29th of April to 2nd of May, 2011 – Raasay, Rona and Applecross

A bonus long weekend was eagerly anticipated by five of us who had gone through some kayak training and assessment last year. We had mulled over various ideas and locations which would provide us with one sheltered trip whatever the weather was to be, but in the end our first choice proved to be suitable for the expected weather.

The planned route would take us to the islands of Raasay, Rona and the Crowlins with a couple of remote camps along the way and one at Applecross which would afford us a well-earned night in the inn there.

Two of our party headed up early (on Thursday) and started paddling from Kyleakin, north towards Applecross with a night spent at Uags bothy before continuing next day first to the Crowlins, then further west to Broadford on Skye. At this point the remaining three of us were driving north and with a few calls along the way we agreed to meet up close to our launch site at Sconser on Skye in the late afternoon.

The usual ‘how am I going to get all this in there’ session was actually pretty smooth going and soon enough the three boats were packed and we were launching ourselves from the ferry pier at Sconser. Brief chat over radio had our two groups heading for a meeting point soon after, close to Raasay House and after pleasantries we chatted about where we would land for the night. With the others having already paddled 40km combined with our late start, it made sense to opt for a short paddle north to an obvious bay on Raasay’s west coast.

Tents were soon set up on a narrow stretch of grass above a steep pebble beach and dinners on soon after. Chat and drinks led us up to sunrise and beyond and our night was only just cut short by a rain shower. A very gusty night followed and on the odd occasion I looked out of my tent it seemed very grey, I was resigned to us having to stay put the next day but in actual fact, we finally woke to a gorgeous day with winds that seemed to be dropping.

After breakfast, four of us walked along to and up Raasay’s distinctive peak, Dun Caan, a bit of a geological curiosity with great views all around and beyond Raasay. Most of our journey for the three days and the scale of that was on view for us at this point.

Next, we packed up and paddled north along Raasay’s west coast, stopping for a lunch and for a couple of us a swim too, enjoying amazing caves and narrow channels between rocks along the way. Dolphins joined us for a short while just as we were rounding the top of Raasay via a narrow channel which took us to our next camp spot on the NE tip of Raasay. A bothy we knew about was not immediately obvious but in any case a perfect, flat area was close to shore and camp was soon set up and snacks snacked on. Still being early, four of us launched again to explore the islands between Raasay and Rona and on our return we discovered we had been joined by another group of paddlers.

A great sunset was enjoyed after dinner and chatted and had drinks together with the other group. Red sky at night, before a good clear starry sky was a good sign and sure enough we awoke on the Sunday to another stunning day.

Tents packed and we were soon off on our anti-clockwise paddle round Rona, quite a different looking island to Raasay in some ways. A nice spot from the sea but would be nice to get back and explore a but more on foot. Once round Rona, we passed by our camp site and on to the next headland a kilometer or so south on Raasay’s east coast. Here we re-fueled before making the 7km crossing to Applecross watching for the movements of two submarines as we went.

Applecross was not long in coming with the wind and tide assisting us and after another quick stop, we paddled the last few kilometers of a 40km day to the village of Applecross itself. Once landed the hard work began, ferrying relays of bags up to the camp site which sits uphill from the village. Tent up, shower (bliss) and then a good feed at the inn followed before a well-earned sleep.

Another gorgeous start and an early one too to get on the water at high tide. Some really nice coast followed over shallow water above sand made for a nice scene, made all the better by the view of the Cuilin of Skye seemingly rising out of and reflected in the sea ahead.

Lunch at the Crowlin Islands and goodbye too as our group split at this point heading for our different starting points. Our group stopped again and lazed on a beach at the northern end of Scalpay before a final 6km back to start ended our three day adventure.

We were so lucky with the weather but the places we saw along the way made the trip too, a very remote feeling place with lots of interest along the coast and we could easily have spent longer there with more time ashore.

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