The unexpected sight of turquoise waters and white sandy beaches makes my jaw hit the floor. On the horizon, the shapes of mountainous islands rise up, highlighted by the sun. Just ten metres from where I float, a group of seals laze in the sunshine, seemingly unconcerned with my presence. It is hard for me to believe that the sight lying in front of me is in fact Scotland. Yet here I am, embarking on a sea kayaking expedition on the West Coast of Scotland.
We are starting from the quaint coastal town of Arisaig. Nature’s palette is on display, with the yellow seaweed-covered rocks contrasting beautifully with the bright blue water and shining white buildings. The smell of salt and seaweed fills our noses as we gaze out across the skerries. We pack our kayaks with supplies to last us the two days of our sea kayaking expedition. It is always surprising to me how much these boats can hold, and a few luxuries are stashed into the hatches. With our boats loaded, we climb in and set off paddling. Our boats glide through the water easily as we make our way out to the skerries. Within minutes, we are surrounded by wildlife. Oyster catchers, cormorants, and herons perch on the rocks amongst the vast colonies of seals. Every now and then, a seal bounces itself gracefully (haha!) from its rest and splashes into the water, to pop its head up a few seconds later a mere couple of metres from our boats. It is easy to wile away the time, paddling from island to island, enjoying the privilege of being so close to these amazing creatures.
Navigating through yellow clumps of kelp, we drift through the vivid turquoise water to land on one of these white sandy beaches. With our own personal island, you can’t really ask for a much better lunch spot. After a picnic and relax in the sunshine, we head off through the North Channel and paddle up the coast. There are many rocky inlets and sandy coves to explore along the way and we delight in winding our way through the small islands made accessible by the high tide. We make great time due to the ideal conditions and decide to paddle all the way up to Mallaig. Along the way, we spot a few lions mane jellyfish floating along with their bright red tentacles. The island of Skye is up ahead, displaying the iconic profile of the Cuillin ridge- an impressive stretch of twelve Munros (another adventure for another day). Out to sea, we can see the isles of Eigg and Rùm making an interesting skyline on the Irish Sea. The West Coast of Scotland is a captivating location for a sea kayaking expedition.
As the afternoon draws on, we head back down to make our way inland past a couple of caves to the silver sands of Morar. This exceptionally stunning stretch of beach will be our campsite this evening. With our tents set up, each with a priceless view across the bay, we take a stroll barefoot along the beaches. The (surprisingly) warm water laps at our feet as they sink into the silver sand. The sun sets over the sea and the oyster catchers chirp happily as they fly inches from the water. We sit in the dunes and cook our dinner, and later we sip whisky (one of the luxuries I mentioned earlier) as we gaze up at the starry night sky. Thankfully a light breeze means minimal midges!
As the sun rises, I unzip my tent door and lie cosy in my sleeping bag, watching the world wake up. Out of views to wake up to, this one rates pretty high! The odd dog bounds happily across the sand on its morning walk. After a slow appreciation of my surroundings, I get up to put the coffee on. Packed up and ready for day two of our sea kayaking expedition, we set off into the calm water of the River Morar. The tide is very low, which makes the coastline look quite different to that of the day before. The islands are bathed in a pink glow and there is a soft swell that pushes us gently back down South. Upon reaching the skerries at Arisaig, we find the North Channel is now about two inches deep. It is fascinating to see the sea floor so close, with its coral covered bottom and wandering crabs and whelks. We pick our way through the landscape, heading out to skirt around the outer islands. After a meandering exploration, we head back into the bay for a late lunch. We are amused to find the van and trailer have been commandeered by a herd of very friendly cows who have no respect for personal space. However, they are very cute and add to our list of wildlife spotted!
The sea kayaking expedition options along the West Coast are very adaptable to wishes and desires. This particular trip was the perfect two-day loop, taking in some highlights along the way. It was ideal and very accessible for people who have not done a great deal of kayaking, still allowing you to see the beautiful sights that are unique to this form of travel. It is possible to continue along the coast without turning back if people prefer to do a one-way adventure and multiple days can be added. There is a vast expanse of stunning, rugged coastline and island-spotted horizon to explore.