The Small Isles - Crossing to Canna

The plan had been to paddle out to and around Muck via Eigg - but as low pressure tracked slowly across the UK the winds shifted. Keen to avoid an easterly headwind on the return crossing, we elected to start a little further north and head out to Canna and Rum before returning to Glenbrittle on Skye. If the forecast held it would mean a F4 quartering on the stern as we paddled north, infinitely preferable to completing the trip with a 15km crossing directly into a headwind. Besides, we had paddled around Eigg previously and while I remain keen to visit Muck, Canna is arguably the jewel of the Small Isles positioned as it is, at the north-west end of this enigmatic island chain.
Ready to launch, looking out across Loch Brittle. Rum is beyond the low headland on the left and Canna is just visible on the right. For all intents and purposes, it is an open crossing of 20km - approximately half of the distance we would cover to reach our camp on Rum that night above the sands of Kilmory.
Looking north once out of Loch Brittle I immediately recognised the distinctive stacks Tim and I had passed beneath on our trip around Skye in 2011. It is one of the more dramatic sections of the Skye coastline and that day was perhaps one of the best of the trip.
The view back towards the Cuillin, enveloped in the rain we had just paddled through...
...to reach another world of blue skies and gentle seas, sufficient detail now visible on the cliffs of Canna to note our intended landfall immediately east of the stack: Iorcail.
Roughly half way, looking back on the west coast of Skye and looking out for whales. We didn't see any, though on the return crossing I was accompanied for some time by a pod of around 12 dolphins, more of which later.
Tim lands in the sun, on a steep gravel beach accessed via a beautiful arch...
...not a bad way to end a crossing and a perfect introduction to Canna.
Passing Iorcail on our way west beneath the 200m cliffs...
...alive with guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes. We had passed several rafts of puffins on the crossing, but it was the manx shearwaters that stole the show, their grace unequalled to my mind. Of the sea eagles we saw no sign though two other paddlers we passed shortly after had seen one earlier in the day.
The white shell sand beach close to the western tip of Canna is not marked on the OS map. I knew it was there however and despite a recent stop, there was little debate about stopping again. We very nearly stopped altogether, for the day at least, but despite the perfect camp it would have provided, eventually launched again, determined to use the perfect conditions to explore the caves on the south coast. In fact we had already entered several, passing along a long tunnel in one to emerge at the back of small bay - these were like the caves found around the north coast of Skye.
Passing Garrisdale Point, between the skerries that guard Canna's west coast - Rum growing in stature beyond.
Another cave, beneath the distinctive basalt columns which would no doubt provide a few new routes for those with the inclination though there are already more recorded climbs than I suspected: see the Canna Guide on Colin Moody's site.
And another cave - this one on Sanday, a superb twisting tunnel reaching far back into the cliffs - Tim framed in the entrance with the north coast of Rum beyond. From the south-east corner of Sanday we paddled due east, crossing the Sound of Canna to arrive on Rum beneath the wreck of Jack Abry II by which time we were both ready to camp for the night...

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