“Is anyone here a geologist?” our rather chilled out kayak leader asked.
“Me, me, meeeeeee!” I said, rather excited …and putting my hand up….seriously….
Well, not really. I did study geosciences for several years with the Open University and loved it…but never finished the degree because I had another medic degree going on….I digress.
We were on the Isle of Mull. Looking to cheer myself up after a rather stressful, fraught and astonishingly horrible start to the year, I clicked ‘going’ on a Facebook kayaking trip run by Ali Othen Mountains and paddles.
It was 7 days kayaking, circumnavigating Mull with 6 nights wild camping. We would be completely self-sufficient, taking all our camping and cooking gear with us and I was really looking forward to seeing places only accessible by kayak and wildlife spotting.
I flew home from work, threw the kayak up onto the roof and packed the car, before the long drive up to Oban. From there I jumped on the Craignure ferry and set up camp at the pricey but very smart Craignure campsite. I had a pint and a chippy tea with Ali and my diving buddy Darren who has lived on Mull for quite some time now.
Darren’s wife is part of the Otter fancying society on Mull and they build the otter crossings around the island. They also occasionally end up with run-over otters in their freezer for autopsies...nestled in between the oven chips and on top the peas, apparently...
After a cosy night in my van we met up with the other two random paddlers who were on the trip. I think it is safe to say neither of them were my type of person, but there was nothing I could do about it. My plan was to learn how much stuff I could get into my kayak, how it would ride fully laden, what worked and what didn’t work, so I could plan my own adventures going forward.
We set off in glassy, stunning conditions from Craignure and paddled along the south coast, wild camping along the way. We stopped off at gorgeous, white sandy beaches but as ever, they were blighted with piles of rubbish and I spied one large green fishing net.
Mostly buried and too big to even think about taking with me, I had no choice but to leave it.
I did spy a smaller piece which looked in good enough condition to do something with. I took pictures and logged the location on my phone. We found a comfy-ish spot for the night having paddled 16 miles.
On the second day, we arrived at Fidden Farm after a 25 mile paddle, familiar to me from last year’s adventure in Scotland.
After a night here, we crossed to Iona which was my first decent open water crossing. It was lumpy but prepared me well for what was to come.
From the northern tip of Iona we headed straight for Staffa, a 13 mile open crossing, to the famous Fingal’s cave.
The crossing had a reasonable swell but was perfectly manageable – until the tourist boats came thundering past and created huge wakes. Initially terrified, I settled down and began enjoying surfing them as we made the last strides towards the cave entrance which was fortunately in good enough condition to enter.
Balancing my phone on my lap, I shot some images and video and managed to choreograph Ali into position for that classic ‘kayak in a cave’ shot. The cathedral like cave entrance, made up of volcanic basalt columns was seriously impressive.
Not keen on getting tangled up with tourists, we had a quick bite to eat then headed on another open crossing to Treshnish and stopped on Lunga.
The weather started to come in and rain and wind meant I got very good at putting my tent up quickly.
In the morning the waves were still a bit necky for crossing over to Calgary bay, so I took the opportunity in the sunshine to enjoy the colony of puffins who were busy building nests in the cliff edge.
They weren’t shy at all and I was pleased that I’d taken my DSLR and 300mm lens to capture their antics. I could have spent more than a few hours in the sunshine among the primroses and bluebells watching them.
Puffins of Lunga. Images Copyright Christine Grosart.
Once the weather settled a bit we made a very bum-clenching 8 mile trip around to Calgary Bay. Normally beautiful, yet again on my second ever visit, it was overcast, windy and raining.
We hunkered down in our tents and despite Ali dutifully checking the waves every few hours, they wouldn’t calm so we had to spend another night in the rain, stuck fast.
It wasn’t looking hopeful to get around the corner to Tobermory.
As another night passed, this time with no sleep and some weird antics going on outside my tent, I decided to call it a day. We had to head back by bus to Craignure to pick up the cars to drive the kayaks around the corner in any case. I decided that this was a good time to bail. The Sound of Mull would keep.
I was grateful to get back to my cosy van and my own company and decided to make the most of my free time and head back to the beach where I had seen the lost fishing net.
This was easier said than done.
We had arrived on the beach by kayak and with a bit of advice, google maps and a helpful dog walker, I strode off confidently in completely the wrong direction to the wrong sandy beach!
It too had plenty of lost fishing gear washed up along the shoreline, but it was the wrong rubbish and the wrong beach.
Off I set on what should have been a half an hour walk…turning into a 2 hour epic!
Scaling cliffs, dodging sheep and landing thigh deep in a bog…I finally made my way to the correct beach..which I could have easily walked to down a perfectly good track from the car had I not set off in the wrong direction…
Hey ho. The sun was out, it was absolutely stunning on that southern side of Mull and I bagged up the net while another group of paddlers took a break nearby and the sea sparkled continuously.
It was possibly one of the most beautiful views I’d ever witnessed in the UK and I enjoyed it before heading back to the campsite and then Oban for the next crazy couple of days.
About the author
Christine Grosart is a Paramedic, working offshore mainly on diving vessels.
She started beach cleans around 2011 and has gone on to be a trustee, secretary, instructor and underwater photographer for the charity Ghost Fishing UK.
She wrote the first training course for scuba divers to remove lost ghost nets, in the world.
In 2009 she visited the far reaches of Wookey Hole cave and still holds the British female cave diving depth record.
In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Ghost Fishing UK as well as her cave diving exploration. She holds the end of the line in several caves in Croatia and France.
In the same year she was included in the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List.