With just a stop for chips in Inverary, the journey North seemed to fly by and after no time at all we were pulling into a small carpark in Arduaine. Built specifically for the Aryll and Bute sea kayak trail, a sign offered us information about the local area and tides and a nicely built path an easy way down to the shore. Despite being light, it was actually quite late and the glassy waters of Loch Melfort would have to wait till the morning.
|Looking out from the car park over our play ground for the next few days|
The waters in this area can move at an alarming rate and even though we were on neaps, careful planning would be required in order that the tides would help, rather than hinder us. Dick fortunately excels at tidal planning and so it was that our departure would be timed to ensure arriving at Cuan sound for the West flowing stream to take us through.
It's always great when a plan comes together and sure enough we enjoyed the ride through the sound, requiring only minimal effort on our part. While the tide was right for going through Cuan, we would need to wait for an hour before it was set to aid us on the next part of the route, South towards the Garvellachs. A small rocky beach on the North West corner of Luing afforded a good resting spot and a chance to look close up at the slate that was once a major source of industry in these islands.
The slate itself looked almost iridescent and it's surface made all the more spectacular by the cubic crystals of fools' gold embedded in it. In places this had rusted away leaving small, square holes and we wondered if this slate was ever used for roofing!
It was terrific to watch the direction of the flow in the sound change over the course of a few minutes and with the onset of the Easterly flow, we were spurred into action and set our sights on the Fladda lighthouse in the distance. A slight course change then brought us to Belnahua, an island whose slate heart has been removed, leaving large lakes and abandoned buildings, echoing how busy a place this must once have been.
|Lunch on Belnahua|
On leaving the slate beach we made our way towards the most Northerly of the Garvellachs, passed by a lone porpoise and then wound our way between them, passing incredible cliff architecture complete with a spectacular natural arch. At the Southern end of the island chain we entered a narrow harbour, once used by the monks visiting the monastery that now lies ruined here.
|Boat landing once used by monks in their curraghs|
The ruins of the monastery are well worth exploring and we spent a good while sitting next to the alleged grave of St Columba's mum looking out over an incredible vista. Hopefully she won't have minded too much as we were drinking Murphy's at the time.
|The monastery enclosure from what is alleged to be St Colomba's mother's grave|
|Islay in the distance|
|The famous paps of Jura|
The sun beat down on the tents in the morning though and we were able to eat our breakfast without being eaten for breakfast. Our view across the sound showed a steady Northerly force 4 and the entrance to the Grey Dogs about 5km away. This was to be our longest open crossing of the trip and once again our arrival time needed to be planned with precision.
|Leaving the Garvellachs|
|On the crossing to Scarba|
|Landing on Scarba|
|Passing through the Grey Dogs|
|End of the day on Luing, with the Grey Dogs behind|
|Planning tomorrow's route|
|Looking back to the Grey Dogs|
|Mull in the evening sun|
|Mountains of Mull at 2am|
|Ready to leave Luing|
|Holes left by the rusting away of the iron pyrities|
|Laurence (the green camper) comes into view|