Hike, Paddle, Sail in the Western Highlands in November
Strong waves roll in the rocky bay close by Mallaig. A light breeze from the east drags untiringly thick rain fields near. The Sound of Sleat on the west coast of Scotland welcomes us rather unkindly. Should we really dare to paddle under these conditions directly to Kyle Rhea 30 kilometres farther north? We are still a little whacked from the last night in the tent not far from the Courour railway station.
Mhm, the Sandaig Bay on the other side is still just to be recognised. Now it´s 14.00 hours. If we want to be over there, before dusk, we have to start now!
OK, we get ready. Dry suit, life jacket, inflated packraft, backback lashed down – last powwow and go! The bearing points to Glass Eilean, however, over and over again the bow must turn to the slightly foam-crowned wave crest. Besides, an outward current claims power reserves thought to be lost. As twilight falls we land exhausted south of Torr h-Innse.
On the next day we wait in vain for a weather improvement. To keep options open, Barrisdale Bay is the next destination. After Inverie and Gleann an Dubh- Lochain we climb the col next to Toman Odhar.
Rain pregnant clouds gather over Loch Hour, the nightly hail-storm has colored the summits white. A seldom tame north wind blows this morning. This favor we have to use and already soon our packrafts rush on crystal-clear water to the western end of the loch, to the Sound of Sleat. And we are not alone. As before on the ocean paddle Expedition San Quintín the seals and dolphins also escort us. A wounderful experience.
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About midday we are already at the entrance to the strait Kyle Rhea, nevertheless our hope to find a good Scottish meal somewhere on land will be disappointed. Further the paddles have to be hit. Dornie lies on our way. There should be a pub! After 29 raft kilometres and another 5 km on foot we reach the settlement. No! The pub is closed. Outrageouse!
Eventually we slurp our well- earned beers at the hotel bar and then fall into luxurious “Haia”.
The next day after Bundalloch and Glen Elchaig we reach Loch na Lèitrach. Further it goes on the Cape Wrath Trail towards Kinlochewe in the north. After a dry but icy night in the Maol-Bhuidhe the packrafts are pushed into the water of Loch Calavie. We set the sails and after 15 min the stiff tail wind has puffed us over the lake. Wow, in the new sail mode one makes headway wonderfully! We want absolutely more of that!
We enjoy another long November evening in the rusic Bearnais hut with Saxon crime stories and wine by candlelight.
Sgúrrr Feartaig col, Allt a’Chonais, Craig – the small hostel is closed, grrr. . . Then it is some more stretch of road to trudge for a camp in the bush.
Finally, the sun comes through for longer and puts the Scottish scenery in worthy manner in the right light. Below the 1st Coulin bridge we raft to Loch Coulin today, paddle up to the outflow of Loch Clair. After 5 km walk the bunkhouse of Kinlochewe has been stormed. In the evening a likeable group of Scots join in. The first outdoor folk at all since we started 9 days ago.
Next day a beaming blue sky lures for a luggage-free “Wandertag” into the surroundings. It is calm and from the Meall a’Ghiuthais we overlook not only a big piece of the Western Highlands, but also the route of the paddle tour planned for tomorrow crossing Loch Maree to Poolewe.
Overnight wind arises – from the east. Bingo! Let´s sail! With an average of 6 km/h the wind drives the boats up to the end of the 20-km-long Loch. A successful end!
A little time even still remains for the ascent of Ben Nevis. Then we have to return to Saxony.