Well, I’m still alive and well, but currently pinned ashore by strong winds at Machrinhanish. The good news is that (by playing join-the-dots with a series of headlands) I’ve actually made it out past the Mull of Kintyre to the true west coast of Scotland. It’s everything I hoped it would be, and more.
I will keep posting updates HERE.
The giant fish/lobster thing above is located beside the Mayflower Steps, on the city of Plymouth’s waterfront. It probably represents/means/signifies something, but I’m currently too tired to recall or research. I was in Plymouth for the past few days with a load of my Sixth Formers, giving them an introduction to ‘student life’ at the University. I took the photo as we set sail for an evening cruise (007 themed) around splendid Plymouth Sound and the River Tamar. Given my recent work on the book, I was able to regale anyone who would listen (eventually, no one) with lots of trivia about the places we passed. I was most annoyed to see that the ugly great silo on the waterfront, mentioned in my book, has been demolished this year; so South West Sea Kayaking is out of date already.
The living room floor is covered by bags, boxes, random items … I’m packing for my big summer trip, departing shortly. This will probably be my last blog post for a while (unless the wild west coast of Scotland proves to be crammed with cybercafes), but Heather may do some ‘guest posting’ if she finds time inbetween walking the Coast to Coast trail, and sea kayaking in both St Kilda (organised boat trip) and Brittany (girlie trip) this summer. Being teachers isn’t so bad, we do rather enjoy our long summer hols.
Anyway, wish me luck with Scotland; the weather is improving slightly, so I’m marginally less scared by the whole thing. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the Scottish coast I can cover. For no particular reason, here’s a pic of me doing a Sean Connery impression on Plymouth Sound last night …
Our good friend Alex dropped by this weekend, on a flying visit from Manchester (and his friend coming all the way from Glasgow). Alex is a paddler, but actually came to sample the local limestone. Purbeck and Portland are (apparently) famed for their ‘deep water solo’ free climbs.
Today, we all headed to the Isle of Portland. We paddled, whilst our guests did unpleasant nasty hairy scary things.
As a small boy, I heard Paul* and Linda wailing to the accompaniment of bagpipes and the Mull of Kintyre was permanently etched into my consciousness. I knew that the Mull was a real place somewhere up in Scotland, but in my imagination it was as remote and inaccessible as the dark side of the moon. I’d never been there and in the intervening three decades, still never have done.
The weekend after next, I launch from west Cumbria. It’s then a long crossing across the Solway Firth to Scotland, and then the next few days will see a series of shorter crossings heading west to the Mull of Galloway. I then have to cross the Firth of Clyde to the Mull of Kintyre itself; either in a series of hops via the isle of Ailsa Craig, or in one long hop right across. The Mull of Kintyre is the beginning of Scotland’s west coast, effectively my start line for the paddle to Cape Wrath; Britain’s most northwesterly point and my eventual target this summer.
I’ve been mentally rehearsing this plan for several years now. It requires perfect weather and will take me about a week in such conditions. But it blatantly isn’t going to happen, or certainly not as I’ve hoped. The wind has now blown hard for a month straight, and the odds of me getting the settled conditions I need are very unlikely indeed. Right now, the Mull of Kintyre seems as remote as the dark side of the moon.
*This was post-Beatles but pre-Ebony and Ivory, Frog Chorus and Heather Mills showdown, when Macca still had a scrap of dignity left.
South West Sea Kayaking has had a plug in The Guardian newspaper. Many thanks to Jim Krakiecki who included the wonderful Isles of Scilly in his ‘Top Ten’ list of sea kayaking destinations.
Presumably the Isles will soon be over-run with sandal-wearing, muesli-eating, Labour-voting, ethnic-clothes-clad paddlers …
Incidentally, the photo above (or one pretty similar, I forget which) is being used as the cover of a new book about gardens in the south west. Splendid.