Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

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andreadawn
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Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by andreadawn »

Being not long back from a lengthy spell in the north west of Scotland, I really ought to be cleaning kit and doing a spot of maintenance, but I’d rather be reliving some of my experiences instead. The weather wasn’t particularly good. There wasn’t much rain, but nor was there much sun. The wind blew consistently from the north west with a couple of gales thrown in for good measure: not the best wind direction for the exposed coasts of this part of Scotland. I’d hoped to do a couple of overnight trips but settled for just doing day trips to make the best of the weather. I’ve visited many of these locations before but keep going back for more: familiarity breeds content perhaps?

First a visit to the Summer Isles. It wasn’t very summery. Off the west side of Glas-leac Mor, a moderate swell was running in from the north west; typical conditions for much of my trip.
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A short while before, I had been enjoying a fine cave on flat water on the sheltered side of Eilean Mullagrach.
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Off the south side of Tanera Beg, it was again sheltered and I was able to enjoy the fine arch at the south east corner of the island.
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In the shallow channel between Tanera Beg and Eilean Fada Mor, shoals of tiny fish drifted about above the sands.
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Further north in Enard bay, a view of the Inverpolly mountains from the tiny island of A Chleit.
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One of the (many) things I love about sea kayaking is the contrasts often experienced in a very short space of time. Having enjoyed a long downwind surf across Enard Bay, I stopped for lunch on a tiny island. Suddenly, the day was no longer about wind and following swells. Instead I found myself in a tiny oasis of greenery where Dark Green Fritillary butterflies were feeding on Clover and Honeysuckle.
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Paddling back into Lochinver the spectacular shape of Suilven dominated the view. There is much dispute about the origins of the name but the Norse origin from Sul-r, Pillar, will do for me.
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Next day I was paddling out of Clashnessie Bay towards Point of Stoer when a Great Skua settled on the water nearby. It seemed to be eyeing me up to see if I might be edible but eventually got bored with me and took off again to meet up with its mate. They are very big birds when seen close up.
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After visiting Point of Stoer, I headed east to Oldany Island; somewhere I have wanted to visit for a long time. The north westerly swell was still rolling in creating some “interesting” clapotis off the north west coast. Somewhere in the excitement I lost my hat but still came out the other side grinning from ear to ear.
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A sky which sums up so much of this part of my trip. Looking east to Quinag, the impressive mountain range to the south of Loch a Chairn Bhain.
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The very narrow, and very beautiful channel between Oldany Island and the mainland can only be paddled around high tide.
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I drove north to Durness hoping to do one of my favourite trips to Whiten Head from Durness.
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In response, it rained hard as I approached the stacks at Whiten Head on the north coast of Sutherland.
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Just round the corner in the outermost reaches of Loch Eriboll, I tucked into this fantastic cave and arch formation; out of the rain for a while.
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The outer part of the east side of Loch Eriboll has many incredible features; caves and arches lined up side by side. The “singing” of seals came from deep within many of the caves.
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Another cave; this one is truly massive and just slightly intimidating when you are by yourself.
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A short distance further on is this lovely waterfall.
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I landed on a pebble beach in a cave to the south, then walked through a tunnel into the cave behind the fall itself.
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A bit further on again and I found a really lovely beach for lunch.
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I always find it unnerving to arrive at my intended landing spot and find people surfing. In the event the landing was easy and straightforward.
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Next day I had a leisurely walk out to Faraid Head from Balnakeil to watch the Gannets.
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No visit to the far north would be complete without a visit to Handa. I used my boat’s rudder to drift gently downwind towards these Guillemots. The nearest bird is a “bridled” Guillemot; not a separate species or even subspecies; just a bird with a white eye ring and stripe.
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Great Skua on Handa.
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Arctic Skua sat on its nest on Handa. These are stunningly beautiful birds. Their behaviour is less attractive. Like Great Skuas they are pirates, stealing much of their food from other birds, particularly Terns.
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I really wanted to paddle to Sandwood Bay, and perhaps Cape Wrath, but the weather just wouldn’t settle enough for me, so I made do with a walk to the bay. Despite being fairly busy, it was still just as lovely as I remembered from previous visits.
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Beautiful tiny folds in the rocks at Sandwood Bay.
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The next couple of days saw gale force winds. On a day when the forecast was for south westerly winds force 5-7, occasionally gale 8, I set off to paddle from Loch Nedd to Drumbeg. I had a lovely otter encounter on Loch Nedd but once out of the shelter of the loch, I was soon well out of my comfort zone. The wind was funnelling through a gap in the hills and screaming out over Eddrachillas Bay. Turning round was a bit exciting and I was glad to get back to the shelter of the lovely wooded loch.
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After the gales I headed back to the north coast, heading further east to Talmine on Tongue Bay. A walk along the coast was rewarded with finding lots of lovely flowers. These are Scottish Primroses, a plant found only in Scotland and nowhere else.
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I wanted to paddle out to Eilean nan Ron, an island I have been to three times before. On the way I passed the Rabbit Islands. The outermost Rabbit, Sgeir an Oir, has an arch right through the middle. I have poked my bow into it on each previous visit, only to chicken out each time. The arch is very narrow and there always seems to be swell coming through. This time I only stopped for a look. I definitely wasn’t going in there.
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I continued across to Eilean nan Ron. Suddenly the swells got very large indeed as they met the west flowing tide. Not for the first time I wondered what on earth I was doing out there by myself. The answer to that is so many things and not something I can put into words. Eilean nan Ron has lots of very impressive rock features.
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A narrow gap between Eilean nan Ron and Eilean Iosal leads out onto the exposed north side where the swells were again very big.
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Once onto the east coast I could relax on flat water again as Purple Sandpipers and Rock Pipits perched on the conglomerate cliffs just a few feet away.
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A huge arch leads through into a massive collapsed cavern.
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The cavern from the clifftops.
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The island was inhabited until relatively recently in the 1930s.
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Further round is the island’s tiny harbour with steps leading up to the village.
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The harbour entrance dries at low tide, but there is a secretive entrance from the rear at half tide and less. I was just able to squeeze through it.
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I continued to Neave Island where there is a fine arch.
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Another arch/tunnel on the mainland opposite Eilean nan Ron.
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Back on the Rabbit Islands I landed on a tiny secluded beach to avoid…….
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…….disturbing the seals on the adjacent beach.
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The view up the Kyle of Tongue from the Rabbit Islands.
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Talmine must be one of the most beautiful spots on Scotland’s coast.
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The nearest thing to a sunset for the whole time I was in the far north.
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For a last trip in the far north I had a leisurely paddle from Sango bay at Durness to Balnakeil Bay on the other side of Faraid Head and back. There were lots and lots of Puffins.
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On the return, a tide race had developed off the head with a big swell running through it.
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Back off the east side of the head I was back onto flat water and wondered if I had gone to Heaven.
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A short while fishing with my tiny rod off Sango Bay produced a couple of Mackerel; two of many caught on this trip. Thanks to Douglas for his review of this bit of kit some time ago. I'm not really interested in serious fishing, but fresh Mackerel for tea are hard to beat.
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Andrea Collins

hants
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by hants »

yyy.... Woow! Excellent pictures!

psyalan
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by psyalan »

Hello from the Emerald Isle, Ireland....those pics are absolutly stunning, thanks for putting them up..

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bobt
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by bobt »

Kyle of Tongue with Ben Loyal on the left and Ben Hope on the right. One of the best views in Scotland.

One of my favourite places in the world.

Thanks for these :-)

tommfuller
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by tommfuller »

Fantastic!

Cheers,

Tom.

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by JinjaCoo »

Really stunning pictures, thanks.

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by johnb »

Gold medal for that posting!

ian johnston
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by ian johnston »

Oh Andrea, just superb....

How could familiarity with this area breed anything other than content?!


Kind Regards


Ian

Robbie C
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Robbie C »

Beautiful photos once again, an inspiration to get out & see more. :-)

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Douglas Wilcox »

Simply fabulous!

Douglas :o)

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lg18
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by lg18 »

Wow, Andrea - absolutely superb!
You have really brightened up my day no end - what amazing pics - my favourite places on the planet - thank you! Real inspiration to go there much much more often!

Lucy

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Helen M
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Helen M »

Fantastic photos Andrea - on my wish list now.

Hope you're well

H - x

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by nigelhatton »

Andrea,
This is an inspirational masterpiece of an article for any would be day dreamer and truly on a level of Douglas Wilcox who's stories have driven me to explore places I may not have done before. This trip will leave memories in your mind for ever and promote feelings of "need to do" in many of us.

Well done Andrea you are a doer and not just an armchair internet paddler


Hello David Sherfield

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bobt
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by bobt »

I'm pretty sure that the great Tom Patey died abseiling off one of the Maidens which are those stacks at whiten head.

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lg18
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by lg18 »

...and he was in the first team of climbers to ever climb the stack (Am Buachaille) photographed by Andrea at the W end of Sandwood Bay!

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Mark R
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Mark R »

I saw the amazingly enormous cave entrances on the east side of Loch Eriboll when I paddled around Scotland, and whizzed right on past without investigating...this is one of the ridiculous things about A-B trips, and I remember feeling it at the time.

I MUST get back to the north coast, thanks for sharing.
Mark Rainsley
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andreadawn
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by andreadawn »

Thank you for the kind words about the pictures.

Helen, I'm well thank you. How are you? Up to anything interesting this year?

Bobt & Lucy; I hadn't realised that Whiten Head was the location of Tom Patey's fatal accident. I've just had a search around for information. It was the left hand stack in my photo above. My search led me to a climbing guide description. Part of it read,

"The plinth beneath the stacks can be reached by an eleven kilometre walk, descending the steep headland and swimming
just over a hundred yards. This makes for a demanding day out."

Definitely more demanding than my day out had been!

Andrea Collins

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bobt
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by bobt »

andreadawn wrote:"The plinth beneath the stacks can be reached by an eleven kilometre walk, descending the steep headland and swimming
just over a hundred yards. This makes for a demanding day out."

Definitely more demanding than my day out had been!

Andrea Collins
Hi Andrea,

Yes, I used to climb quite a bit in the area (albeit mostly further east on Strathy Point) but could never quite figure out where the walk out to Whiten head began so never tried to get out there.

Bob

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seaview
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by seaview »

Lovely photos, thanks for posting. Looks like you had a nice trip.

Dave.

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by TechnoEngineer »

Fantastic photos as usual!
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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Canoe-Cowal »

Really enjoyed these pics

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Lindisfarne »

Fantastic, really enjoyed those pictures.

Neil.

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by fiona »

Fantastic post as always, Andrea. Stunning photos - and you make me want to go to all of these places with your descriptions and photos. My wish list gets ever longer...

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by soundoftheseagull »

Wow and double wow thanks for those photos
Dave

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Re: Glimpses of Sutherland (with a bit of Wester Ross)

Post by Yakdiver »

WoW great photos well done
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