2021 Scottish Sea Kayaking Trip to the Summer Isles
Day 11 Wednesday Slagan Bay to Seana Chamas Bay via Rubha Reidh by David Grimes
I woke early to the haunting calls of a pair of loons on the water (that is, beautiful seabirds, not over-enthusiastic dawn kayakers) piercing the deafening silence of the bay and the ruined village above it. I had assumed that the ruins were as a result of the clearances. However, it seems that the clan chief of the Mackenzies in Gairloch refused to evict his tenants during the clearances of the 19th century and, as a result, cleared Highlanders from other communities made their way to settle in the area. However, the population dwindled because of the decline in the agricultural economy. Reputedly, there are strangers buried in the village – they came ashore to raid but had been spotted in advance and the villagers were ready and waiting for them. The only hostile visitors waiting for us were the inevitable clouds of midgies – however there were times when I felt as though a swift despatch at the hands of a pitchfork wielding local might have been preferable to being tormented by a million psychopathic critters.
The day started somewhat overcast but calm with very little wind as we made the short crossing to the headland of Rubha Reidh, resisting the temptation of a detour down into Loch Ewe. There were some hugely impressive red rock arches to explore. As we worked our way along the coast to the Rua Reidh lighthouse, the coastal features were like a sea kayakers sweetshop with fantastic rock formations, caves and a very photogenic waterfall. I say photogenic, it was until several of us tried to paddle underneath it and recreate the old Timotei adverts. One particular cave was really memorable – a very narrow and dark 60ish yard long tunnel with a big dark void part way along – very spooky.
As we passed the jetty and lighthouse of Rua Reidh, the grey clouds began to burn away, and it became an impossibly beautiful sunny afternoon. We rounded the headland and a spectacular view of Skye opened up on our horizon. I could see a distant small dark island off the coast of Skye. Hmm, something about that shape…and it was almost imperceptibly moving…the realisation dawned that it was one of Her Majesty’s fleet of nuclear submarines cruising along the surface. There was a tanker just further north, working its way up towards the Western Isles – Keith speculated that the sub might potentially use it for some target practice. Luckily, it was quite a long distance away!
Just past the settlement of Melvaig above the coastline, we arrived at the ridiculously beautiful long, white sand bay of Seana Chamas. This was our campsite for the night, with a panoramic view across the turquoise sea to Skye. A quick google reveals that not much happens in Melvaig other than a long history of producing and smuggling alcohol. Its big moment was in 1805 when Captain John McCallum’s schooner full of herrings was wrecked just offshore with the loss of all hands-on deck except one. A local ne’er do well called John Smith stole the sea boots from one of the bodies washed up on shore. Luckily, the one or two dog walking locals who ventured down onto the beach didn’t seem interested in all the kit spread out to dry in the sun.
The payoff for an early start was that we had arrived at Seana Chamas in the early afternoon. So once our two camps were up (grassy one for sand refusers and sandy one for sheep tick refusers), it was actually like a proper holiday, with plenty of time to relax and chill. A superb and memorable day ended with the customary gourmet cooking, good conversation, a swig (or several) of Bunnahabhainn and the reddening sun sinking into the sea in front of us.
To see more pages from the whole trip go to the Major trips and Expedition reports tab on the club website or click here…….