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Wild camping with a whale

An old school friend of mine and I have taken the first 2 weeks off in July, just before the schools break up, for the last 3 years to go paddling. It was Pembrokeshire the first year, Cornwall the second, and this year we thought we’d challenge ourselves to the exposed headlands of north-west Skye. I was expecting big seas, challenging conditions, and at least a rest day or two…

I got none of the above. Will we talk about 2018’s weather in the same way we talk about 1976 (which I can just about vaguely remember)? It was pretty much flat calm and we took advantage accordingly. There was fantastic visibility, both above and below water, amazing views of the Outer Hebrides and the Cuillin Ridge, and wonderful wildlife watching throughout. We had truly jaw-dropping views of white-tailed eagles on 7 of the 10 days we paddled, which has got to be some sort of record; there were seabirds galore including puffin, tysties (the Scottish, or old Norse if you go back far enough, name for black guillemots), and red-throated diver; a pod of common dolphin and the occasional porpoise; and a solitary otter foraging on the beach at dusk not far from a herd of red deer.

A sea kayak gives you the freedom and capacity to wild camp in the heart of the landscape like no other means of transport I’ve ever used before. I even caught my first fish from the kayak, a 3 pound pollock that we ate just an hour later.

Towards the end of the trip, south of Niest Point, we wild camped with a was a dead minke that had probably been washed up on the last spring tide. We sensibly pitched our tents upwind and had our first and last campfire of the whole trip – the warm weather meant keeping warm just hadn’t been an issue.

And of course the question most people have asked me since getting back - what were the midges like? One evening and one morning they were a pain admittedly, but nothing a bit of spray and a headnet couldn’t deal with…

…thank you Skye!

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