Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Paddling the mists of Knoydart

The Easter weekend brought most of the Greenland expedition team together to meet up for some paddling and camping. The journey from Manchester was hardly encouraging. We battled high winds and frequent showers of sleet until we found some improvement north of the Scottish border by teatime. Eventually we arrived at the beautifully situated Silversands Campsite just north of Arisaig where crystal skies gave way to a dazzling sunset.

The next morning we set off into a cold and murky morning. After stopping at Mallaig for a few last minute supplies we set about finding a legendary bunkhouse nestled deep in a sheltered inlet along the shores of Loch Nevis. It is a basic set up in an old chapel. There is coal fired range, basic lighting as well as hot and cold running water. The building retains its old charm whilst adorned with postcards from well-traveled past visitors. The proprietor is called Frank who now in his mid-eighties has been living there for more than 25 years. He plays accordion and tells stories and rude jokes but also accepts assistance in entertainment from his electric singing moose head.

Having spent the night at the bunkhouse, the Sandaig Islands made famous by Gavin Maxwell and his love of otters, would be next on our tour. The weather remained poor with mostly mist and drizzle and to cap it all, a cripplingly chilly headwind.

However, just as we arrived the wind dropped and the skies cleared.

Late afternoon sunshine drenched this idyllic and historic scene and we relaxed in the early evening sunshine.

Following a moonlit night, the mists and rain returned in the morning. We paddled south and made for Inverie for beer and hot food and music at The Old Forge. In the morning we struck camp early. We were fully equipped with sore heads and weary limbs in readiness for a hard paddle into a stiff headwind.

The stretch from Mallaig back to Silversands was especially tough into rough seas and squalls of force 4-6. Having landed safely, we found fish and chips plentiful scalding hot tea in a warm cafe.

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