Pine Marten hunting on the shore line, something I have never seen before in day lights hours, as these animals are nearly always nocturnal. 

We returned to Dornie in the late afternoon with just enough time to look at some rescue techniques and being the gentleman I am, I offered to do the wet bit. So all in all an action packed day with lots of information to take on to our final day.   

Spar Cave

Day 3 It was decided through agreement between the group that if the weather dawned bright with little wind, we should try for one of the classic little sea kayak trips, Kilmarie to Elgol on the Isle of Skye.This paddle is ideal for first time paddlers as long as the weather is settled, as it can be much more challenging should there be a strong swell coming up from the SW. This was not the case, although it was unfortunate that Anita could not join us for the final day as her modelling career beckoned and she had to return to work!!! Skyak Adventures had realised the potential of the day and a group of  Skyak Kayaks had set off in front of us from Kilmarie heading for Spar Cave. Arriving about twenty minutes after the gaggle of kayaks it was decided to wait until they exited the caves before entering to explore this amazing geological feature, that has been a bit of a mecca for visitors to Skye since victorian times. I always think there is something special about visiting Spar Cave by sea kayak, as the experience is enhanced by letting you view many more amazing geological features as you paddle towards the cave from Kilmarie. I always find the waters particularly fascinating as they appear to be terquoise in colour and against the back drop of Blaven, there is perhaps no other view that would match it. After a quick lunch, we went into explore the cave which again no matter how many times I enter this cavern, I am captivated by the geology which has been sculptured by mother nature herself. 

Sea Kayaking Elgol Isle of Skye

We returned to the boats in time to reach the kayaks before our path was cut off by the incoming tide  and we would have to wade in over our wellies….Yes, wellies are wonderful if you are a kayaker!! We decided that we would push on round the headland with a brief stop to allow the common seals to watch us watching them. As we round the peninsula, the Cuillin Ridge starts to rise above the headland to form, what must be, one of the most iconic panoramic views in Britain. Once in  Loch Coruisk it is just a short distance to Elgol Pier much to the disappointment of Margaret, who felt that the trip had surpassed all her expectations. Well done Margaret, you are an inspiration to us all! 

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19 Apr 2012 09:06

Sea Kayaking Tour Inner Sound


The Inner sound is the area of sea between the Isle of Skye and Raasay and the mainland peninsula of Applecross but stretches North to Loch Torridon and South to Lochalsh. It offers amazing sea kayaking venues without the strong swells which can be experienced in more exposed areas of the west coast and with very little tides to contend with, it is ideal for your first sea kayaking expedition. The contrasting geology provides a diversity of scenery in all directions with back drops such as the rugged Cuillin or the sparsely vegetated rock terraces of the Torridonian Hills.  So without a doubt it is one of the best kayaking venues on the West Coast of Scotland. I should say that I am slightly biased, as I was brought up on the Applecross peninsula and spent my childhood wondering what it would be like to take our little rowing boat across the sound to Raasay and climb to the summit of Dun Can with its familiar flat top.

Sea Kayaking Plockton Applecross

Day 1. Plockton to Uags. The historical village of Plockton provides the ideal start to any trip. With its sheltered bay and facilities, it enables us to  familiarise ourselves with the  boats and pack for the journey ahead and pick up any last minute supplies we might have forgotten. Within minutes of leaving the village we are away from the hustle and bustle of this popular tourist spot and already we are passing secluded coral beaches with the almost tropical looking waters, just a shame about the temperature! Once past the light house we have a couple of options whether we cross directly to the Applecross Peninsula or explore the Kishorn Islands on route. Either way, our first stop is is Airigh Drishaig on south side of Applecross. The remote shieling with its ancient atlantic oak wood gives the first indication of how remote parts of the Applecross peninsula are. It is only accessible along a narrow path which winds through the hills from Toscaig or from Kishorn further up the Loch. Kishorn was the site of an oil rig construction yard in the 70's and 80's. Indeed some evidence can be still seen at Airigh Drishaig of a large concrete structure that was a main anchor point for Ninian Central Platform, which at the time was the largest concrete floating structure ever built. 

Sea Kayak Skye Applecross

After a break we kayak west along the peninsula where we can admire the rugged Torridonian sandstone cliffs which have been twisted, folded and eroded over millions of years to sculpt some fasinating natural art forms. We use the next 6km to both collect drift wood and try a spot of fishing in the hope of catching  mackerel or pollock which we can cook over an open fire in the bothy. As we turn north round the headland Uags bothy comes into view and the once cultivated lands on this raised beach provide a perfect camp site for those who  want to sleep under canvas or high tec light weight materials as they are nowadays. Uags is just one of the deserted crofting villages we will come across on our trip. This particular township was home to two families and was last inhabited in the early thirties, when the last remaining inhabitant moved to Toscaig some three miles to the north which would have been better served by the main village and was considered less remote.

 Day 2. Uags to Raasay. Day two offers a variety of options depending on the weather including carrying on up the Coast of Applecross via the Crowlin Islands for a second overnight camp on a coral beach further to the north. On this trip we are going to cross the sound to the Island of Raasay and including a visit to the Crowlin Islands on the way. So after a leisurely start we try to get on the water by 10.00 am and make the short 2km crossing to the Crowlin Islands which consists of the Eillean Mòr, Eillean Meadhanach and Eillean Beag. Surprise, surprise when translated into English means the large, middle and small Islands. These Islands were populated until the 1920's when the last inhabitants moved to Toscaig on the mainland. The depopulation of many of the remote islands was purely down to hardship of the way of life as their only

Sea Kayaking Crowlin Islands

After a brief stop to take on some food and fluids we make the 10km crossing to the south side of Raasay. The crossing takes 2.5 hrs and as we draw closer it becomes evident that the geology of Raasay is very much different in origin from the mainland.  source of employment was through fishing and rearing sheep and one or two cattle. Every possible piece of ground would be cultivated to provide food both for families and their stock during the winter months. Evidence of this cultivation can still be seen today in the form of lazy beds, where the thin soils were brought together to provide sufficient depth and drainage to grow crops . So it's no wonder that the inhabitants finally left in 1922 to go in search of a better life on the mainland. After a short stop to view the deserted village on the main island we head for the Eilean Beag where we can view some of the nesting shags calling from the small cliffs on the west side of the islands. It would appear that the sea bird population has declined in recent years possibly due to evidence of North American Mink on the islands. 

Sea Kayaking Raasay

 We make landfall bellow the deserted village of Hallaig made famous by the great Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean, himself a son of the island. From this vantage point we can admire the wonder of this amazing landscape as we paddle in below a waterfall that spouts directly into the sea from a slight overhang on the cliff above. Although, I have to say, in 2012 it was a bit of a non event as the weather was so dry and the waterfall was reduced to a mere trickle but that is the price we have to pay for good weather on the west coast. They day is now getting on, so with little options for landing, we head south to our camp site for the night below North Ferns. The sandstone and limestone layers that run along the east coast give the coastline an appearance that I have not seen  elsewhere in Scotland. Spectacular pillars of sandstone stand clear of the the cliffs like towering castles high above the rocky coast below. The rich geology provides in turn a richness in botanical interests and a lushness of growth that is in stark contrast from the impoverished thin soils in the north and west side of the island .

On a longer trip we might head north to stay in the MBA Bothy at the north of the Island which we would use as a stop for either a circumnavigation the island of Rona and then down the east coast of Rassay, or perhaps crossing back to the north end of the Applecross peninsula and heading into Loch Torridon for a pick up in Torridon or Shieldaig.


On this occasion, our campsite at the south end of the Island provides an easy landing from the slight northerly swell that is coming down the sound and a gentle breeze keeps us free from the dreaded highland midge. There is plenty of drift wood along the shore so a camp fire is in order. We always try to gather drift wood rather than take dead wood from the surrounding woodlands. The reason behind this, is that, woodlands particularly the oak woods need the dead wood to provide nutrients to regenerate in these poor acidic soils. Continuous scavenging within woodlands can have a detremental effect on the overall woodland ecology. As the sun sets on the Red Cuillin setting the tops of the hills aglow in the evening light, we enjoy a small whisky which goes perfectly with wood smoke that swirls around the camp in the evening breeze as we reflect on another perfect day. We make plans for the the day ahead after listening to the inshore waters forecast transmitted by Stornaway coastguard and relax as the sun goes down and the moon rises over the waters of the Inner Sound.

Day 3. Raasay to Broadford. This final day is relatively short but again we have a number of options as to route for the day. In this case, we are going to go south down the west side of Scalpay and on to Pabay before crossing into Broadford on the Isle of Skye. I can't honestly say that Scalpay is my favourite island but the waters around it always give a great showing of wildlife including at least two colonies of common seals and we occasionally see  a white tailed sea eagle which tends to hunt in this area of the lower sound. Scalpay itself is privately owned but is given over to deer and the provision of holiday accommodation by the owners. Although it is said that in the past the island had a population of 2-300 inhabitants and like so many of these islands remnants of shiellings and and communities long since gone can still be seen. 

Papbay Isle of Skye

Our final 4km leg will take us into the old pier at Broadford on the Isle of Skye where we will be picked up and taken back to our vehicles in Plockton, where we can reflect on an excellent three day trip. Once down the coast we cross to the Island of Pabay where we are greeted by a colony of young common seals. The island is noticeably different in character as it is much flatter than its neighbours. The geology is made up of shales which form shallow shelves which extend well out into the surrounding waters. This can give some entertaining paddling in a northerly swell as it hits some of the shallow skerries. We normally land at the north end of the island near to a volcanic dyke which extends out into the sea. If you look at the shale surrounding the dyke you can find a variety of fossilised shells which are all through these black slabs. If the tide is on the turn, it's sometimes better not to hang around too long as these shallow waters mean the tide can retreat very quickly and it can be a bit of a hoof to get the loaded boats back in the water. The picture on the left shows us navigating our way through the kelp beds on Pabay at low tide.  

As I have mentioned earlier, this is just one of the combinations of routes and itineraries that we offer on our Inner Sound Trips as there are so many options which allow us to easily extend our trips to week long expeditions. CONTACT US