Kyles of Bute Again

Approaching Tighnabruaich

Approaching Tighnabruaich

On a weekend of good weather, we had toyed with the idea of travelling beyond the borders of Cowal, but decided to minimise our driving time and maximise our paddling time instead. Being that “in-between” time of year, and being that the weather was so pleasant and sunny, I found myself entering the great drysuit versus wetsuit debate, known to delay many a kayaker’s departure. Water temperatures are the gauge (dress for immersion!) and they are not quite Mediterranean standard just yet, so I compromised by wearing a lighter fleece under my drysuit.

We launched at Colintraive on Sunday morning. Sadly, I misjudged my entry point and was perturbed to be blown on top of barnacled rocks. There is no more troublesome sound than that of a grating noise from under one’s kayak. Oh well … it had to happen one day (but no, this doesn’t mean I’ll be lining up for a spot of rock-hopping – not in my Nordy!).

Kayaks at Ettrick Bay

Kayaks at Ettrick Bay

We headed north up the East Kyle, hugging the Bute coastline until we reached the ever picturesque Tighnabruaich and Kames. On we paddled south, remaining on the Bute side of the West Kyle, against a bit of a breeze. We eventually reached Ettrick Bay on Bute, a most appealing stop. As we paddled into the bay, we noted that a small crowd of daytrippers was on the beach either picnicking, playing ball, or simply enjoying the scenery. Everyone there had arrived by road, except for us. We took advantage of the facilities before returning to our kayaks. There was something quite special about that moment when, taking our leave of “civilisation” (albeit not exactly a horde), we turned around and kept walking, walking on past the tide line, away from the sounds of people and cars, to our waiting kayaks and back to our element of the sea. Is this how a seal feels perhaps?

Returning to Colintraive

Returning to Colintraive

And so we embarked upon the return journey, this time crossing over to skirt the Cowal shoreline. We had anticipated being pushed back by the same wind that we’d faced previously, however, it had died away – a similar phenomenon has frequently occurred when we’ve been out cycling. Nonetheless, the tide was in our favour and, whenever I stopped for a quick nap stretch, I noted that I was still making perhaps about 1 knot of progress. This certainly lifted my spirits, not that they needed much lifting.

Any worries I’d had about the potential scratching of my kayak upon launching were quickly surpassed by a further moment of carelessness when I was once again scraping over a barnacled rock that I’d failed to see looming ahead of me. I could have swerved urgently to one side, but I was busy recalling the TV programme I’d watched the night before which documented the cause of the demise of the Titanic, ie the captain had steered the ship to the side of the iceberg, where it inflicted greater damage. I’m not sure the same logic applies to kayaks and rocks. Anyway, you can imagine the rending of my heart into pieces as the rock scoured the hull of my beautiful kayak. Happily, it sounded a lot worse than it actually was as I later discovered only a few minor scratches.

Edging practice

A bit of edging practice

It was early evening by the time we returned to Colintraive, with happy hearts and sun-burnt hands.

I had a bit of an epiphany recently when I reflected on the various magical days we’ve had out in our kayaks (and those to come). It related to how fortunate I am and how I really have no reason to complain about anything when such uplifting and life-enhancing activities are available to me. So, on that note, I’m going to stop complaining now. Honest!


  1. Owen Merrick says:


    Don’t worry about little scratches, kayaks are to be enjoyed not hung on the wall. Go rockhopping and relax.

  2. pamf says:

    But, but … my precious Nordy! Plus, you haven’t seen my rockhopping skills – might be more than a few little scratches to worry about! 🙂

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