South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please^

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Andybhoy
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South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please^

Post by Andybhoy » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:10 pm

It's summer holiday time for myself and the better half and we will be travelling to Arisaig, Skye, the Uists, Harris and Lewis. We intend to camp for the majority but B & B the odd night.

We have never been to the Western Isles before so are really looking forward to what's in store. The main focus of the trip is not to kayak though but just to take in the scenery, history, wildlife etc.

We will however be taking the kayaks and intend to do some light paddling. I have about 15mths sea kayaking experience (been out at least once a week over the summer) whereas my GF has only been out on Loch Lomond a few times where we also practised some rescues. We would like to use this trip for my GF to gain some sea experience though we definitely won't be venturing too far or away from the coast / beach. I am well aware of the dangers imposed taking into account our knowledge / experience / competence....

I am posting to ask for some advice on any recommended kayaking spots (can give grid reference) on Uists, Benbecula & Harris / Lewis given our experience; obviously the more sheltered the better. At this time, I have no knowledge of the tidal patterns / flows in the area but will before venturing out. The wind forecast for the area for the next two weeks gives F4 - F6 mostly northerly winds.

I won't go out paddling if this is considered unsafe so any other advice on this will be greatly appreciated.

Also, if anyone can recommend any camping spots or good B & Bs / hostels, that'd be ace.

Cheers

Andy

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Robert Craig
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Robert Craig » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:19 pm

The upper part of Loch Maddy is a fun and sheltered place to be. I've heard it decribed as "Bonsai sea kayaking". It's got tidal gates, tide races, navigation - and all in an area the size of a country park.

Murty
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Murty » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:28 pm

Hi Andy, If you want more information give me a call H01851870340 I live in The Western Isles.

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adrian j pullin
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by adrian j pullin » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:29 pm

Worth looking at these people:

http://www.uistoutdoorcentre.co.uk/

Bunk house and guided trips may be available. They also have a jetty from which you couuld launch. NF 919692

Loch Maddy (Loch Nam Madadh) is a very complex indented sea loch which can provide hours/days/weeks of exploration.

F4-6 is looking a bit strong, maybe, for your GF? Depends on what else she has done. Any river paddling?

An option if conditions allow is to go round the Maddys. If you launch at the outdoor centre, you can get out into the main loch at Taigh Sponais (I think -check with the centre) and make your way east to the main loch entrance, round Madadh Beag (Small Dog), turn south and go round Madadh Mor (Big Dog) and back west to the centre. The only trick is to get the tide right so you can get through the gap at Taigh Sponais. Otherwise you have to jump out and carry up. (Been there, done that!)

A great place to paddle & visit.

Also recommend you sample the Isle of Skye Brewery produce, available from the brewery in Uig on Skye and in the Loch Maddy hotel amongst others.

Have fun.

Just seen Murty's post. Phone him.
Cheers

Adrian J Pullin
-------------------------------------------------------
"No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try." - Yoda
Kayak lore: "He who capsizes must also roll".

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MikeB
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by MikeB » Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:09 am

Definately explore Loch Maddy - much fun to be had there and in relativly sheltered conditions so you should be fine. Taigh Sponais lets you get from the Centre out into the loch, but coming back can be fun if the tides against you! Can be done tho.

There's a waterfall / rapid halfway up Loch Maddy which can be run (top to bottom) at some states of the tide but I can't recall exactly where it is - perhaps someone can?

Another wee loch to go on is Loch Euphort - watch the narrows at the east end tho if it's ebbing as you run the risk of getting drawn down the channel and getting back up would be somewhat challenging!

The run down from Berneray towards Thermatraigh and around that area is also great and if you stay amongst teh islands you'll be clear of the not insignificant flows in the Sound of Harris. Lovely camp spots on the various islands.

On S.Uist, get on at the pier at Ceallan and you can potter round the sheltered waters west of Ronay - if it's calm on the east side, the circumnavigation of Roany is well worth it! Caves, secret hidden bays and it's very nice indeed. There is also a sea food shop at Ceallan where you can get scallops, crab and other yummies.

Fab area - check the numerous reports and discussion links on the Sea / Trips pages.

Enjoy - Mik.e

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Kate D
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Kate D » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:57 am

Uist Outdoor Centre, already referred to above is an independant hostel and may be a good bet if the weather is not good enough for camping. Boat launching is about 10m from the front door.

Wild camping accessible by car is good at Sollas beach (NF806 760), Clachan sands (NF872 766) and just north of Berneray hostel (NF933 818)

Berneray hostel is also good and right on the shore.

Paddling is usually sheltered in Lochmaddy, and you have a maze of islands to explore. Will give you some navigational fun too. Some of the channels between the islands dry at low water, others don't. On spring tides there are some fairly fast flows between the islands. If you look at an os map, just where the number 72 is printed (905 720) is a tidal rapid. It flows in a southerly direction and is at its best (roughest) 2 hrs after LW lochmaddy. When flooding it is flatter but moving fast.

Depending on wind direction you will probably find sheltered paddling on the North shore of North Uist, launching at Cheese bay (961 738) or at the southern end of the berneray causeway.

Most of this coastline is low lying and you will be able to land fairly easily in most places, if you like seaweed. Road access is more difficult.

Hope you have a good time

Kate

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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by mikeybaby » Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:49 pm

Hello. Having visiting all islands in question, I hope you have a great holiday. Its lovely. White sandy beaches on the west coast, rocky coastlines on the east (generally speaking).

May I recommend a b&b (also do self catering). its http://www.lionacleit-guesthouse.com/. I have stayed here twice. Being on Benbeccula its a perfect place to explore both North and South Uist. Its also spitting distance from peters port which is on the east coast and is a perfect very easy place to get on and off the water.

Lovely friendly people.

Regards

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Simon Willis
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Simon Willis » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:18 pm

Hi Andy
Definitely worth ringing Murty. If you're lucky enough to have some decent weather here are a few of the routes we enjoyed this June and on previous visits. We had almost flat calm, even around the Butt of Lewis, so view those routes/photos in that context.
S

Andybhoy
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Andybhoy » Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:13 pm

A very big thank you to you all for your posts and advice.

Loch Maddy, as a big recommendation from you all, seems like the best place to be for our requirements. It seems to tick all the boxes and I think we could have a lot of fun there. I also like the fact that the outdoor centre is at the launch. It will be good to speak to people there and will give my GF more assurance on the safety side. I’ll give the guys there a call and let them know of our intentions.

Adrian – my GF has no river experience so you can understand my reluctance in venturing out far. If winds are too strong, we’ll play it safe and stay on land! Cheers for the advice. Although not the biggest drinker in the world, I’ll keep in mind the Skye brewery produce. If I end up hungover and miss a good day’s paddling you’ll be getting the blame!!

Murty – I will give you a call soon; once I have put together a provincial plan that I can maybe get your advice on?

Mike - Loch Euphort is another option and if we were to do that I’d keep away from the narrows anyway. I had a few questions regarding launch spots from Berneray / Thermatraigh but Kate has kindly included that info in her post (thanks).
The paddle from Ceallan seems like a good one though conditions would have to be very calm if we were to do the east side. Will take you up on your suggestion of the sea food shop; my mouths watering already ;)

Kate – cheers much for the OS co-ords for the camping and launch spots, and also the tidal rapid at 72 – any idea what the current flow is at springs (we’ll be there from the 2nd Sept to the 4th or 5th so through the full moon period).

Mikey – thanks for the B & B info – I’ll give them a phone to confirm availability. We intend to B & B only 1 day out the 3 or 4 we are there – weather depending of course. Hopefully it’s not so bad that we end up in a B & B for the 3 days and don’t get paddling – that’d be a nightmare….

Simon – Cheers, I’ll give Murty a ring and will check out your routes when I get home from work!!

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Kate D
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Kate D » Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:40 pm

Andy, flow at 'rapid 72' on springs will be fast. At its best there will be a height drop of several feet over a very short distance. Paddling up it is not an option, you will understand if you see it. Getting to it as the rest of the area is ebbing is a challenge on springs. If this rapid were a section of river it would get a grade of 3 probably. It is more like a river channel than the sea as it is confined between banks and is about 50' wide at the fast bit.
The upper part of Lochmaddy is generally sheltered from most wind directions and you will never be very far from somewhere to land.
If you stay at the centre, Niall Johnson, the owner (also a sea paddler) will be able to give you some local knowledge. He does however get a bit tetchy with people who are not staying at the centre turning up, demanding advice and the use of his slipway. Accommodation at the centre is basic but warm and dry.

I'll see if I can find photos of rapid 72, don't hold your breath though.

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Kate D
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Kate D » Wed Aug 26, 2009 3:04 pm

Here goes, lets see if I can make this work.

This is the view of Lochmaddy from the top of Li a Tuath, just south of Lochmaddy. Top rightish you can just about make out a whiter bit of water, this is rapid 72
Image

This is the outdoor centre, showing how close the launching is.
Image

This is one of the 'Maddies' the sea stacks in the entrance to Lochmaddy
Image

This is rapid 72 at full flow, no recollection of whether this is spring or neap. It gets pretty impressive and you can hear it from a long way away.
Image

This is the turbulent bit just below rapid 72. I was using it as a venue for rescue practice with a group of competant paddlers.
Image

Andybhoy
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Andybhoy » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:54 pm

Kate D wrote:Andy, flow at 'rapid 72' on springs will be fast. At its best there will be a height drop of several feet over a very short distance. Paddling up it is not an option, you will understand if you see it. Getting to it as the rest of the area is ebbing is a challenge on springs. If this rapid were a section of river it would get a grade of 3 probably. It is more like a river channel than the sea as it is confined between banks and is about 50' wide at the fast bit.
The upper part of Lochmaddy is generally sheltered from most wind directions and you will never be very far from somewhere to land.
If you stay at the centre, Niall Johnson, the owner (also a sea paddler) will be able to give you some local knowledge. He does however get a bit tetchy with people who are not staying at the centre turning up, demanding advice and the use of his slipway. Accommodation at the centre is basic but warm and dry.

I'll see if I can find photos of rapid 72, don't hold your breath though.
Kate, you provided a good description of 72 there but as they say 'a picture says a thousand words' so your pics were very much appreciated. I now have a good idea of what to expect at the rapid. I'm surprised that there is such a stong tidal flow in that area - will keep that fact in mind when exploring inshore waters in the future. I think we'll aim to make our way up there as I wouldn't mind a wee play about on the waves..

I'm really glad that I posted on the forum as the info ppl have given is great and gives us a good heads up before arrival. I have enough info to put together a rough plan for our stay there. This is the first kayaking voyage that I've undertaken where I'm responsible for the trip so I'm sure it will be a great learning curve. The first of many me hopes!

Your first photo is a cracker - the place looks beautiful. I really can't wait until we get there...

I'll give the outdoor centre a call to let them know of our plans and make sure it's OK to launch from there even if not staying at the centre.

Cheers

Andy

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MikeB
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by MikeB » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:28 pm

Andybhoy wrote: I'm surprised that there is such a stong tidal flow in that area - will keep that fact in mind when exploring inshore waters in the future. I think we'll aim to make our way up there as I wouldn't mind a wee play about on the waves..
Yep, its fun - there is a lot of water above it all trying to get tho a small gap!

On a related note, mention was made of some of the inter-skerry gaps drying out - and it becomes like the proverbial maze. There's a couple of noticable landmarks indicating the entrance run back to the centre and the tendancy is naturally to use them as nav points. Doing that at the bottom of the tide will leave you exasperated!
I'll give the outdoor centre a call to let them know of our plans and make sure it's OK to launch from there even if not staying at the centre.

Cheers

Andy
Theres a really nice slip right beside the ferry terminal - and car parking nearby - - - -

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:09 am

Hello Andy,

Here is the beach which is right beside the ferry terminal car park. I cant think of any reason for launching at the outdoor centre if you were not staying there or making use of their facilities.
Image
One good 4 day trip I had was leaving the car at Uig, taking the kayaks on the ferry to Lochmaddy then exploring Loch Maddy. We then portaged over into the sound of Harris and camped on the islands. We then got Uist Outdoor to pick us up with their trailer from the Berneray bridge and drop us back at the ferry.

Here is rapid 72 on mid flood, 9.3km/hr.
Image

The sea at the entrance to Loch Maddy can be very rough and confused even though it is calm at the ferry terminal.

An alternative to Loch Maddy might be Loch Roag on Lewis. There are some photos here. There is a huge range of interesting features in Loch Roag that will reward many visits and it's Murty's home waters. There is a campsite right on the beach here. If you want to seriously impress your girlfriend, take her to this B&B. This will get you many more Brownie points than a trip round the Maddies.

Have a great trip :o)

Douglas

Andybhoy
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Andybhoy » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:53 am

Thanks for this Doug! Loch Rog, looks good; we'll most probably go there when in Lewis.

I've not yet had the time to check all your photos yet - we leave for Arisaig in a few hrs so the last day or two has been a bit hectic getting packed etc.

Had a quick look at the B & B - looks splendid, though may blow the budget out the water. However....;)

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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please

Post by Robin Ashcroft » Mon Aug 31, 2009 2:26 pm

I'd heartily reccomend paddling Loch Euphort - although do be aware that sea condition can alter dramatically when you leave the loch for The Minches and I wouldn't be suprised if an ebbing tide could be quite powerful there. A good trip is to put in near Langais Hotel (GR: 840 650) on an ebbing tide and pddle down through the channels as the water drains. A few small waterfalls form and it's a bit like being on a river - Grade 2 when I went through. Nothing like as big as Waterfall 72 - from the pricture in this thread I'd rte that at a little more than Grade 3!

There's an interesting side trip to Loch Obsaraigh - this is a loch which drains into Loch Euphort at low tide, but at high (certainly on springs) the salt water flows back, upstream, into the loch. It's an unusual phenomonon and the salt and fresh seperate. Good walking to Eaval (the peak overlooking Loch Obsaraigh).

As previously mentioned there's some good - and usually sheltered paddling - in Loch Maddy, but it can be a confusing place so make sure your navigation's up to speed.

A really enjoybale trip is to put in the Sound of Harris at the ramp by the causeway at (GR: 907 793) and go east through the sound before heading south down The Minches to Loch Maddy - although this isn't a trip for a novice.

Take some time to seek out the pre-historic sites - the Chambered Cairn near Langais (GR: 857 657) is particularly impressive.

The Uist Outdoor Centre is a really good base. You can't blame Niall for objecting to people not staying at the hostel and using its' facilities. You'll typically get 4 seasons in 1 day, so having somewhere dry and with showers is a bit of a no brainer. Having said that the Outer Isles are a magical place.

Andybhoy
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please^

Post by Andybhoy » Thu Sep 03, 2009 10:20 am

After all the planning and preparation, I'm sorry to have to tell you all that my holiday to the outer hebridies was unfortunately cut short quite considerably. I was hoping to come back on here in a few weeks with some quality pics and an update on my paddling experience.

In the end we only made it to Arisaig for a couple of nights. It poured more or less the whole time and the strong winds prevented the kayaks from even dipping in the sea! Gutted to say the least...

However, it was a learning experience for the two of us (myself in particular) - camping together in a small tent, in bad weather, with a small car packed to the rafters is not always what it's cracked up to be and can actually be conducive to frequent bickering!!
Douglas Wilcox wrote:If you want to seriously impress your girlfriend, take her to this B&B


Believe me Douglas, this place did cross my mind a few times....

And however much enthusiasm one person has for one particular interest / sport, it's mission impossible trying to instill that enthusiam into someone else if it materialises that they're actually not that interested!

So in the end we just drew a line through the whole thing and called it a day, packed the tent in the morning and came home. Still, the scenery from Fort William to Arisaig is beautiful and the paddling opportunities around there are noted.

I want to thank you all again for the info provided. It wasn't all in vain as I intend to paddle the outer hebridies in the not to distant future (not with the GF!) so this advice will come in handy then, and the talk about rapid 72 was enlightening... I'm sure other paddlers will benfit too.

Cheers,

Andy

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Mark R
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please^

Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 03, 2009 4:57 pm

Andybhoy wrote:However, it was a learning experience for the two of us (myself in particular) - camping together in a small tent, in bad weather, with a small car packed to the rafters is not always what it's cracked up to be and can actually be conducive to frequent bickering!!
You'd be amazed what difference getting a bigger tent makes - indeed one much bigger than any degree of practicality would suggest ...
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MikeB
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Re: South / North Uist, Harris & Lewis - advice please^

Post by MikeB » Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:26 pm

Mark R wrote:
Andybhoy wrote:However, it was a learning experience for the two of us (myself in particular) - camping together in a small tent, in bad weather, with a small car packed to the rafters is not always what it's cracked up to be and can actually be conducive to frequent bickering!!
You'd be amazed what difference getting a bigger tent makes - indeed one much bigger than any degree of practicality would suggest ...
- - and/or bitingthe bullet and B&B'ing - -

Especially if the partner just isn't into all that roughing it in a tent, in the rain, with rock all to do!

Mike

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