Archive for St Kilda

30th of July, 2011 – St Kilda Trip, Day 1 – Scarp and Loch Reasort

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak, Trips, Wildlife with tags on August 23, 2011 by Jinja Coo
I joined a trip out on the MV Cuma with Island Cruising, one of two trips focused on kayaking a year run by them. This is a six day trip which should allow a window to get out to St Kilda with plenty of backup options for the days before and / or after, which are not suited to either safe anchoring, traveling to & from or paddling around St Kilda. It became clear on early chats that a day or day and a half is sometimes all that is possible out there with the conditions but we were really lucky and had three nights moored in Village Bay.

After boarding the vessel, we (myself and eight other paddlers) headed down the east coast of Lewis from Miavaig, to the island of Scarp where we alighted with the kayaks and paddled the north coast, exploring caves, nooks and crannies then continued on to meet up with the Cuma in Loch Reasort, a sheltered and somewhat fjord like setting. We had arrived just in time for tea too which was nice.

Getting on the water for our first paddle, north coast of Scarp

One of the caves along Scarp's north coast

Arriving at the Cuma in Loch Reasort

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31st of July, 2011 – St Kilda Trip, Day 2 – Loch Reasort and Sron Ulladale

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak, Trips, Wildlife with tags on August 23, 2011 by Jinja Coo
As forecast, a wet and very windy day to stay put in Loch Reasort and some of us were taken ashore to enable us to go a short walk up to see the impressive, overhanging cliffs of Sron Ulladale. On return a smaller group of us headed out on to the water up to the head of Loch Reasort and explored some buildings and a nice river there – more views of Sron Ulladale, this time in profile – it really does hang out quite a bit. A couple of us picked some mussels and one seems to have been missed by me on going awol beneath my seat – bad mistake, I’ve no idea if I will be able to retrieve the mussel but hope at least that the smell goes soon.

1st of August, 2011 – St Kilda Trip, Day 3 – Journey to St Kilda and Dun Paddle

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak, Trips, Wildlife with tags on August 23, 2011 by Jinja Coo
Shortly after breakfast and a forecast, we were off to St Kilda and not long in to the 5 ½ hour journey the highest points began to show, confusing at first as the biggest island seemed to be Boreray, not Hirta, but that changed the closer we got as more of the low ground began to appear over the horizon. More and more birdies joined us along the way, bound for their home and the route taken in to the archipelago was a cracker, we headed in through between Boreray and the giant Stacs beside it (Stac Lee and Stac an Armin), much like Bass Rock but bigger, though it is hard to appreciate that until close up.

We were amazed by Boreray and as it receded behind us we were approaching Hirta and Dun and were growing excited about the view we knew should just be round the corner, that of Village Bay and its remaining village with all the buildings I had spent the past few weeks and more reading about. Again, stunning but the presence of numerous military buildings was a little detracting from the scene.

Early view of St Kilda on our journey out

Each island becoming apparent as we got closer (l to r) Dun, Hirta, Soay, Boreray

Rounding Boreray

Stac Lee, Stac an Armin and Boreray with its almost ever present puff of cloud.

Gannets being pursued by a giant skua (bonxie) past the stacs

Not long after arrival we headed out on our first paddle. We set off from Village Bay and almost immediately hit on something interesting, a cave but not just any cave, one with passage right through in to the Dun Gap which separates Dun from Hirta. Conditions were lively on the west side so we did not venture out of the gap and instead followed Dun’s east coast. Another tunnel / cave system was followed, at first narrow and at an angle allowing paddling only on one side, into a big cavern then out at 90 degrees in to the wild waters on the west side, we looked briefly and headed back through.  Lots of puffins and other birds here kept us company and we got our first close up of a Soay sheep albeit a drowned one!

Paddling over to Dun

Passage through Dun

Dun's giant arch

View of Dun from one of Hirta's countless caves

Towards the southern tip there is a huge arch which has some shallow rocks at its base making for interesting passage through and there are two entrances too, one smaller and ‘bumpier’ off to the side. Great fun! We rounded the southern tip for a glimpse up the west coast and then headed across Village Bay to land at the pier and leave the kayaks ashore, chatted to some people and saw some livelier sheep up close.

Dun provides shelter and safe anchorage for Village Bay ... most of the time

Hirta's village laid out beneath Connachair

2nd of August, 2011 – St Kilda Trip, Day 4 – Paddling Hirta and Dun

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak, Trips, Wildlife with tags on August 23, 2011 by Jinja Coo
Picking up our kayaks, we set off on a planned anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Hirta, sheltered side first, and found ourselves exploring massive caves, all seemingly competing to be the best. Some were cavernous, others long and thin with no sight in end (next time I am taking something brighter than an LED head torch), some with raised beaches, both with and without seals and some with blowholes (the caves not the seals). The swell and noise added to the experience. The cliffs above and views across to Boreray added to the paddle as did the birds above. 7km in 3 hours – that says it all about the caves and interest along the way – not a place to rush about.  We finished off our morning by paddling through the great arch in to Glen Bay on Hirta’s north side where the Cuma now lay and lunch awaited us.

Paddling Hirta's east coast

Caving, paddling, or both?

Colourful rock at the tidal zone inside one of Hirta's caves

One of the narrower caves

One of many caves with a great view

The swell looked too lively at 3m on the west coast to allow sensible passage and any chance of exploring the caves along it, so rather than paddle we headed onwards on the Cuma, passing between Hirta and Soay then down the west coast of Hirta and Dun then back to Village Bay.  From there, a smaller group of us tried again for a circumnavigation of Dun. With a lower water level to that of the previous evening, we first encountered a dried out gap and therefore no passage through then a different experience in the second tunnel system. An exposed rock in the back of the cave had a resident seal who was not too bothered by our presence. We almost did a circumnavigation except for the gap but re-traced our steps and got to enjoy the rough stuff on the other side.

Lunch time!

Hirta's west coast

Gannet

Rougher water on Dun's west side

A couple of hours exploring the village buildings followed the paddle before a well-earned dinner aboard the Cuma.

Hirta's war relic which was to defend Village Bay

One of many cleits used for storage and drying in the past

... and another of the 1200 or so cleits and some Soay sheep

View in to the village

Village, Village Bay and Dun beyond

One of St Kilda's Wrens

View up towards 'The Gap'

Looking from the church out to the building known as the Feather Store

Dun at dusk

3rd of August, 2011 – St Kilda Trip, Day 5 – A Wander on Hirta

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Kayak, Paddling, Sea Kayak, Trips, Wildlife with tags on August 23, 2011 by Jinja Coo
I climbed the stairs up from the Cuma’s dark cabin area in to blinding sunshine for a second morning which was great as this day was to be spent ashore exploring. Having read tons about St Kilda before the trip, I had wondered if it was possible to fit in all corners of the island without rushing it too much and taking in a lot of the history and sights along the way. I think it is and though I have left a lot to look out for on a return visit, I made the most of the good weather and small distances to get as full a day as possible and I even enjoyed a couple of spells lounging about on cliff tops admiring views from the ‘wrong’ side of the Western Isles. One of the best days in the hills I have had!

School time!

Walled enclosures above the village, protected by bonxies

View over the bay from the northern slope of Oiseval

Bonxie attack, more bark than bite but alarming nonetheless

Village

The view of Boreray and the Stacs even chills out the odd bonxie

View along the cliffs of Connachair to Soay

Older remains than in Village Bay lie in Glen Bay, this is one of the horned structures remaining

Fulmar chick residing in one of the remaining structures

The arch into Glen Bay which we had paddled the previous day with Boreray and the Stacs behind

Soay behind the remains of what would once have connected it to Hirta, now just an arch and stacs

Looking north to Soay along the ridge from Mullach Bi

No doubt cleits in such airy places dried things (bird meat) well

The Lover's Stone

Looking south to and along Dun, some peaks of the Western Isles lie along the horizon

Looking across to 'The Gap' which separates Connachair on the left from Oiseval on the right

Ruival, my last peak of the day, and Dun behind

View from Ruival; Connachair, the Village and Oiseval

The village

It would have been a belter of a day on the water too but you can’t do everything and I did manage to refresh myself after this hard day in the hills with a swim in Village Bay.