Sea Kayaking Scotland: Handa Island
All I can say is sea kayaking doesn’t get much better than this trip.
Let’s rewind 2 days-having driven all through the night to get to Scourie, a little village on the far North-West of Scotland, I was feeling pretty knackered.
We’d left the Lake District at about 1pm on the Sunday afternoon, and didn’t reach our accommodation in Scotland until 5.30am in the morning!
Winding along the roads, we made our way from Perth, passing up through the Grampian Mountains and the Cairngorms to Inverness and onwards into the wild highlands. The journey seemed never-ending but the route was a pleasure to drive with dramatic views left, right and centre.
Being the height of Summer it felt as if Scotland never truly darkened into night. As the last of the daylight seeped away, dawn seemed to flush the sky, even though it was 1am, it still seemed very light outside.
It was 4am in the morning, when the low-lying thick mist really became visible, drifting over some of the mountains in the distance. I stopped the car and stood in the road, in silence just taking it all in.
It was rather eerie, as the fog rolled in, a stag’s bellow echoed nearby…I remember feeling so elated to be here-I’d finally arrived in the wilds.
The adrenaline rush pushed me on with the final leg of driving, and we finally arrived at our final destination, sleepy-eyed and dreaming of the promise of adventure to come.
Due to a longer than expected journey, we spent most of Monday sleeping it off, but the weather forecast was just too good to miss and so on Tuesday we were itching to get out. Blue skies and low winds were the final word from the BBC weather forecast- this combination means only one thing: kayaking time.
A short 20 minute car journey up from Scourie, lies Handa Island-a protected wildlife reserve. Each Summer nearly 100,000 seabirds flock to the sandstone cliffs to breed and raise their chicks.
We launched the kayaks in the early afternoon and headed out, paddling across the sound to our first stop- the white sand beach on the South-West of the island. A beautiful spot, we enjoyed parking up the kayaks and paddling in the clear, shallow water.
But more awaited us and we headed off round, exploring some of the back of the island. Here is where you can feel the full force of the Atlantic and there are many caves and natural arches to explore. The sea conditions were proving a little rougher on this exposed side so we looped back the way we came and decided to explore some of the cliffs along the sheltered side of the island in the sound.
WOW, is all I can say- this area of the island is absolutely breathtaking. The cliffs jut in and out along the coast of Handa, providing lots of corners and inlets to explore. Nothing could have prepared me for seeing 1000s of seabirds including puffins, guillemots and cormorants all nesting along the coast.
I felt like I’d entered a cathedral of birds with the high sandstone roofs and the echoing cries as they all jostled for space on cliff ledges. These birds defy the elements to raise their young in the most exposed nests, battling sea swell and wind and rain- what a miracle. I was truly humbled to have been able to witness it all from my little kayak.
Towards the end of our kayaking adventure as we headed back along the sound, I spotted this little family of cormorants huddled on the cliff edge.
They seemed to have acquired this patch of cliff all to themselves, and had built a very impressive nest of twigs and sticks for their 3 delightful little chicks. In the right light (as you can see in the photo further down) the feathers of these bird’s wings look metallic green- such beautiful animals.
A special, special day which I will never forget. Handa I will be back.