Take one of the most scenic coastal areas in Britain (the world!?) add a forecast for 5 days high pressure, 9 sea kayaks and a pinch of salt. Sun, sea and scenery assaulted the senses in a one week trip starting 15 May.
The group departed from the right side of the ferry terminal at 2pm (Handy parking and convenient pebble beach) for a late lunch on the west side of Isle Martin. Crossing Annat Bay on route to a camp site at Feith an Fheoir we passed a caravan at sea (honest! On three small boats powered by outboards destined for a remote landfall) and struck camp at 6.30pm. An early evening walk gave beautiful views of a rare reflection of land on sea.
On the water at 10.30am on Sunday morning we rounded Cailleach Head to Stattic Point before crossing Gruinard Bay to the lovely sands at Mellon Udrigle. Ian and Steve (now the Unclean) touched Gruinard Island on route.
After a leisurely lunch we rounded Greenstone Point in choppy conditions to the campsite at Slaggan Bay in the entrance to Loch Ewe. Arriving at 5.15pm at low tide the boat carry was not completed until after 6pm! KCS carrying straps proved very useful. An evening walk to work off the exertions of a 30km day took in the ruins of Slaggan with An Teallach in the background basking in the evening sunlight.
Monday morning dawned to more sunshine and clear blue skies. On the water at 10.30am to catch the high tide we headed across the entrance to Loch Ewe to capture stunning views down the Loch of the Torridon range. We then rounded Greenstone Point in more settled conditions and had lunch at low tide among the seaweed at Opinan.
After filling up with water at the nearby remote and very good B&B we headed out to hunt for a possible landing at Priest Island, the start of the Summer Isle chain. The mountain views now opened out and we were treated to magnificent backdrop of hills from Torridon to the South, then An Teallach, Beinn Dearg and the Inverpolly group to the North. An attempted landing on Priest Island proved too interesting and we paddled onto the Bottle Islands in a glorious evening were a temporary landing was possible before high tide.
At 7.15pm after consumption of a delicious Melmerby cake we headed on to the northerly Summer Isles and found a suitable spot west of Tanera Mor striking camp at 8.30pm after 33km paddle in glorious conditions. We were rewarded with a maroon sunset over the Summer Isles.
Tuesday was declared a rest day of sorts but the sun soon warmed up the muscles and a trip to explore the Summer Islands more closely was soon hatched.
Having rounded Tanera Beg Paul headed off to Tanera Mor for a rest day while the rest of the group visited the stacks near Preist Island, encountering choppy conditions and lunching on Bottle Island before returning to Tanera Mor at 7pm.
The reward was a close visit by a whale, possibly a Minke which remained for approximately 15 minutes.
Fellow sea kayakers Bill and Jean Wilder own Tanera Mor. Loo and water are available at the north end of Anchorage Bay. The "rest day" finished with an evening paddle to a lovely sandy bay on the north of Isle Ristol. Off the water at 8.15pm after a 30 km day.
Wednesday saw us on the water at 11am after soaking the muscles in the morning sun. 3 paddled out to Eilean Mullagrach while the main group headed north to Rubha Coigeach in calm conditions.
On rounding the headland we were saluted by the Inverpolly group of hills all standing tall and proud against blue skies. The headland was ripe with interesting cave structures and these were fully explored before heading to Achnahaird Bay for lunch.
After we explored Fraochain and Eilean Mor and landed near Polly More at High tide at 8pm. Another superb days paddle of 32km.
Our luck with the weather was drawing to a close with gale force winds and snow on the hills predicted for the weekend. The decision was made to head to Lochinver the next day. On Thursday we were on the water at 10.30am. The sea state had changed noticeably and we rounded a couple of headlands in choppy conditions before entering Loch Inver and landing on the north end of Lochinver village at lunchtime.
In worsening conditions the paddling was declared at an end and lunch at the adjacent hostelry marked the end of the trip.
A 3.50pm bus took the drivers back to Ullapool to collect cars as the wind picked up. Even Marker Buoys were seen to be heading for harbour!