- illustrated trip report by Douglas Wilcox


Douglas Wilcox.


DATE(S) OF TRIP: 14/15/06/03.

WHERE?: Circumnavigation of Gigha, Western Scotland.

Getting there: Point Sands on the Mull of Kintyre, where we launched, is 126 miles, 2hrs 40 minutes from the M8 Kingston Bridge in the centre of Glasgow, via the Erskine Bridge, Loch Lomond, Tarbet, Arrochar, Inverary, Loch Gilphead and Tarbert.

Alternatively if you have a seafaring bent, drive from the Kingston Bridge via the M8 to Gourock: 28 miles, 45 minutes, then take Western Ferries to Hunter's Quay 20 minute crossing up to 4 ferries per hour, then drive to Portavadie via Glen Lean and Tighnabruach, 28 miles, 1 hour, then take Calmac Ferry to Tarbert, 25 minute crossing 1 ferry per hour and lastly drive from Tarbert to Point Sands, 18 miles 30 minutes, Total miles 74, total travel time 2 hours 15 plus 25 minutes waiting time if you do not screw up your time tabling. Total journey time 2 hours 40 minutes. Return ferry fares for 1 car and three adults is £72 to save 104 miles or 69p per mile. How much does it cost to run your car?

LAUNCH SPOTS: We left the car at Point Sands camping and Caravan Park just north of Tayinloan. After asking permission from the very nice lady in the park reception, 01583 441263, we were allowed to drive the car to the beach to unload before leaving the car in the visitors' car park. We asked what the charge was for overnight parking. There was none. Water is available from a tap by the beach but should be boiled first. Toilets are for resident campers only. If you have travelled a long way then this would be an ideal base camp. The site is on level grass just behind a long beach with sand/shingle. The site is very much orientated to campers looking for peace and quiet.


DISTANCE/ TIME: 30 Km: 5 to 6 hours paddling time. This could esily be extended if you have time to include Cara off the South of Gigha. Cara also has some stunning beaches.

LOCAL TIDES: According to Imray chart (C64) the spring tide runs at no more than 1.3 knots (2.4 Km/hr) so we were not expecting much tide 1 hour after LW on a spring tide. When we set off on our return crossing from the pier opposite Gigalum, we did so on a bearing of 90 degrees expecting to be well clear of Sgeir a Caolas. The wind was 260 degrees 18-20 Km/hr and we were paddling at up to 9 Km/hr. If you look at www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgenetics/030615gighamap.jpg you can see how the early flood tide carried us off course by 1.0 Km in 18 minutes which is equivalent to a flood rate of 3.3 Km/hr or 1.8 knots. We got into an overfall and were nearly on a just submerged Sgeir a Caolas. The same chart calls this Sgeir Gigalum marked with a large buoy but Sgeir Gigalum is 1.5 Km to the SW! There is a large green conical buoy but it is about 200 metres to the NW of the rocks. By keeping clear of this buoy, we thought we were well clear of the sgeir, however, we were nearly onto the rocks before we saw them at the last minute. We then followed a simpler navigation strategy just pointing at the camp site. The two halves of the track make an interesting comparison. Once I got home I dug out my 1974 Clyde Cruising Club Pilot. It gives the Gigha Sound spring tide rate at 3 knots (5.6Km/hr) which seems more like it.

HAZARDS/ PROBLEMS: There are a load of rocks just under the water, everywhere. We had rough conditions rounding the headland at the south of the island, wind was 260 degrees 18 to 20 Km/hr. Spring flood had been running for about 30 minutes.

ROUTE TAKEN: Anticlockwise round Gigha taking advantage of the tides. Map.

EVENTS/ OBSERVATIONS: We saw an otter, seals, herons, guillemots, gannets, eider duck, oyster catchers, greater black backed gulls, assorted gulls, buzzards but no bonxies. We waved to two people in the distance. We went for a swim but it was seriously, painfully cold, so we had a bonfire to warm up and watched the sun go down over Jura.

Alick, my brother, who last kayaked 30 years ago borrowed my pal's boat "Valda". He was so impressed that he is going to get one, he has even considered selling his 2002 Honda Fireblade!

OTHER NOTES: There is a photo gallery of the trip on my website.

Gigha is really worth a visit. Like many parts of Skye, it has a Viking name, it means God's Isle. It has a remote situation but is well served by a ferry from Tayinloan. It's low lying landscape and mild climate make the coastline, countryside and famous Achamore Gardens a delight to explore. There is a shop/post office, hotel self catering cottages and bike hire. The islanders made the news in 2002 by setting up a trust to buy the island.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Douglas Wilcox, Grassyards CC, Scottish Sea Kayaking Photo Gallery.