KAYAKING & WILD CAMPING IN LOCH KISHORN

It’s happened again – I’m the bearer of bad weather. I arrived in ‘sunny Kishorn’ – a small village in the Scottish Highlands where my mum moved to about two years ago. It’s an incredible place, surrounded by towering mountains, endless horizons, views of Skye – an ideal place for those who love to be outside. But whenever I visit… ‘sunny Kishorn’ loses its title. It’s the day before our trip and it’s dreich, windy and pretty miserable. However, that is a traditional Scottish summer and the addition of the wind means the subtraction of midges, so it’s not all bad.

The optimist in me predicted good weather for our kayaking camping trip, but nope. It’s still blowing a hoolie. With all of our kit stuffed into dry bags and stored inside our kayaks my mum and I headed off into the waves. We originally planned to paddle directly from Kishorn Bay to our destination (in a straight line) – makes sense on a calm day! But with the weather being borderline stormy we stuck to the coastline avoiding the worst of the swell.

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My mum, by the way, is of far higher ability than me in a kayak. She knows her stuff and has done heaps of rescue training. I am an amateur – but always enjoy going out and getting practice in. Thankfully today is not a good day for kayak rolling – so I’m off the hook!

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We had a good idea of where we could camp, but getting there was proving to be tricky. At this point I found paddling along to the beat of ‘another one bites the dust’ very motivational. However the further we got, the bigger the swell was… so instead of being numpties and having to call in the coast guard to be rescued we beached ourselves early and walked the rest of the route. Leaving the kayaks up high on a grassy bank.

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We clambered through thick bracken – getting mauled by ticks, and along the shoreline to a small bay with a stoney beach and large flat grassy area ideal for an overnighter… pretty certain this is the one we had in mind, and if not… it would do! Bonus, there were even two strong trees so I could try out the hammock.

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With views of the infamous Cuillin mountains on Skye and west facing (meaning sunsets) this beach should have been the perfect spot for a night under the stars. Except, when we got there the cloud cover was so thick I couldn’t even see the small island less than a km away, so no chance of a sunset OR stars… and the wind was chopping away at the sea so much my dream of a sea swim quickly went out the window. I also spotted enough large red jellyfish on our paddle to put me off a dip that day.

So – we set up camp, boiled up some water for cups of tea, changed into dry kit and had a wander around our highland residence of paradise. We found lots of small caves hidden among the vegetation that were piled with remains of old camping kit; sleeping bags, tanks of gas, glass bottles and clothing. Strange and creepy, and enough to stop me entering the caves for further investigation.

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So what happened for the rest of the night? Not very much – read books, scribbled in my sketchbook, heated up some soup for dinner… got cosy! I played with my camera for a while hoping that I would spot an otter on night watch… but that didn’t happen. My mum and I had a good catch up since we don’t get to see each other that often anymore, which was really nice because if we were in the house we would probably be watching a box set or something instead. I wrote some short stories in my notebook and eventually fell asleep (kind of).

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When I woke up, I was cold, damp and desperate to get home. My frustration with Scottish weather consumed me for about an hour until I got back into the kayak and started to paddle home; and it all disappeared. I felt so happy, grinning from ear to ear – I felt like I’d been on the biggest adventure with my mum.

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We didn’t wait for good weather, or let the depressing appearance of dark cloud put us off. I think every single time I go off to do something a little bit wild, there is always a moment when I think I’d rather be at home nice and warm. But these wild and crazy experiences are the best, they’re the days I never forget and I can tell everyone about that time I thought sleeping in a hammock in strong winds and torrential rain was a good idea. Well, I ALWAYS come home happy, and am very appreciative of a mug of tea and a good sleep. I think that speaks wonders.

Thanks for reading – keep up with all my recent adventures @ronamcmillan

Rona x

 

Spontaneous Wild Camping Mull of kintyre

There are few experiences in life that can overrule the excitment and the freedom of sleeping in the wild. Sleeping outside, whether the experience is good or bad will undoubtably set the scene to be one of those unfogettable moments in your life. Camping in a campsite is fun too, but it doesn’t give the same buzz of being totally alone miles away from anyone the way wild camping does.

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Views of the Kilbranan Sound – looking across to Arran

Wild camping can be a bit of hassle if you’re not prepared, and this is exactly what happened when Emily and I jumped in the car for an adventure at the start of the week.

Shall we just go find somewhere to camp?

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We were pretty unprepared, and we ended up taking a TON of stuff we didn’t really need. You know when you panic pack and end up with a million bags and ten outfits you don’t need? We had ALL the kit in the world, for every kind of adventure and we were only planning to be away for 24 hours. I would also just like to say that this is not a female thing; all my male friends and family members are just as guilty of the panic pack.

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5 star bedroom views

So what was the plan? 

There wasn’t much of a plan. I made a kit list just to be sure I didn’t forget vital items, stuffed it all into the car and we hit the road. I had a rough idea of where we could camp so that made things a little easier. I grew up in a tiny village called Skipness on the Mull of Kintyre which is very remote and quiet – so I thought it would be cool spot to revisit and explore again.

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Basic Kit list 

  • Tent & sleeping bag & mat
  • Camping stove & gas
  • Torch & lighter
  • Sharp Knife & sporks
  • Pan & mug/bowl
  • FOOD & water
  • Small first aid kit

Extras (if your not walking far)

  • Fire wood
  • Bluetooth Speaker
  • Book & playing cards
  • Sketchbook & pen
  • GoPro/camera/tri-pod
  • Wetsuit & snorkelling kit
  • Quick dry Towel
  • Wine
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We didn’t have far to walk since we camped by the beach – so we took quite a lot of food & wine

Is it allowed? 

The beauty of Scotland is, you can almost camp wherever you like as long as you’re not causing any harm to the environment or people who live nearby. Wild camping is legal; however elsewhere in the UK you are supposed to ask landowners permission first.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says this: 

Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply, but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s permission. Leave no trace by:

  • taking away all your litter
  • removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
  • not causing any pollution.

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Side note – it is really important when lighting a fire in the wild that you do it somewhere that isn’t going to kill surrounding vegetation – and all your wood should be burnt to a fine ash to leave no trace. 

What else did we do? 

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We walked around Skipness, and visited the castle which has beautiful views of Arran from the top.

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We took lots of photos!

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We drank beers in the sunshine

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…and wine round the fire

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We also wrote a few bad poems

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…and took some really pretty selfies

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Then, on our way home we detoured for a swim at Westport Beach.

Thanks for a fun night away Emily –

R x @ronamcmillan

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