South East (Scotland) Sea Kayaking

Well, the plan was good. Heather, John G and myself trekked to the North Sea coast and across the border into Scotland. The plan was to spend the week paddling south from the Firth of Forth, into England’s Northumberland coast.

It wasn’t going to happen – it was clear from the start that the weather wasn’t going to play ball, with fierce onshore winds forecast for days ahead. But we did squeeze in one rather wonderful paddle.

Bass Rock is a great hooning lump of volcanic rock marking the outer approaches to Edinburgh. It gleams white from miles away, rather oddly. The white is – quite astonishingly – gannets. Britain’s largest sea bird lives here, covering every inch of space with population estimates ranging up to 150000. Yes, 150000.

We loaded up and worked our way out through sizeable swells, negotiating a few foaming reefs and keeping a nervous eye on the distance between us and the shore. We weren’t planning on actually visiting the rock, but as we got nearer, we noticed that its mass actually gave shelter from the wind and swell. We were able to sneak right up behind Bass Rock using this ‘blind spot’. Even from 2 kilometres away, we noticed that the rock has its own distinct whiff!

The air was thick with gannets; with a 90 cm wingspan, each one fills a lot of sky. We also saw cormorants, guillemots, puffins and razorbills.

Heading back to shore, we picked ourselves a beach to camp on (I have no idea even now what it was called) and watched the wind and swell keep rising. We spent two nights in this bay, hoping against all logic that the weather forecasts might ameliorate. Well, there are worse places to be stuck and despite the gusts, the sun was always shining.

Behind our tents was an overgrown complex of ruins that seems in its time to have been a rather imposing manor house.

Just a kilometre away was Tantallon Castle, a sprawling great ruin with some fairly hair-raising battlements (in Force 6-7 winds, anyway).

Eventually we called it quits and retrieved the cars.

Dorset is quite a long journey home, especially if your wife makes you spend three hours in bloody Ikea en route.

Bass Rock. Must go there again some time.

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