With a day to spare after our two-night run around the Slate Islands, Gael suggested we head down to Gigha off the Mull of Kintyre. I’ve always wanted to visit this Scottish appendage and for Gael, Gigha had a special resonance as the starting point of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail which he completed two years ago. Quite an achievement alone in an IK.
First of all though, I was ravenous for food on a plate not mush in a bag. We pulled into a cafe in the pretty port of Tarbert for some 1980s decor and food to match (right), then marched over to the Co-Op to see what was going cheap. Whatever I’d been eating on the Slates, it hadn’t been enough
We camped opposite the island, then once the wind abated next morning, carried the boats onto the ferry. Once underway I came over all lethargic on account of the Slate paddle (or perhaps the gluttonous Tarbert episode). It wasn’t helped by pushing a headwind up to Gigha’s northern point on our anticlockwise lap.
Finally we turned downwind, portaged the sandy isthmus at Eilean Garbh and moved on to the next sandy beach for a long lunch break and what had become my customary doze. Out on the northwest horizon pale blue humps marked the Paps of Jura. I read this short book partly about Jura recently (no so satisfying); among the Inner Hebrides Jura seems to have a certain allure.
Whether it was a pumped up seat, a good rest or the benefits of three days’ sea kayaking, I got belatedly reacquainted with my paddling mojo. I sat up straight, drew like a pro and soared across the waves like a surf ski, while Gael dabbled along the shore. The ocean side of this narrow island was a bit wilder, but for me lacked the features and interest of the far northwestern coast. Or maybe is was pre-doomed by the stigma of being too far south to be exotic.
We covered the 5.5 miles to Gigha’s southern tip in an hour thirty; a good pace for a pair of bloats. Back on the sandier mainland side we dipped about looking for a secluded wild camp but there were too many properties or not enough space. And with little wind now, the boathouse campground looked less inviting than a 3-mile scoot back to the mainland.
We set off, giving the day’s last ferry a wide berth by aiming for a big green buoy about halfway across. Once there and still feeling on form, I decided to PLF to the mainland jetty just to see if I could. Halfway there, with steam pouring from my drysuit’s vents and the tide pulling us south, Gael passed in the Incept without too much effort. I hammered away regardless as the jetty crept closer and touched down in 48 minutes, a minute after Gael. A good, end-of-tour burn up to clear out the cylinders.
It was good to see some other islands and with easy access and escape routes, Gigha would make a great first circumnavigation for a beginner. But as always, the wilder isles to the north and west hold more intrigue.