Loch Eishort in the south of the Isle of Skye must be one of the finest kayaking locations in Scotland. It’s a perfect place for beginners, but is just as beautiful for experts. The views from the west side of Sleat are breathtaking, with turquoise waters, white sands and the rugged, pointy mountain peaks of the Cuillin for a backdrop. This can be a comparatively sheltered place, which is also wonderful for paddle boarding, canoeing and wild swimming, however not all wind directions are favourable for this area.
We start our journey in Ord, a tiny village on the west side of the Sleat peninsula, which has a delightful sandy beach and beautiful coastal walks. The bay’s hebridean colours remind me of the Carribean as we set off and turn east to paddle along the coast. Not far from here is a little coral island, in Gaelic Eilean Gainmhich na h-Àirde (the sand island of the promontory), where beautiful white maerl can be found. On a very low spring tide you can walk across here, but this is only possible a couple of times a year. Here you also find extensive areas of sea grass and thanks to the crystal clear water, you can bob along and see it easily as you look down. Sea grass plays a globally important role for carbon storage, and provides a sheltered habitat for many marine creatures.
We continue east to pass the narrows and make for the little village of Heaste on the northern shores of Loch Eishort. From here you can see the well established Loch Eishort Mussel Culture and the Isle of Skye Mussel Company farms towards the end of the loch. Heaste is great for a lunch stop and features little white houses dotted along the hillside. Here we fuel up our reserves and stretch our limbs, ready for the next part of our expedition.
On the way back we hug the northern shore, meandering slowly in and out of bays, coves, nooks and crannies, enjoying the shallow waters creating the most beautiful colours. This part of journey is also perfect for a sheltered paddle in a northerly wind. We’re turning north towards Boreraig, which beckons with its beautiful waterfall and deserted village, but first we need to go around a small spit before deciding which of the two we are going to visit.
The waterfall is lovely for a little dip in a clear but peaty pool and lounge on the beach. This makes it perfect for a family kayak day on Skye, as there are so many different things to see, and so many places to visit on the way. There is no shortage of beautiful beaches and coves for snack stops and relaxing. The Clearance village lies a little further west above a rocky, pebbly landing spot. We take a walk up to the ruins and remind ourselves of times when 22 families used to live here, grow grain, keep cattle, collect seaweed for fertilising their land and grow vegetables. It was one of the most fertile parts of the island, but like many other highland villages, the people of Boreraig were evicted off the land by their landowner, here Lord MacDonald, in 1853 to make way for extensive sheep farming. Today you can still see the ruins of the original dwelling houses, the grain store and the later built sheep farm house. Every visitor to the Scottish Highlands should read about the history of Boreraig and the Highland Clearances.
We continue our journey along the southern coast of the Strath peninsula to Suishnish, which was cleared at the same time as Boreraig. For walkers this makes a beautiful day walk along the coast with beautiful views into the Cuillin on the final part of the walk, and is also part of the Skye Trail, a long distance trail across the whole island.
We now cross back over to Sleat, enjoying the views to the Isle of Rum and Canna to hit the coast in Tokavaig, where the famous Dunscaith, or Dùn Sgàthaich Castle lies. The warrior goddess Sgathach is said to have fought here with her own son Cù Chullain to measure their strengths of warfare. Another fortress can be found on the island just before the castle, Eilean Ruairidh. Tokavaig is great for rough water paddling and surf practice when the wind blows strongly off the West, but it in a southerly also offers shelter for a lunch spot and even a great camping spot. We head back east towards Ord, enjoy the view of the majestic mountains while we head into our golden sandy bay to finish our day.
On a full day trip, we take 2-3 breaks, take our time to spot wildlife and enjoy the scenery, which Skye is so famous for. It is a perfect way to spend an active day on your holiday and get away from the busier sights of the island. The water conditions can change in an instant year round so as a beginner, it’s always best to go out as part of a guided group. Watch this space for a post about essential kayaking skills you need to go out by yourself. Come and join us!