27th and 28th of August, 2011 – Seil Island Circumnavigation

I am quite often doubtful of weather forecasts having found in the past that they can be quite pessimistic and I have had a good few days and weekends on quieter hills with good weather because the forecast suggested bad weather was likely and this kept other people away, erring on the positive side and taking a chance has worked more times than not for me. That approach is fine on land, however, on the sea I tend to err on the cautious side and confronted with a number of forecasts, which were in agreement about deteriorating weather and strengthening winds over the weekend, plans to paddle out to the relatively exposed Garvellachs and camp were abandoned in favour of a more sheltered alternative.

Staying in the same area and starting and finishing as planned at Arduaine, we opted instead for a leisurely paddle round Seil island with stops on the adjacent islands of Easdale and Insh and having some fun in the tidal flow of Cuan sound along the way with a camp somewhere on the north coast of Seil.

Saturday was sunny and warm with light winds to begin with, which strengthened later to F4 as predicted. We set off towards the island of Torsa which lies out from the eastern entrance to Cuan Sound and arrived with the west going stream flowing well. At first we sat back and took time to see what was happening with the water before buddying up and heading in to the main channel to be carried west in the flow. The water in the sound was quite smooth with some ripples and small boils but obviously moving around a lot and we enjoyed some playing around in the eddies and main flow. It was noted that paddling full speed ahead against the flow resulted in sitting stationary relatively so the flow was probably about 5 knots and this fits with predictions based on the tidal data for the time we were there. On the other hand paddling with the flow had us belting along with minimal effort towards some much livelier looking water at the western exit of the sound where converging water flows must have been interacting to cause the waves and boils we experienced there.

Approaching Cuan Sound

Slight turbulence as we left Cuan Sound

Out first view of the Garvellachs - saved for another day

Colourful Easdale

Looking towards the Garvellachs from Easdale with old quarry workings below

Easdale, looking across the channel to Seil

Crossing to Insh

Passing between Easdale and Seil, we stopped off to refine our stone skimming skills, have lunch, cake and coffee (all very civilised) and explore the village and its disused slate quarries. The village itself is quite nice but the surroundings are gorgeous, at least in sunshine, lots of amazing colours in the wild flowers covering the terrain and the surrounding views, including those of the Garvellachs are really impressive, quite open and varied.

By now the sea had changed notably to something much lumpier and yachts were racing about, literally in some cases, in the F4 wind.  We set off in to wind, bouncing along the way to the island of Insh’s southern tip where, finding shelter we hugged the coast along the length of the island. A couple of us stopped at a cave which has been developed in to a dwelling by someone to have a nosey. Landing here was tricky and wet and in doing so my phone got rather wet as I had forgotten it was in my back pocket, the costly insurance I was offered seemed like good value when I eventually realised this had happened later in the day.

Choppier waters en-route to Insh

Shelter in the anchorage where we stayed the night

Heading back to Seil we chose a direct line from Inch’s northern tip to Seil’s and began looking for suitable camp spots, eventually opting for one close to a well-used anchorage, Puilladobhrain (Pool of the Otter), just at the tip of the Seil Clachan.

Thankfully it remained dry all night and the only slight annoyance was evidence of ticks and a number of pools of water which had to be negotiated on wandering about between our tents.


After a gusty night, we woke to grey skies and as predicted much stronger winds. The sea was up too out in the main channel and after breakfast and packing up, I headed out for a warm-up in the rough water. I just wanted to see if I could get round our little island home for the night and see how hard paddling in to F5 winds was for any length of time. It did indeed prove hard work but I was rewarded with some swift surfing down the waves on the return leg.

Bridge Over the Atlantic

Heading south for Loch Melfort

Once the others were ready we continued with our circumnavigation, paddling down the narrow channel to and under the Bridge Over the Atlantic. We were sheltered largely beyond this too by the land mass of Seil but could still see that the winds were up – good not to have gone out to the Garvellachs – and passed over to the mainland before we reached any potential flow in to Cuan Sound.

A short journey in to Loch Melfort then round to Arduaine finished off a good trip which proved sometimes the forecasts can be bang-on.


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