Monday, 28 May 2012

Rounding the Cape

Some time ago, it was decided to organise a KKC paddling trip on the north and west coast of Scotland.  At some point, Hairyaker said ‘we could round Cape Wrath’ which seemed to lead to me saying I wasn’t coming unless we went round Cape Wrath.  This was in the middle of weeks of howling northerly gales.  Like that was going to happen.

Last week the weather was OK and it began to look as if the Cape might just be possible after all.  The week went on and the weather got better and better and better.  I phoned the MoD and they weren’t bombing that weekend either….  Something wasn’t right.

And so it was that we arrived in Durness on Friday night in beautiful sunshine and cloudless skies with a lovely fat ridge of high pressure sitting on top of us.  The Cape was most definitely on. What were the chances of that?

IMGP0907 Hold up on the shuttle run

After the usual faff with shuttles, we launched from Balnakeil Bay north of Durness.  The surf was ankle deep and the sky still utterly cloudless (to those reading abroad, the weather in Scotland is never like this!). We were in our t-shirts and shorts!

IMGP0901 The launch site

IMGP0917 Setting off

Who could have asked for better conditions?  The sea was flat, the wind was nothing and the scenery was stunning.  For 18 miles!

IMGP0928Getting in and about the rocks 


First view of the Cape

We stopped near Kervaig for a quick lunch break, mindful that the tide had turned and the west going stream had started.  We knew with the weather and swell conditions and the speed of the tide, we were unlikely to meet anything too nasty, but with any new trip, it seemed best to err on the side of caution.

IMGP0966 Lunch in the tropics

We carried on towards the Cape, I for one excited to actually be there.  I never really believed it would happen. As we approached things became even more stunning, with two arches going though the headland beneath the lighthouse.

IMGP0978In a Geo not many people see 

IMGP0985 Right hand arch through the Cape

After we passed through the arch, a bit of tide was evident but nothing to trouble us and we carried on on our merry way.  By this point in the afternoon the land had heated up a lot through the day, it must have been 30 degrees at least, and winds started to form where the hot air met the cold air over the sea.  This meant we met some strong gusts in all kind of directions as we paddled south towards Sandwood Bay.  By this point I was beginning to get cranky, but answering a call of nature (with a blooming annoying landing) and having a bite to eat cheered me up no end and I was ready for the final push.

IMGP0992 West Coast scenery

IMGP1003 Safely landed at Sandwood Bay

IMGP1012 Camp

IMGP1029 Watching the sunset

After a well deserved rest, we were up early in the morning to escape the midges and to prepare for the second leg of the trip.  Although some of the group were going to go on to Kinlochbervie, I had a ferry to catch from Thurso at 7pm so I had left Phyllis at Droman Pier to the west.

IMGP1072 Surf launching

We had fun launching off the beach into some fun little waves, a great way to cool down on another scorching hot day.  We headed to the end of Sandwood Bay and to the prominent sea stack we could see from the beach.

IMGP1090Neil at the stack 

The next few miles of coastline had some interesting rocks and gaps to play in and we had fun in the bit of swell there was as we wended our way south.

IMGP1102 Catriona waits for the gap

After another few kilometres, we arrived at Droman  Pier, where Phyllis was waiting.  Everyone landed with a few of us heading away and the others intending to carry on to Kinlochbervie after a spot of lunch.

IMGP1116 Phyllis waiting at Droman

IMGP1118 Lots of food! To be eaten at reasonable times!

All too soon it was time to take Hairyaker back to Durness to collect Nanavan and for me to head on to Thurso for the 7pm ferry.  The others had a whole week of fun to look forward to.

What a fabulous trip in perfect conditions.  A once in a lifetime experience.


540280_10150979664495180_552155179_12411545_664418729_n The trip


  1. The images are breathtaking, NK. Indeed, "once in a lifetime" describes that kind of paddling. D.

  2. A great posting that captures the atmosphere of this wonderful area. The pictures are fantastic.

    David A

  3. I'm not sure why all the photos are on the wonk though!